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Topic: Julian Castro

Abolish the Vice Presidency

The drama surrounding Hillary Clinton’s prospective candidacy has made writing about the 2016 presidential election nearly unavoidable. But the possibility of a Clinton coronation has led to some expanded predictions: we’re now–in mid-2014–talking about running mates. This was primarily driven by the suggestion that Democrats were positioning San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro for a spot on the 2016 ticket.

That led to speculation over who the Republicans would nominate for vice president, and since in this scenario they’d be running against two “historic” nominees, the question simply becomes one of race and gender identity politics. Not content with Castro, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein is now fretting over the Democrats’ veep bench for 2016, though Doug Mataconis has an excellent post offering Bernstein some perspective on the matter.

But there’s a way out of this madness, and this is a good opportunity do something that’s made sense for a very long time: abolish the vice presidency.

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The drama surrounding Hillary Clinton’s prospective candidacy has made writing about the 2016 presidential election nearly unavoidable. But the possibility of a Clinton coronation has led to some expanded predictions: we’re now–in mid-2014–talking about running mates. This was primarily driven by the suggestion that Democrats were positioning San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro for a spot on the 2016 ticket.

That led to speculation over who the Republicans would nominate for vice president, and since in this scenario they’d be running against two “historic” nominees, the question simply becomes one of race and gender identity politics. Not content with Castro, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein is now fretting over the Democrats’ veep bench for 2016, though Doug Mataconis has an excellent post offering Bernstein some perspective on the matter.

But there’s a way out of this madness, and this is a good opportunity do something that’s made sense for a very long time: abolish the vice presidency.

It’s not a new idea, but it’s worth revisiting now that the parties are apparently choosing the next-in-line by playing the matching game. This certainly isn’t an upgrade over the last method, in which presidential nominees placed questionable geographic bets with their veep selections. That at least had the advantage of choosing a recognized and relatively popular–and thus, usually experienced–legislator or governor.

But we don’t need to agonize over how we choose the vice president. We can free ourselves by getting rid of the vice presidency altogether. First and foremost, the vice presidency has strayed–and actually, it did so almost from the very beginning–from the Founders’ idea of the position, which they weren’t exactly wild about to start with. As Arthur Schlesinger wrote in his 1974 Atlantic essay:

The vice presidency was put into the Constitution for one reason, and one reason alone. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, a member of the committee that originated the idea, conceded at the Convention that “such an office as vice-president was not wanted. It was introduced only for the sake of a valuable mode of election which required two to be chosen at the same time.” This is an essential but neglected point. The theory of presidential elections embodied in the Constitution was that if electors had to vote for two men without designating which was to be President and which Vice President, and if one of these men had, as the Constitution required, to be from another state, then both men who topped the poll would be of the highest quality, and the republic would be safe in the hands of either. …

In 1800 the Republicans gave the same number of electoral votes to Jefferson, their presidential choice, as they gave to Aaron Burr, a man of undoubted talents who, however, was trusted by no one in the long course of American history, except his daughter Theodosia and Gore Vidal. Burr was nearly chosen President, though the voters never intended him for the presidency. The fear of comparable slipups in 1804 led to the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment requiring the electoral college to vote separately for President and Vice President.

The abolition of the “valuable mode of election” canceled the purpose of the Founding Fathers in having a Vice President at all.

Indeed it did. What’s frustrating about the evolution of the vice presidency is that it was not only predictable but predicted. All throughout American history politicians and commentators offered nothing toward the office but acid and pity. (Schlesinger’s own article begins: “We have a Vice President again, and Mr. Ford deserves all our sympathy.”)

The vice presidency gains a fair amount of legitimacy from the fact that, technically, he or she has been elected by national vote. But my goodness that “technically” should not get the office so far. The American people vote for the top of the ticket. The vice presidential nominee is, in the minds of the voters at least, an add-on. When current Vice President Joe Biden ran for the top job, the reaction of his own party’s voters was consistent, overwhelming rejection. He is something like a sixty-point underdog to win his own party’s nomination to succeed the president he now serves.

