- Students will use the Constitution of the United States to investigate and describe the constitutional duties of the Vice President. Students should focus on Article I, Section 3 (The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided) and Article II, Section 1.
Discussion points: Students should understand that the vice presidency has very few constitutional duties. It might be effective to supplement this discussion with quotes from former vice presidents regarding those duties (source: The Washington Post – for entire article):
- · John Adams, the first person to utterly despise the vice presidency: "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
- · Teddy Roosevelt, before becoming vice president: "I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than Vice-President." (He also said that the position is "not a steppingstone to anything except oblivion.")
- · Former vice president Thomas R. Marshall: "Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again."
- · Former vice president John Nance Garner: “The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm piss.” (He also said taking the job was “the worst damn fool mistake I ever made.”)
Students will also analyze the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and explain how it clarified how presidential and vice presidential vacancies would be filled. With its passage in 1967, the 25th Amendment formalized the succession of the vice president following the death, removal, or resignation of the president (this had been the standard practice ever since John Tyler first became president after the death of William Henry Harrison). The Constitution made no provision for replacing vice presidents, which, due to presidential deaths, vice presidential deaths, and one vice presidential resignation, caused the vice presidency to remain vacant over 20 percent of the time. The 25th Amendment thus established the procedure for a president to nominate a replacement in such situations, pending approval by majorities of both houses of Congress. Finally, the 25th Amendment transfers presidential power to the vice president in the event of presidential disability.
- The teacher will review and discuss some of the factors that led Indiana to have such prominence in national politics and the election of six vice presidents.
- · Between the Civil War and World War I, Indiana had a comparatively large population and therefore a comparatively large electoral vote (during most of the years between 1850 and 1930, Indiana had the fifth or sixth most electoral votes in presidential elections).
- · During those same years, the two major parties in Indiana were at near equal strength.
- · During those same years, the Indiana vote was considered essential to a successful candidacy in presidential elections.
- · After the Civil War and Reconstruction, the “Solid South” consistently delivered all of the South’s votes to the Democrats in presidential elections, and Democrats generally only needed to win New York and Indiana to win the elections. As a result, Indiana candidates appeared on many party tickets because both parties considered Indiana crucial. For the Democrats, it was to elect the choice of the Solid South, and for the Republicans, it was to prevent such a result.
- · Indiana was a “swing state”; each party believed that by nominating an Indiana candidate it would the state to tip, or “swing”, in its favor.
- · Indiana’s importance to the Democrats during this period is evident. Between James Buchanan’s election in 1856 and Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, the only Democrats elected were Grover Cleveland (twice, but not consecutively) and Woodrow Wilson. In each case, both had Indiana vice presidents, although Cleveland only for the first of his two non-consecutive terms.
- Students will work collaboratively in small groups to read and summarize the biography of one of the Indiana vice presidents. Summaries should focus primarily on each vice president’s election and their careers as vice-president.
Vice presidential biographies from U.S. Senate website:
Thomas A. Hendricks
Charles W. Fairbanks
Thomas R. Marshall
J. Danforth Quayle
Mike Pence biography from whitehouse.gov website (better bio)
- Students will work collaboratively in the same small groups to analyze the primary sources regarding of the Indiana vice president whose biography they read and summarized. Depending on the type of primary source (document, photograph, political cartoon, etc.), students will select the appropriate Document Analysis Worksheet to complete their analyses. Students should use the biography of their assigned governor to derive understanding and meaning of the primary sources they are analyzing.
- The teacher will project the image of each primary source in the classroom, and each group of students will briefly present and discuss their biography summary and primary source analyses to the entire class. The teacher can supplement and enhance the student presentations and discussion with the following discussion points about the primary sources.
Discussion points about the primary sources:
Schuyler Colfax – Speaker of the House Colfax was selected as Ulysses S. Grant’s vice presidential running mate in 1868, despite the fact that they were from adjoining states, Grant from Ohio and Colfax from Indiana. Grant’s Civil War leadership made him an extremely popular candidate and minimized concerns about geographic balance.
- 1868 Republican presidential ticket campaign poster – Grant and vice presidential running mate Colfax.
