7 Ways to Pick a Vice President: Mini Lesson and Activities for Your Presidential Election Homeschool Curriculum
Are you studying the election in your homeschool? This week, we have a mini lesson on the vice presidential running mate. At the end, you’ll find activities and videos to keep your homeschool family busy and help them dive deeper into the presidential election.
There’s so much buzz about possible vice presidential nominees right now. This is one of the major things that happens in the summer before a presidential election. Since 1960, presidential nominees from both parties have been able to choose their own running mates. It’s hard to believe this was not the case all throughout history!
Selecting the vice presidential running mate is one of the most important decisions a candidate must make. Campaigns keep their choices secret for a long time. They try to take the time to think about and screen their possible picks. They also want to surprise voters, and the right choice can give a boost to a candidate who was battered in the primaries.
The primaries are going on right now, so grab your free lesson the primaries. June and July would be great months to do this lesson with your homeschooling family. The lesson has key vocabulary, comprehension questions, videos, and activities to keep you busy and help you to ward off the summer slide!
Who will the vice presidential running mates be? Here’s a mini lesson on 7 ways to pick a vice president. In 2020, only the Democratic nominee will choose a running mate. Today, sitting presidents who are running again usually don’t choose a different vice presidential running mate.
1. A Person with Good Character
The vice president must have good character. The person also must be well respected. The choice is a direct reflection on the presidential nominee. The person must have experience leading and governing. It’s not a big deal if the person is not widely known. Voters will get to know the vice presidential pick very well throughout the campaign. The vice president will be making important decisions, representing the country, and governing alongside the president, so choosing someone with wise and sound judgement should be a top priority.
2. A Person Who Can Serve as President
The Constitution doesn’t say much about the role of the vice president. Under the Constitution, the vice president’s main role is to succeed the president in case the president dies, resigns, or is somehow incapacitated. Throughout American history, eight vice presidents had to replace presidents who died in office (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, and Lyndon B. Johnson). One vice president, Gerald Ford, became president after Richard Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal.
3. A Person Who Can Help Carry a State or Region in the Electoral College
Presidential nominees also choose running mates who will help them win the election. This is a fundamental truth of vice presidential selection.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy, from Massachusetts, had to do well in the rock-solid Democratic South. (Today, we think of the American South as solid Republican terrain, but that wasn’t always the case). Southern voters, however, were a little wary of Kennedy, a Catholic from way up north in New England. To help him win voters in the South, Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson, a Texan, to be his running mate. The election was close, and Kennedy may well have lost if Johnson had not helped him win Texas.
4. A Person Who Can Balance the Presidential Candidate’s Beliefs
This is another way a vice presidential running mate can help win the election. The idea here is that the vice presidential pick makes up for something the presidential candidate is lacking in terms of beliefs. We can also call it ideology, the general set of beliefs that make up somebody’s worldview. A candidate may choose someone more or less liberal or conservative than they are, to appeal to certain groups of voters.
In 2016, Donald Trump wanted to pick a candidate who would appeal to traditional, conservative voters, a core group within the Republican Party. So, he chose Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and a solid Christian, to be his running mate.
5. A Person Who Can Help the Ticket’s Image
Sometimes, presidential candidates try to attract voters by giving off a particular image. Vice presidential nominees can help with the ticket’s image. The ticket is the presidential and vice presidential candidates listed together on the ballot.
In 1992, Bill Clinton chose Al Gore to be his running mate. Though he was about Clinton’s age and also from the South, Clinton wanted show himself as a “new” Democrat. A new generation, a younger generation, with different beliefs from the old, would be ruling from the White House. Gore helped with this image.
In 2008, Republican candidate John McCain chose Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, to be his running mate. He said he needed a “game changer,” since Obama was getting so much attention in the race. McCain was older; whereas, Palin was young. Palin added sparkle and interest to the ticket; she was the first female Republican vice presidential nominee.
6. A Person Who Can Balance the Presidential Candidate’s Experience
Some presidential candidates come with more experience than others. A candidate who is less experienced will sometimes seek out somebody who is more experienced or who has experience governing in a different area than the main candidate.
In 2000, George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney to be his running mate. Bush was in his second term as governor of Texas, where he mostly dealt with state issues, such as education. Cheney—former White House chief of staff, representative from Wyoming, and defense secretary—had lots of experience in national security and foreign affairs.
For the same reason, in 2008, Barack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate. Obama was a pretty new U.S. senator, and some voters questioned his youth and inexperience. Biden had decades of governing under his belt, with special experience in international affairs.
7. A Person Who Has Certain Physical (or Demographic) Traits
An old candidate might choose somebody younger, as McCain did with Palin. A young candidate might choose somebody older, as Bush did with Cheney. A Catholic candidate might choose somebody Protestant, as Kennedy did with Johnson. And a man might choose a woman, which brings us to our 2020 exercise…
Are you planning to weave the presidential election into your homeschool curriculum this year? Our Presidential Election Unit study is the perfect fit. It will enrich your family and prepare your kids to become voters. Even mom and dad will learn things they never knew before!
Download your free lesson on the primaries today!
Current Events (News/Video):
Back in March, the (presumptive) Democratic nominee has said he will choose a woman for his vice presidential running mate. Read/listen to the following:
Questions for Discussion and Debate:
This exercise about history also helps us to think about 2020! It is from the 2016 election.
Questions for Debate and Discussion:
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