The electoral legitimacy of the vice president is not only dubious, therefore, but dangerous. What we have is a next-in-line who basically got there by appointment and is often far less prepared to take over than other members of the president’s Cabinet. There are exceptions, of course, but they are just that.

So who would replace the vice president in the line of automatic succession? Anyone else would possess less electoral legitimacy than the current vice president unless it was a leader of one of the houses of Congress, in which case upon presidential vacancy the high office could switch parties without an election, an outcome that should be avoided.

Perhaps someone–the secretary of state, say–could take over on a provisional basis while a national election could be organized. Ideally they would not be considered “president,” but that has its own drawbacks: could they sign bills or treaties? The following election would have to take place relatively soon, which means a brief nominating and general-election period. But that has advantages. After all, we have the opposite now, and we’re left filling time and space by talking, regrettably, about vice-presidential nominees.

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The Logic of Castro’s Nomination: It’s More Than Identity Politics

The expected nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development–a Cabinet-level post–has earned much attention from both sides of the aisle. Almost none of the commentary, however, has had to do with Castro’s qualifications for HUD. Most of it has had to do with the fact that the Democrats have been eyeing Castro as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 2016.

Democrats don’t seem to want to nominate a sitting mayor for vice president–too big a leap perhaps. This is especially true for Castro, because, as Allahpundit notes, the San Antonio mayor’s office is “a figurehead role,” without much responsibility or even a regular salary. In fact, San Antonio’s city manager reportedly receives a salary of $355,000, while Mayor Castro gets a $3,000 stipend plus $20 for every council meeting he attends. The San Antonio mayoralty is essentially the city government version of a department store greeter, except with fewer hours and less pay.

In addition to Allahpundit’s piece, Ben Domenech’s treatment of the issue in this morning’s Transom is worth reading. But I think there’s a point being missed here. Everyone is mentioning the fact that Castro is an ideal vice-presidential candidate because of his youth and his Hispanic heritage, as well as his connections to a red state. That is true. But he’s a perfect candidate for the Democrats for another reason. Allahpundit touches on it as a strike against him:

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The expected nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development–a Cabinet-level post–has earned much attention from both sides of the aisle. Almost none of the commentary, however, has had to do with Castro’s qualifications for HUD. Most of it has had to do with the fact that the Democrats have been eyeing Castro as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 2016.

Democrats don’t seem to want to nominate a sitting mayor for vice president–too big a leap perhaps. This is especially true for Castro, because, as Allahpundit notes, the San Antonio mayor’s office is “a figurehead role,” without much responsibility or even a regular salary. In fact, San Antonio’s city manager reportedly receives a salary of $355,000, while Mayor Castro gets a $3,000 stipend plus $20 for every council meeting he attends. The San Antonio mayoralty is essentially the city government version of a department store greeter, except with fewer hours and less pay.

In addition to Allahpundit’s piece, Ben Domenech’s treatment of the issue in this morning’s Transom is worth reading. But I think there’s a point being missed here. Everyone is mentioning the fact that Castro is an ideal vice-presidential candidate because of his youth and his Hispanic heritage, as well as his connections to a red state. That is true. But he’s a perfect candidate for the Democrats for another reason. Allahpundit touches on it as a strike against him:

Essentially he’s a Latino Obama, except with much less experience. If he ends up as VP in 2016, he’d be the youngest veep since Dan Quayle (who had spent eight years in the Senate by the time he was sworn in) and indisputably the one with the thinnest resume, which means, if Hillary’s health goes south, the free world could conceivably be led circa 2018 by a guy whose main qualification was a two-year sinecure atop America’s housing bureau. But look at it this way. If they’re going to have a pure identity-politics candidate at the top of the ticket, why shouldn’t they also have one at the bottom?

Emphasis is in the original, but I think it’s worth emphasizing as well. Allahpundit says this as a kind of warning: if you thought Obama was unprepared for office, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Politico notes that Hillary Clinton was asked last week about the possibility of adding Castro to the ticket and that Castro has been asked before to join the Cabinet, so the Democrats have been looking for a way to elevate Castro for some time.