- 1872 Republican presidential ticket campaign poster – Grant and vice presidential running mate Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. Colfax aspired to the presidency and had expressed interest in pursuing the Republican nomination if Grant did not seek re-election. This alienated party leaders and Grant, and the speculation surrounding Colfax led the Republicans to turn to Wilson, who narrowly won the vice presidential nomination over Colfax.
- Newspaper article about the Credit Mobilier scandal – This newspaper article from September 1872 describes the Credit Mobilier scandal and Colfax’s alleged role in it. Colfax was not re-nominated for vice president for Grant’s re-election campaign in 1872 in part because of his involvement in the Credit Mobilier scandal and stigmatization surrounding other scandals swirling around Grant’s administration.
- Colfax political cartoon – This political cartoon from March 1873 depicts Uncle Sam and public opinion (scroll in Uncle Sam’s hand) encouraging Colfax to commit hari kari (political suicide in this case) for his role in the Credit Mobilier scandal, one of the many scandals surrounding the Grant administration.
E. Colfax obituary – Colfax’s obituary in which there is no mention of the Credit Mobilier scandal.
Thomas A. Hendricks – Hendricks was nicknamed “The Professional Candidate”, because as a lifelong loyal Democrat, he was a frequent candidate in state and national elections. He ran unsuccessfully for Indiana governor in 1860 and 1868 before finally prevailing in 1872, and appeared on the Democratic presidential ticket in the 1876 and 1884 campaigns. The primary sources are a series of campaign posters that lend credence to his nickname.
- 1876 Democratic presidential ticket campaign poster – Hendricks was New York governor Samuel Tilden’s vice presidential running mate in the infamous disputed election of 1876 in which Republican Rutherford B. Hayes prevailed when a special electoral commission ruled 8 to 7 along party lines to award Hayes the election.
- Political cartoon about 1884 presidential campaign – This political cartoon captioned, “Drink To Your Favorites” shows the Republican candidates James G. Blaine of Maine and his running mate John A. Logan of Illinois on the left, and the Democratic candidates Hendricks and presidential candidate Grover Cleveland from New York on the right. As in the 1876 election, Hendricks was paired with a presidential candidate hailing from New York (see discussion point above about the importance of New York and Indiana in presidential elections in the post-Civil War era).
- 1884 Democratic presidential ticket campaign poster – Cleveland and Hendricks
- 1888 Democratic presidential ticket campaign poster – Incumbent Grover Cleveland ran unsuccessfully for re-election in the 1888 election, this time paired with vice presidential running mate Allen G. Thurman from Ohio. Hendricks’ absence from the ticket was due to the fact that he died 8 months after taking office as vice president in 1885 (this is the point of including this primary source). In the 1888 election, Cleveland was defeated by Benjamin Harrison, Indiana’s only president. Cleveland avenged his loss in the 1892 election by defeating Harrison to become the only president to serve to non-consecutive terms.
Charles W. Fairbanks – Fairbanks was U.S. Senator for Indiana from 1897 to 1905 before becoming vice president for Theodore Roosevelt’s second, full term as president. Fairbanks’ Hoosier roots provided geographic balance for the ticket, with Roosevelt hailing from New York.
- Political cartoon: Robinson Crusoe Fairbanks – In this political cartoon on the cover of Puck, the first successful humor magazine in the U.S., Fairbanks is depicted as a dejected Robinson Crusoe, stranded on a rock labeled “Vice-Presidency”, which would seem to support the popular view of the position of vice president lacking importance and influence.
- Political cartoon: Drawing the Line in Mississippi – This political cartoon depicts Theodore Roosevelt on a hunting excursion in Mississippi that was the source of the teddy bear, which became immensely popular children’s toys. Read “The Real Teddy Bear Story” from the Theodore Roosevelt Association website.
- Political cartoon: The Charliebear – Fairbanks is depicted in this Puck political cartoon as a bear with the caption, “Devised by the publicity department of the Fairbanks boom, to counteract the alarming popularity of the teddybear”. By 1907, Fairbanks aspired to be the 1908 Republican nominee (hoping perhaps to have the popularity of the teddy bear). TR chose Taft as his heir apparent instead.
