Governor Michael Pence of Indiana, the Republican nominee for Vice President of the
United States, is an example of a
sycophantic vice presidential candidate produced by the quasi-unilateral nomination
of a running mate by the presidential nominee, instead of by the major party’s
Pence has changed many of his conservative positions to that of the GOP presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, and refrained from any significant criticisms of the Republican at the top of the ticket for the latter’s views and statements.
A vice president, as president of the Senate, is the head of the Legislative Branch of government and, under the constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, is supposed to serve as a check on the president, who is the head of the Executive Branch of government. However, by the relatively novel practice of the major political parties, the presidential nominee recommends a running mate, whom the parties’ convention delegates approve, usually without any debate or opposition, let alone any consideration of other candidates. Because the vice presidential nominee effectively owes his nomination to his party’s presidential nominee, instead of to his party’s convention delegates, he seldom expresses any disagreements with him during the election campaign. This practice continues once elected Vice President, despite the Separation of Powers, as the practice has helped to further the misconception that vice presidents are “assistant” or “deputy” presidents or “second-in-command” and part of the presidential administration instead of a legislative official who should exercise independent judgment in doing what is in the best interests of the United States and whose duty is to uphold the constitution, even when it is violated by a member of his own party.
Party loyalty, especially during an election campaign, is understandable, but it can be excessive, especially when the vice presidential nominee is effectively selected by the presidential nominee and the lack of independent judgment and the fulfillment of constitutional duty can be exacerbated, once in office, by being beholden to the president for the election to the office of vice president.
I had warned about this problem in my post in July, The Quasi-Unilateral Selection of Vice Presidential Nominees by Leading Presidential Candidates Is Contrary to the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-quasi-unilateral-selection-of-vice.html and in my article that month based upon that post in The Federalist, Presidential Candidates Shouldn’t Get to Pick their Veeps, http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/22/presidential-candidates-shouldnt-get-to-pick-their-veeps-2/.
Alas, Pence is being sycophantic as a vice presidential nominee, even beyond the usual party loyalty which would be expected, before Trump yet holds power. Pence’s sycophancy during the campaign is a warning sign that he would not disagree publicly with the president should the Republican nominee be elected or even serve as a check on constitutional matters if Trump would violate the Constitution by exhibiting authoritarianism.
The process by which major parties nominate vice presidential candidates should be changed. Regardless of whether they are, it is necessary to nominate and elect those with more principle and courage in the first place.