News Complex History Of Vice Presidency To Be Explored - Garrett College

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Campus News

September 6th, 2022

Complex history of vice presidency to be explored

Path to the presidency has attracted some rather unusual occupants

President Midcap

Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's president, will be this month's Joan Crawford Lecture Series presenter.

The vice presidency is the most common path to the American presidency.

So why has its membership included such a quirky cast of characters?

That's one of the questions Garrett College President Dr. Richard Midcap will explore in the latest installment of the Joan Crawford Lecture Series, which will take place at 6 p.m. on September 21st in the Performing Arts Center at Garrett College. Midcap's presentation is entitled The Complicated History of U.S. Presidential Succession: The Changing Role of the American Vice President.

Midcap said creating a vice presidency that could be first in line of presidential succession was actually an afterthought by the Founding Fathers.

"The early draft of the Constitution designated the president of the senate to act as president in the event of a presidency vacancy – and only until a new election could be held," said Midcap. "James Madison even suggested a collective acting presidency – a 'Council of State' – that would run the country whenever the presidency was vacant."

Midcap said the Founding Fathers' lack of interest in the vice presidency was matched by a general lack of enthusiasm for the office among the citizenry – including some who held the office. John Adams, the nation's first vice president, termed the vice presidency "the most insignificant office ever . . . conceived."

"Many vice presidents didn't even spend that much time in Washington," noted Midcap. "Richard Johnson, who was vice president under Martin Van Buren, actually stayed in Kentucky for long stretches of his vice presidency managing a bar he owned."

Yet, for all that, the vice presidency has played an important role in the country's history, according to Midcap.

"Nine vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency," said Midcap. "Four others were elected president directly from the vice presidency, and two former vice presidents – including Joe Biden – later won election to the presidency.

"Statistically, the surest path to the presidency is the vice presidency," added Midcap. "That alone makes the office and its inhabitants worth studying."

Midcap, who has bachelor's and master's degrees in history, said he enjoyed studying the vice presidency during his graduate work.

"Many of the individuals who've held that office were fascinating people," said Midcap, who also holds a doctorate in higher education leadership.

Today, as in the past, many politicians downplay any interest in the vice presidency – yet very few actually turn down the opportunity to run. Midcap said a quote by comedian Bill Vaughn puts that paradox into perspective.

"The vice presidency is sort of like the last cookie on the plate," Midcap quoted from Vaughn. "Everyone insists he won't take it, but somebody always does."

The Joan Crawford Lecture Series was created by the Garrett College faculty to honor a dynamic educator who spent more than three decades at the College. Crawford, who died in 2010, came to Garrett College in 1972 and served in a variety of capacities, including head of the Humanities Department. After her retirement, Crawford was named Professor Emerita.

The Joan Crawford Lecture Series of presentations are offered free of charge, and the public and community members are invited to attend. All presentations from the Joan Crawford Lecture Series will be available to view online through the College's Facebook page. The lectures will be live streamed and recordings will be posted shortly after the event.

For more information, contact Jenny Meslener at jennifer.meslener@garrettcollege.edu or 301-387-3022.