John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President of the United States from 1933 to 1941, said the vice presidency wasn’t worth a warm bucket of piss¹. It would appear many agree, and few, if any, are concerned with who our next vice-president will be, presumably because of the relative unimportance of the post (Dick Cheney’s Bush-push out of political mediocrity notwithstanding).
My concerns have been met with much historical recounting – none of it relevant because never before in the history of the United States has a candidate of color been this close to closing in on the Oval Office, nor has a man of 72 years of age ever been elected President.
All things being equal, Barack Obama and John McCain run the same risks of injury or death when stepping out onto the street, driving around town, or eating a spinach and jalapeño salad – but all things are not equal. I’ve run into no shortage of naysayers whose most frequent defense of their apathy is “Elephant? What elephant?²”
While every president runs the risk of assassination, there is good reason to believe Obama could be met with the same kind of resistance met by John F. Kennedy – whose support of the Civil Rights movement did not go unnoticed by those who were not in agreement with our nation’s youngest and only Catholic president.
Many an elder laments the suggestion that McCain’s age alone should be an issue and chooses to ignore the likelihood that an age-related health issue could interfere with his ability to fulfill a presidential term. Then there are those who, thinking they’ve spoken in confidence, do secretly hold that it would be no skin off their nose if Obama met an early demise.
An early (and crazy) campaign concern was whether or not Obama was “black enough.” He’s black enough (or white or elitist or traveled enough) to have already been threatened with assassination. Should some nut job be successful at it, we’ll have ourselves a vice president whose name (and resume) we don’t even know yet.
If elected, McCain would be the oldest man ever to be inaugurated. While some joke that just shouting “Bang!” in close proximity to McCain could take him out, the real concern is whether or not he can hold the office in good health for the entire term. A heart attack or other major health issue is not that far-fetched – and would leave us in the hands of someone we don’t know.
The ante has been upped and probability looms precariously on the horizon. Equally disturbing as the already disconcerting assassination plot and jokes about an assassination, is the average American citizen’s cavalier lack of interest in the candidates’ running mates.
It’s entirely possible we’ll be voting for a vice president rather than a president. It’s not necessarily important that we know who the running mates are right now, but it is important that when we do know, we also care.
¹ The word “piss” was changed to “spit” by a reporter to make the phrase more family-friendly. Garner called that reporter a "pantywaist."
² An elephant in the room is a problem everyone knows about but doesn't talk about because it is taboo or embarrassing.