Last week experienced the Republican presidential nominee Donald trump nominate his angry presidential candidate in the form of Indiana Governor, Mike Pence; Hillary Clinton will quickly announce her own candidate. Joseph Uscinski writes the the method such angry presidential candidates room selected has end up being progressively much less democratic, with the procedure now in fewer and fewer hands. He also warns that if presidential candidates select a vice president who differs significantly from them in regards to their plan positions in bespeak to acquire electoral advantage, then this can develop incentives because that Congress to eliminate the Commander-in-Chief.

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Every 4 years spectators watch as the presumed American presidential nominees consider and finally choose their vice-presidential to run mates. Donald trump announced his choice of Indiana governor Mike Pence last week; Hillary Clinton is intended to notice her choice following the Republican convention. The media covering the an option processes together if they to be a parlor game, predicting i beg your pardon party can acquire an electoral advantage by selecting which potential running mate.

To boost their chances of winning, presidential candidates often choose vice-presidential candidates who differ from them in important ways. Trump’s choice of Mike Pence, a social and also establishment conservative, was greatly intended come solidify the Republican base by reflecting deference to the faction the the Republican Party trump card does no appeal to on his own. Hillary Clinton’s potential options remain shrouded, yet it is likely that the electoral map and also existing divisions in the democratic Party will factor into she choice.

On one hand, “balancing” the ticket through differing individuals offers a normative value: having actually a president and vice chairman who vary in your positions might deliver more comprehensive representation and an ext balanced governing. On the various other hand, the winning coalition that decided the presidential nominee might not have actually chosen the nominee’s running-mate; instead, they would certainly have preferred a vice-presidential candidate much more similar to the nominee. Furthermore, vice-presidents tend to fall into obscurity ~ the election, and there is no guarantee the the vice-president will certainly have any kind of say in policy.


The an option of vice-presidents has fallen into fewer and also fewer hands, do it less democratic. Vice presidents were originally chosen by the electorate, but an ext recently presidential candidates have actually singlehandedly selected your running mates v input only from near advisors. This is in opposition to the general trend toward much more inclusivity in united state elections.

The undemocratic nature the the selection process has an upside, however. By providing the an option of running mate come the presidential candidate, the candidate could pick a running mate that shares their policy views. This would provide stable policy and a seamless transition should the president all of sudden leave office. This is crucial for democracy: need to the country select a president offering a set of policy positions for a four year term, they must be administrate by those plan positions because that the term’s duration. An unexpected fatality or removal have to not upend bulk rule. But, once presidents and also vice presidents differ in considerable ways the country can inherit a leader espousing policies the nation does not democratically support, and also beyond this, a perverse collection of political incentives are created.

When a president suddenly leaves office, the evil president deserve to put national policy in line v her very own preferences. To recommendation the Godfather, this create a “Sonny and Vito problem.” A dissimilarity in between the president and vice president incentivizes assassination together an advantageous method to single-handedly readjust policy, and it likewise incentivizes conference to remove a president because that political quite than criminal reasons. Macabre because that sure, but the incentives because that fanatics space real.

Paradoxically, while electoral incentives continue to attract presidential candidates to pick vice presidents various from themselves, the meant electoral benefits are rarely realized. Part studies present that a vice-presidential candidate deserve to swing their residence state in particular circumstances; however, most research says that world vote for the surname on the height of the ticket v vice-presidential candidates having tiny effect on general election outcomes.

As us think about Donald Trump’s an option of Mike Pence, or of Hillary’s forthcoming choice, we should move away native the electoral considerations. Instead, we need to focus more on the prospect of succession. Unexpected succession is no uncommon: nine or one 5th of all us Presidents succeeded because of the fatality of the sit president. Gerald Ford entered the White home after Richard Nixon’s resignation. These ten presidents served a total of forty-two years. Since of this, we need to encourage candidates to choose running mates who have the right to ensure stability, continuity, and also democratic outcomes for the full four years that the presidential term.

This article summarizes disagreements in “Smith (and Jones) walk to Washington: Democracy and Vice-Presidential Selection” published in PS: Political scientific research & Politics.

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Note: This article gives the see of the author, and not the place of USAPP – American Politics and Policy, nor the London college of Economics.

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About the author

Joseph E. Uscinski University of MiamiJoseph E. Uscinski is combine Professor that Political science at university of Miami college of art & Sciences and also coauthor the American Conspiracy theory (Oxford college Press, 2014).