When you consider what Castro’s current day job entails, the question obviously arises: since no one the Republicans have ever nominated for the vice presidency comes close to being this inexperienced or unqualified–Sarah Palin was a governor, after all–does this make Democrats world-class hypocrites? Yes for the obvious reasons, but in the Democrats’ defense, they don’t see it that way, and there’s a logical process that leads them there.

To understand why this is, you have to remember how the Democratic Party, as a vehicle for American left-liberalism, approaches the task of governing. Yet again today the president’s press secretary said the White House learned about the Veterans Affairs scandal through the media–that is, those in the White House have no idea what’s going on in their own administration. This is a popular excuse for the president, because what he’s looking for is not responsibility but plausible deniability. Liberalism in a government this size is a recipe for disaster; Obama knows it will fail on his watch at a great many of its tasks. His desire is to somehow avoid blame for the array of inevitable failures of his administration.

The best description of the Obama presidency in recent memory is Kevin Williamson’s August essay for National Review, which paints Obama, accurately, as “the nominal leader for permanent bureaucracy.” The health-care law that Congress passed as ObamaCare, cruel and garbled as it is, resembles only in certain ways the ObamaCare the president is implementing. That’s because Congress passed the outlines of a law Obama then placed into the hands of his bureaucrats, such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

Democrats in Congress have tried, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to limit political speech in ways that would benefit liberal organizations and candidates at the expense of conservative ones. But they have often been stymied by the political process, because their ideas are unconstitutional. Enter the IRS, which targeted conservative groups, at the encouragement of high-ranking Democrats in the Congress and the White House, during the two election cycles before they were discovered after Obama’s reelection.

Democrats didn’t like the effect of the democratic process on their attempts to extensively regulate the private sector. So they created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an unaccountable bureaucracy to which the president made an unconstitutional appointment.

If your goal is to work within the confines of the system of checks and balances to influence the democratic process and produce transparent legislation and accountable lawmaking, you would want men and women of experience and proven capability. But the Democrats would intend for a Clinton/Castro team to be the public face of the bureaucracy, so they genuinely don’t expect Castro’s lack of experience and Clinton’s lack of accomplishment to get in the way. If there’s anything important that they really need to know, they’ll be sure to read the papers.

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Rise From Poverty, Don’t Glorify It

The motto of the Republican Convention in Tampa last week was “We Built It.” Speakers repeated the line (sometimes to excess), videos were played on the theme, signs and banners lined the convention center. By the end of the week, nobody present in Tampa could be unaware that during a speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that small business owners didn’t build their businesses alone.

The GOP highlighted several speakers during the week that had inspiring stories of building small businesses out of nothing, who risked what little they had to build companies that would become employers. One speaker, Sher Valenzuela, appeared in the early evening on Tuesday and set the tone for the rest of the convention. Valenzuela and her husband (a second-generation Mexican-American), devastated by their son’s autism diagnosis, started a business in order to pay for his care.

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The motto of the Republican Convention in Tampa last week was “We Built It.” Speakers repeated the line (sometimes to excess), videos were played on the theme, signs and banners lined the convention center. By the end of the week, nobody present in Tampa could be unaware that during a speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that small business owners didn’t build their businesses alone.

The GOP highlighted several speakers during the week that had inspiring stories of building small businesses out of nothing, who risked what little they had to build companies that would become employers. One speaker, Sher Valenzuela, appeared in the early evening on Tuesday and set the tone for the rest of the convention. Valenzuela and her husband (a second-generation Mexican-American), devastated by their son’s autism diagnosis, started a business in order to pay for his care.

Her husband learned his craft from a mail-order course while in the army, and took what he learned about sewing from this course and turned it into an upholstery  business that, fifteen years later, would employ more than 70 people in a 70,000-square-foot factory in their home state of Delaware. Her speech was inspiring and uplifting, exactly what the convention was hoping to accomplish with this relatively unknown candidate for Lt. Governor of a state they in all likelihood will not be able to win.

The next night, Paul Ryan also discussed his family’s rise from poverty. After his father passed away when Ryan was sixteen, his mother started a small business. He told the audience,

My Mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.

