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  • Dan Connors

Make the vice presidency relevant again

"The most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." John Adams

"It's easy being vice president - you don't have to do anything. It's like being grandpa and not the parent." Joe Biden

Count me in as one of those not looking forward to the 2024 election season. After spending over $14 Billion dollars and facing a near riot at the capital in 2020, are we really looking at a rematch of the same exact two men? Have we not learned anything in four years?

The two candidates for president in 2024 seem pretty baked in even though not a single primary vote has been cast, but the vice presidents- there's where things could get interesting. Due to the age of both presumptive candidates, who they choose for running mate will say a lot about where this country is headed.

We can forget about Mike Pence being chosen again by Donald Trump. Won't happen. Pence correctly burned that bridge in 2021. Trump will no doubt pick a younger, more loyal and more MAGA politician, and there seem to be no shortage of those who are auditioning for the part. Donald Trump expects 100% loyalty, and Americans need to consider whether they want to hand the country over in 2028 to an enabler who is fine with covering for a twice-impeached, quadruple-indicted politician.

But what about current Vice President Kamala Harris? I'm sorry, but speaking from here in the heartland, she is just not catching on as a national figure. Her presence on the ticket, coupled with President Biden's advanced age, will be more of a liability than an asset. It will signal stagnation and more of the same. But if President Biden were to replace her with someone else? That would be a bold statement that change is coming and more Americans would get on board for that.

While I hesitate to endorse any octogenarian in a position where mental abilities are paramount, President Biden so far has proven worthy of consideration. Not all 80-year-olds are alike, and as long as he is willing to be transparent about his physical and mental challenges, (and has a succession plan that makes sense), I could see supporting him. What he lacks in mental agility and speed he makes up for in wisdom of the ways of Washington DC. The world he knew as senator and vice-president has changed radically, and I'm not sure he is capable of putting on 21st century goggles. That's why he must surround himself with a variety of people who will confront his assumptions when needed.

Replacing a vice president on the ticket is not unheard of in American politics. Lincoln did it. FDR did it twice. Had he not, we would have ended up with President John Nance Garner in 1945. It's been a thankless job for decades, but it could be so much more.

Kamala Harris would have made a much better Attorney General. That is the office that she held in California and that appears to me to be where her strength is- holding the corrupt and powerful to account. Merrick Garland could be gone in the next administration, and she would be the perfect person to take his place. Harris's 2020 presidential campaign failed early because of messaging problems, and things haven't picked up significantly for her since. Part of this is an inherent bias against women and people of color in high positions of authority, but part of it is also her personality and skills. Her net favorable poll ratings put her behind President Biden and well behind the last four vice presidents.

In my opinion, the best candidate for that thankless job, if he would take it, would be California governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom is a rising star in the Democratic party and soon will be term limited out of office. He has led one of our biggest states and biggest economies through Covid, wildfires, and a housing shortage. Best of all, he is a good communicator and not afraid to take on opposing politicians and journalists head-on.

If there is one criticism that I keep hearing over and over about the Democrats, it's that they are lousy communicators. They ineptly defended a good idea, the Affordable Care Act against an onslaught of disinformation, and they are still paying a political price for what now is considered a good reform to our mess of a healthcare system. Today we have several laudable acts of the Biden administration- student debt relief, the enhanced child tax credit, transformational renewable energy credits, and an ambitious infrastructure bill. Most voters don't seem to have any idea what those ideas did and still could do, and occasional photo-ops and speeches won't do the job.

This should be the job of the vice president. Educate the public, explain the benefits, and counter the disinformation that flows like a firehose from the opposing side. The Veep needs to be able to command attention and respect, become viral and omnipresent while not overshadowing the President, and be the attack dog for any and all attempts at gaslighting and conspiracy thinking.

I'm trying to console myself that a second Biden term would be much better than the alternative, but I'm not there yet. We deserve better than a president in decline and a vice president who "doesn't have to do anything." If you are really up to this, Mr. President, you need to set the stage for the next ten years, and not rest on the fact that your likely opponent is a narcissistic fool.

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