The possible role of vice president-elect Pence

Illustration by Clarissa Cairns
Illustration by Clarissa Cairns

Now that the election is over, Americans are learning about the new politicians elected to represent them. While everyone heard so much more about and from the presidential candidates, the vice presidential candidates receive less attention.

Along with Republican and President-elect Donald Trump, the American people also elected Mike Pence as the next vice president. Pence is a former Indiana Governor serving from 2013 to 2017. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Hoosiers for 10 years from 2000 to 2010. A born-and-raised Hoosier from Columbus, Ind., Pence is known to be a conservative, both economically and socially, according an article published in the Indianapolis Star.

Presidential candidates often choose their running mates to sway voters who are on the fence.

History and Political Science Professor James Fuller believes choosing Pence as a running mate helped Trump’s chance of winning voters.

“I think that in hindsight choosing Mike Pence was a stroke of genius on [the] part of Donald Trump,” Fuller said. “Because it shored up what could have been a real problem for him with social conservatives and Evangelical Christians. And by getting Mike Pence on there, he [Trump] gets their support.… Here’s this kind of morally corrupt fellow, and how are you going to get Evangelical Christians to vote for [him]? Some go and hold their nose and do it, but to get them out, you have to have Mike Pence out there saying, ‘I don’t agree with the things he said. We’ve got to hold him to account.’ So when he [Pence] does that I think it shores up that side of his [Trump’s] constituency, his base, which is really important.”

On the other side was Democratic presidential-candidate Hillary Clinton and her running-mate Tim Kaine. Kaine practiced law for 17 years in Virginia and was a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. Kaine occupied various positions in Virginia’s state government and a position in the federal government as he has served as Richmond’s Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor and a U.S. Senator.

Fuller does not necessarily think that Kaine hurt Clinton’s campaign, but he thinks she might have had a better result in votes if she had chosen someone else.

“I think that Tim Kaine was probably a mistake,” Fuller said, “one of many on the part of the Clinton campaign, or the Democratic campaign. And I think that would be that he was not someone who was going to help you excite portions of the so-called Obama coalition, which included various minority groups and millennials. He was just bland and boring, to be honest. Some have said, ‘Well, he helped shore up Virginia,’ and Virginia was fairly close in this election. But I don’t think Virginia was nearly as important—as we can see in hindsight—as some other states…. As we continue to analyze over the coming weeks and months, looking at how that campaign turned that might be another mistake we look at.”

Just as some Americans may be wondering what President Trump will be for America, others may be wondering about Vice President Pence. Fuller said that Pence, unless given a specific job by the president, will have the same responsibility as the rest of the vice presidents in history, which is to wait to assume the president’s position if the president should die or be impeached.

“As vice president I don’t anticipate [Pence] having that much of a role, but he does seem to have an important role right now which is being in charge of this transition team. So he’s helping Trump organize that and make choices about who will be on his staff and who will be on his cabinet and that kind of thing, so there could be a real influence there,” Fuller said.

Unless Trump specifically gives Pence a project to work on, Fuller thinks Pence will have little influence on the government.

“We don’t know, going forward, [but] I would suspect that Pence’s role is [for] right now and then he will just sort of fade away unless we see, as in the past where [in] several presidencies [the Vice President] is given a task….  Events always shape presidencies,” Fuller said. “We don’t know what will happen in the next year, but if Trump is focused on an economic agenda, maybe he gives Pence something to do with social stuff, or maybe Pence is a part of that domestic stuff. It will be interesting to see.”