- 1916 Republican presidential ticket campaign poster – In 1912, Fairbanks backed Taft during his unsuccessful reelection campaign, and in 1916, he sought the nomination before settling for the vice president nomination as Charles Evans Hughes’ running mate. They were defeated by the incumbent, Woodrow Wilson.
Thomas R. Marshall – Marshall was an influential attorney and Democratic Party insider, which launched him to the Indiana governor’s office in 1909. Indiana’s importance as a swing state was a contributing factor in his selection as Woodrow Wilson’s running mate in the 1912 election, serving throughout both of Wilson’s terms, and he helped to balance the ticket geographically since Wilson had served as governor of New Jersey and president of Princeton. Interestingly, Marshall is the only vice president who is known to have been specifically targeted for an assassination attempt.
- Political cartoon – Some burden, believe us – This Puck magazine from 1913 cover depicts Wilson as Inbad the Sailor carrying Marshall, who is depicted as the Old Man of the Sea, and it represents the ideological rift that developed between them. Wilson disliked Marshall’s sharp wit and keen sense of humor so much (see previous quotes by Marshall regarding the vice presidency) that he moved his office away from the White House. Despite these tensions, Marshall was kept on for Wilson’s second term.
- 1916 photograph of campaign truck – Wilson successfully ran for re-election on the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war”. A month after being inaugurated for his second term, Wilson asked for and received a Congressional declaration of war on April 4, 1917. Marshall, as the President of the Senate, signed the declaration before Wilson signed it.
- Vice President Thomas R. Marshall drawing draft capsule – Hopefully, students will see the irony of this photograph of Marshall drawing draft lottery numbers in light of the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war”.
- Inaugural Address of Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, March 5, 1917 – This brief inaugural address, with limited policy implications, would seem to support the popular view of the position of vice president lacking importance and influence.
Dan Quayle – Quayle served in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate before George H.W. Bush selected him as his running mate in the 1988 election, which instantly became controversial. However, Quayle’s solid conservative credentials, age, and telegenic appearance were seen by most pundits as positive counters to perceived deficits for Bush.
- Dan Quayle political cartoon – Quayle’s youth and inexperience are the focus of this cartoon.
- Dan Quayle quotes – Quayle was frequently ridiculed for his public statements.
- Dan Quayle “potato” misspelling – Perhaps Quayle’s most notorious public gaffe was his incorrect correction of a schoolchild’s correct spelling of potato.
- The President’s Council on Competitiveness Fact Sheet – Despite the public’s perception of Quayle as inexperienced and as a political and intellectual lightweight, he directed the President’s Council on Competitiveness and the National Space Council.
Mike Pence – Pence, from Columbus, Indiana, was a conservative radio and television talk show host, a six-term member of the House of Representatives, and one-term governor of Indiana. He describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” He was running for re-election as governor when Donald Trump selected him as his vice presidential running mate in July 2016. They defeated Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine in the November 2016 general election in a stunning upset.
- Mike Pence signing RFRA (religious freedom) law as Indiana governor – Pence’s most controversial act of his governorship was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was criticized by opponents for targeting LGBTQ members and other groups. The photograph shows Pence surrounded by members of the faith community.
- Political cartoon – Indiana Religious Freedom Law – This political cartoon about RFRA equates it with Jim Crow laws of the old South.
- Political cartoon – Hardest Working Man in Showbiz – This political cartoon shows the undeniably difficult job Pence has had explaining, defending, and ignoring the chaos of the early Trump presidency.
- Political cartoon – Mike Pence, the relief pitcher – Pence likely aspires to be POTUS, and this political cartoon captures the widely-held belief that Pence is the heir apparent to Trump in 2024, if not in 2020, or perhaps even sooner. The cartoon depicts the GOP as having that same intent.
- Check out the number of tie-breaking votes vice presidents have cast in the U.S. Senate – This is not a primary source, but it supports the role of vice president as the presiding officer of the Senate (Article I of the Constitution), and it shows that Pence has cast four tie-breaking votes already in his short time in that role.