Choosing a vice president can be risky. While the presidential candidate is the primary focus of an election, there is a chance that a popular or particularly skilled veep could help the ticket, just as a particularly unpopular or offensive candidate could hurt him.
The selection is also made with the knowledge that the vice president could become president if something happens to the elected commander-in-chief. Of the 45 presidents of the United States, nine rose to the post through vice-presidential succession. In eight of those cases, it was because the previous president had passed away. Gerald Ford is a special case because he rose to the presidency after Richard Nixon resigned, and also because he is the only president who was not elected via a presidential ticket. (Nixon appointed Ford in 1973 following the resignation of its elected vice president, Spiro Agnew.)
Even though they can be overlooked, running mate- rial candidates often have an impact, whether they win or lose. Here are some of the most notable – for better or worse – in US history.
1. Andrew Johnson
In the 1864 Civil War election, Republican President Abraham Lincoln chose Democrat Andrew Johnson for his running mate as a unifying gesture. Unfortunately, the “unifying” candidate was opposed to the compromise. When Johnson became president after Lincoln’s assassination, the former slavery supporter vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (which Congress additionally passed) and opposed the 14th Amendment .
READ MORE: ‘How the Union succeeded in a presidential election during the civil war’
“For the most part, historians consider Andrew Johnson the worst possible person to have served as president at the end of the American Civil War,” writes Elizabeth R. Varon, professor of history at the University of Virginia, for the Miller Center of the University. . “He is seen as a rigid and dictatorial racist, incapable of compromising or accepting a political reality at odds with his own ideas.
Additionally, Johnson was the first president to be impeached. The House of Representatives voted to impeach him in 1868 for violating the Tenure Act, and the Senate failed to condemn him with one vote. He served the remainder of the term he took on for Lincoln, but did not receive a nomination to run for another.
2. James W. Ford
James W. Ford was probably the first black American to campaign for the post of vice president and to receive popular votes. He was the Communist Party vice-presidential candidate three times: in 1932, 1936 and 1940. Previously, the Equal Rights Party had nominated Frederick Douglass as Victoria Woodhull’s vice-presidential candidate in 1872, but he did not did not accept the nomination. Reverend Simon PW Drew also ran as the Interracial Independent Party’s running mate in 1928, but it is not known if the party ticket appeared on the ballots and received popular votes.
Ford’s three vice-presidential campaigns highlight how black Americans have historically presented themselves for the job outside of the two-party system that denied them entry. The goal of these candidates has not always been to win the race, necessarily, but sometimes to bring national attention to racial and labor issues.
Several black men and women have been appointed vice-presidents from Ford. One was Charlotta Bass, the first black woman named vice president, who ran on the Progressive Party ticket in 1952. However, the main Republican and Democratic parties never nominated a black American (or a person of color). ) to the vice-presidency.
READ MORE: ‘Unbought and Unbossed’: Why Shirley Chisholm Ran for President ‘
3. Richard Nixon
Prior to being president, Richard Nixon served two terms as vice president of Dwight Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961. Their relationship was not always cordial. In 1956, Eisenhower tried and failed to push Nixon off the ticket. At a press conference in 1960, eager to cite Nixon’s contributions to his administration, Eisenhower replied, “If you give me a week, I could think of one. I do not remember.
When the Republican Party first appointed Nixon as vice president in 1952, he was best known for serving on the House Anti-American Activities Committee, persecuting suspected Communists, and investigating Alger Hiss. He had also previously earned the nickname “Tricky Dick” for his negative campaign strategy. In particular, he liked to smear his opponents by associating them with communism.
As president, Nixon continued these tactics and developed even more insidious tactics. He is best known for the Watergate scandal and for being the first president to resign.
READ MORE: ‘What the Nixon Tapes Reveal About the Attica Prison Uprising’
4. Thomas Eagleton
In July 1972, Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern selected Thomas Eagleton as vice president. Days later, an anonymous call led to McGovern’s campaign to learn that Eagleton had previously been hospitalized with depression and received electroconvulsive therapy. At about the same time, the Detroit Free-Press received another anonymous call about Eagleton.
READ MORE: “Three of the most damning secrets of the US election”
When reporters asked Eagleton about his medical history, he was candid about it. At first, McGovern professed his confidence in Eagleton, saying he had backed him “1000%”. Yet after just 18 days as a running mate, McGovern forced Eagleton to step down, fearing that his past treatment would affect voters’ confidence in him.
It is unclear how much Eagleton’s mental health history mattered to voters, but McGovern’s willingness to dump him has hurt his campaign. In November, Nixon was re-elected in a landslide, though Washington post Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were already detecting a link between Nixon’s team and the Watergate robbery that summer.
5. Geraldine Ferraro
Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to receive a nomination for the vice-president of a major party. In 1984, she was Democrat Walter Mondale’s vice-candidate against incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan.
Before Ferraro, other women like Marietta Stow in 1884 and Charlotta Bass in 1952 had run for vice president on third-party tickets. In fact, Ferraro was one of many women running for vice-president in the year she ran. One of them was Angela Davis, an academic and civil rights activist, who ran for the Communist Party’s running for president in 1980 and 1984.
Since Ferraro, the only other woman to run for a major party vice-president is Sarah Palin, who ran with John McCain on the 2008 Republican ticket against Barack Obama and Joe Biden. During Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, he vowed to nominate a woman as his vice presidential candidate. This person would be the third woman to be nominated by a major party, and potentially the first woman of color to do so.
WATCH: ‘The Presidents’ on HISTORY Vault