The Insignificant Office

National Review Online, July 9, 2004; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


Why should John Edwards or anyone else want to be vice president? One of the men who held the post spoke of it as “the most insignificant office” ever contrived by the wit of man, and the men who wittingly contrived it I mean, of course, that the Framers of the Constitution may have been of the same opinion. At least, they said nothing whatever about the qualifications of those who were to hold the office; unlike presidents and members of the House and Senate, vice presidents–so far as the Constitution is concerned–may be of any age and any nationality.

But the vice presidency is taken more seriously today than it apparently was by the Framers. The reason for this has nothing to do with the office itself–after all, its powers are almost nonexistent–and much to do with a presidential candidate’s chances of winning an election. Interestingly enough, the reason the Framers created the office in the first place had something to do with–in fact, had only to do with—the election of the president.

American Enterprise Institute