Vice Presidents are the rodeo clowns of American politics. Their everyday function is to create distractions when something untoward happens. Since they are also human beings, disregarding alien-visitation theories, many of them have made contributions to the eccentricities of our history. We will be collecting research on these most interesting features of the incumbents of our least interesting office. These will not be biographies and there may not be an entry for each Vice President. Only those who did or were something worthy of a circus side show will be featured. For example, there will be a mention of Aaron Burr, since he is the only Vice President to have committed murder while in office. Also Jack Garner for his comparison of his office to a bucket of warm spit. Check back often.
We might as well start with some popular wisdom about the vice presidency, an old 1956 educational video such as was shown in civics classes of the era. Don't be alarmed by the fist fights early on. Politics ain't bean bag, as Mr. Dooley put it.
By the way, there is a great book on the subject, Bland Ambition, by Steve Tally.
Quick now, what was the twelfth
amendment to the constitution? That’s right. It altered the protocol of the
Electoral College. Formerly each elector cast two votes for President, with the
winner becoming President and the runner up becoming Vice President. The
twelfth amendment, ratified 7 February, 1795, called for distinct votes for President and Vice President.
The Vice Presidency was no longer a runner-up office.
The first Vice President under this new regime was George Clinton, uncle of DeWitt. George was a Revolutionary War veteran, the former governor of New York, and a man no one wanted for President. Jefferson’s supporters chose Clinton as their man’s running mate for a very familiar reason. He was not likely to overshadow the top of the ticket. Clinton was an acknowledged rascal, in the early stages of senility, who had practiced tactics bordering on terrorism during the Revolutionary War. He'd used cronyism and corruption to stay in the governor’s office. He was well known, but not well liked. He was perfect, and became the first of the genuine mediocrities to occupy the second highest office in the land.
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