Many of the GOP’s speakers from the three nights of the convention spoke about their family’s humble roots and their rise not only to positions of political power, but also to the role of small business owner and employer. The latter, being an employer, was valued more than that of being a politician, and those on stage made sure the audience was aware of that fact.

Contrast this with the speeches last night from the Democratic National Convention. Two speakers, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and First Lady Michelle Obama, also discussed the poverty of their upbringings. The difference between their speeches and that of Valenzuela and Ryan was that while the Republicans spent the evening discussing their rise from poverty, the Democrats dwelled on their former poverty. Castro and Michelle Obama could have spoken about their first jobs, their struggles (and triumphs), getting through college, the successes they’ve made of their lives, but they chose not to. While they both honored their parents’ sacrifices, which enabled them to have better lives, they did not discuss how they or their parents achieved personal success. Neither Castro nor Obama discussed any experiences in business, and Castro measured his success in terms of holding public office, but never explained how he came to occupy it.

The contrast between these four speeches is remarkable and they set the tone for both parties and their conventions. The Republicans went to extraordinary lengths to showcase their commitment to small business, personal responsibility and ingenuity. Democrats spent the evening making martyrs out of the poor without ever encouraging them to reach higher than their government-sponsored lots in life. Republicans showed themselves to be the party of making the poor rich, and Democrats are the party of the poor. Which will resonate more with lower-class voters?

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Julian Castro’s Dud: What Went Wrong

Democrats are feeling encouraged after last night’s speech from first lady Michelle Obama—and with good reason. She turned in a stirring performance, taking a speech that was well written and delivering it just as well, if not better. But the communications team at the Democratic National Convention should also be left wondering why some of the other speeches of the night fell flat, most notably that of Julian Castro, the San Antonio mayor for whom the unreasonably high expectations turned out to be a burden rather than spring board.

Part of the problem is that when you get compared to Barack Obama in 2004, you better be charismatic, and Castro doesn’t quite have the easy yet confident charm Obama displayed. Castro, like an actor who looks like he’s acting, was visibly working to produce what didn’t come naturally. Another factor was the general tone of the evening: whereas the GOP convention theme was that Obama is a good man but not a good president, last night’s DNC lineup was a particularly nasty string of speakers clawing at Mitt Romney’s character. In 2004, Obama showed an ability to speak above the partisan fray. Last night, Castro was just another participant in a one-sided cafeteria food fight.

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Democrats are feeling encouraged after last night’s speech from first lady Michelle Obama—and with good reason. She turned in a stirring performance, taking a speech that was well written and delivering it just as well, if not better. But the communications team at the Democratic National Convention should also be left wondering why some of the other speeches of the night fell flat, most notably that of Julian Castro, the San Antonio mayor for whom the unreasonably high expectations turned out to be a burden rather than spring board.

Part of the problem is that when you get compared to Barack Obama in 2004, you better be charismatic, and Castro doesn’t quite have the easy yet confident charm Obama displayed. Castro, like an actor who looks like he’s acting, was visibly working to produce what didn’t come naturally. Another factor was the general tone of the evening: whereas the GOP convention theme was that Obama is a good man but not a good president, last night’s DNC lineup was a particularly nasty string of speakers clawing at Mitt Romney’s character. In 2004, Obama showed an ability to speak above the partisan fray. Last night, Castro was just another participant in a one-sided cafeteria food fight.

But it was also the text of the speech. It started off well, with Castro telling poignant stories of his grandmother, noting that when Castro and his twin brother (who introduced him last night) were born, their grandmother paid the hospital bill with prize money from winning a cook-off. He told his family’s classic immigrant story, made all the more powerful by describing the Texas bootstrap culture they ended up in—a place where the hard work was only beginning.

But the speech quickly got bogged down in awkward phrases and unsteady delivery. Castro transitioned clumsily from describing the American dream and upward mobility to this: “And that’s the middle class—the engine of our economic growth. With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there!” And then, almost as an afterthought, finished the line: “—and go beyond!” From that, the paragraph veered into confused metaphors and clunky lines: “The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans. It’s a human dream, one that calls across oceans and borders. The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality.”

