The Vice President of the United States has as much influence over the direction of the country as a backup quarterback has over the direction of a football game. Unless the 1st stringer goes down, they pretty much hold a clipboard.
It’s unfortunate that so many Americans are told to vote for a “ticket” by the media and politicians. At the end of the day, the top of the ticket is the only thing that realistically matters. The veep is nothing more than an attack dog during election campaigns and someone to talk to foreign dignitaries when the President is too busy or the dignitary is too low.
“But, they’re President of the Senate.” I really shouldn’t even address that argument, but let’s get it out of the way. Modern Senatorial procedures are so well enacted by the body itself that the Vice President rarely directly presides over it. They can act as the tie-breaker, but that is so rare based upon the supermajority necessities of modern Senate rules. There were 19 ties broken by the Vice President from 1981 to 2008. Since Joe Biden took over with the current rules in place, he’s broken zero ties.
The Vice President has no power. None.
One might argue that Dick Cheney and Al Gore are examples of Vice Presidents that influenced their Presidents as advisers on certain issues. Here’s the problem as it pertains to Donald Trump (who is the real subject of this article). Trump is neither Bill Clinton nor is he George W. Bush. Nothing in his history would indicate that he is willing to take advice on the issues. We know this because he already has advisers who he summarily ignores on a regular basis. Sure, he might go to a teleprompter for a speech or two at the advisement of someone in the campaign, but it doesn’t last. He selected his real estate lawyers as his top advisers on Israel because, well, they’re Jewish.
Newt Gingrich will not bring his experience to the Oval Office. Mike Pence won’t rub evangelicalism onto Trump’s heart. Jeff Sessions won’t push Trump’s policy proposals to the right. Trump will be Trump regardless of who he selects as Vice President.
Make no mistake: the single criteria for Vice President is how little they would hurt the chances of securing a victory in November. That’s it. Vice Presidents rarely help anyone win, but they can help a candidate lose. Trump knows this. He’s looking for the least damage to the ticket.
There is one thing that Trump has done (and Hillary is trying to do) that is interesting. He’s playing the media like a fiddle. What many are calling “test drives” are actually just ways to make sure that people and their media handlers are following Trump closely. He campaigns with Pence in Indiana to make sure the media is in full coverage mode just in case he slips up or announces his veep pick. He does it with Gingrich. He does it with Christie. He is milking this brilliantly.
It doesn’t matter to me who either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton pick for this symbolic position. The veep is there to be the campaign attack dog during elections and the backup quarterback while in office. That’s it. As intelligent Americans, we should allot a fraction of an ounce of weight into the VP picks and focus on the top of the ticket alone. That’s where the real juice is.