And unfortunately with Obama in office, the DNC was never far from demonstrating the cult of personality that has followed the president since his presidential run four years ago. Castro, rather than offering ideas, served up one of the most cringe-inducing examples of it when he said: “We all celebrate individual success. But the question is, how do we multiply that success? The answer is President Barack Obama.”

And there were lines that were plain awful–not just cheesy, but bordering on the nonsensical. The worst example was this: “In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”

You can only elevate bad writing so high, and Castro was saddled with a speech few could have elevated to meet the expectations of the moment.

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Can Dems Rekindle Obama Worship?

The Democrats’ biggest problem this year is the failed economy that Barack Obama gives himself an “incomplete” on after four years in power. Their only way to overcome this is to somehow recapture the “hope and change” messianism that catapulted Obama to the presidency. In 2008, Obama wasn’t merely the Democratic alternative to the Republicans. He was the embodiment of the nation’s hopes for itself. His election was an intrinsic achievement for every voter since it reversed a legacy of racism and conferred a certain honor on everyone who took part in his elevation. More than that, he was a put forward as a near godlike figure that was above partisan politics.

Inevitably, the reality of Barack Obama collided with the messianism. Four years later, there is a noticeable drop in enthusiasm among the young voters and others who created the Obama surge. How could it be otherwise when the president’s conduct in office has been anything but post-partisan? Four years of massive government spending, liberal patent nostrums and business as usual have made his feet of clay all too apparent.

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The Democrats’ biggest problem this year is the failed economy that Barack Obama gives himself an “incomplete” on after four years in power. Their only way to overcome this is to somehow recapture the “hope and change” messianism that catapulted Obama to the presidency. In 2008, Obama wasn’t merely the Democratic alternative to the Republicans. He was the embodiment of the nation’s hopes for itself. His election was an intrinsic achievement for every voter since it reversed a legacy of racism and conferred a certain honor on everyone who took part in his elevation. More than that, he was a put forward as a near godlike figure that was above partisan politics.

Inevitably, the reality of Barack Obama collided with the messianism. Four years later, there is a noticeable drop in enthusiasm among the young voters and others who created the Obama surge. How could it be otherwise when the president’s conduct in office has been anything but post-partisan? Four years of massive government spending, liberal patent nostrums and business as usual have made his feet of clay all too apparent.

The Democrats have sought to counter this harsh dose of reality by stoking the partisan juices of their base with a first night of their convention that ignored the political center and stuck to efforts to appeal to the left. That meant a mantra of support for ObamaCare, gay marriage and abortion even though these positions are not only extreme but of doubtful utility in winning swing states where independents are key. But most of all they seemed desperate to rekindle the Obama worship that allowed their candidate to stride out in front of his 2008 convention amid fake Greek columns and promise to turn back the oceans and not be laughed out of the stadium.

That meant not just a routine pledge of allegiance to the president’s re-election from each speaker but a willingness to treat Obama as a magical figure. When keynote speaker Julian Castro acknowledged the power of individualism that Republicans celebrated last week with their “We built it” slogan, he countered on saying that such success can only be multiplied through the intercession of the godlike president.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the best speech of the evening for the Democrats but her moving stories of the first family were not meant to humanize Barack Obama as Ann Romney’s did for her husband Mitt but to do the opposite. Michelle’s husband was portrayed as not so much an ordinary guy but as a superhuman creature that cares for all. She strained credulity by claiming he listens to all and cares nothing for partisan labels — an assertion that bore no resemblance to the arrogant man Congressional Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to deal with — but it was all part of an effort to go back to the stained glass image that was crafted for Barack Obama in 2008.

The incessant flow of Obama worship played well in a hall full of party zealots. The Democrats will also have the advantage of a liberal mainstream media that assisted in the creation of that false image four years ago and may be willing to go back into the tank for the Democrat. But getting the rest of the country to buy back into the baloney and to go back to swooning over the president is a more difficult task. The Democrats had a successful night in Charlotte but it will take more than a nightlong worship service to convince a majority of Americans that the “incomplete” president is still the god of hope and change they once adored.

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