Vice President Kamala Harris has underwhelmed, leaving her popularity depressed, and her viability as a vice presidential candidate in question. Some Democrats are openly considering alternatives to Harris, suggesting that she is a hindrance to Biden’s reelection chances. To that end, a Wall Street Journal reader proposed a familiar name: Barack Obama.
Could former President Obama serve as vice president? The short answer: probably not.
Floating Obama as vice president
In a letter to the Journal, a reader suggested that the “perfect person” for the role of VP would be Obama.
The reader asserted that Obama met the pre-requisites described in a Business World article titled ‘Biden’s Only Salvation: A New Veep,’ including, “undoubted forcefulness,” and a readiness “to take over when global events are running out of control.”
Does the idea sound far-fetched?
Well, a former president has never slid into the vice presidency before, so for Obama to take the vice presidency would be unprecedented (especially given that Biden was Obama’s underling for two terms).
But the idea has been floated before, and not just in the letters section of the Journal but at the highest levels. Ronald Reagan, while still a candidate for the presidency, very seriously considered bringing on former President Gerald Ford onto the ticket as vice president. Ford had never been elected president (or vice president for that matter), but he was a former president – so the idea that he would slot into the vice presidency was novel indeed. The plan never came to be, George H.W. Bush eventually took the slot, but Reagan and Ford discussed the idea earnestly.
Anyways, the Journal reader suggests that Obama possesses not only the skillset to be vice president but the constitutional qualifications. Citing the 22nd Amendment, the reader asserts that while the amendment prohibits someone from being elected to the office of the presidency more than twice, “there is nothing about running for vice president after serving two terms as president.”
However, another Journal reader responded, stating that Obama is not eligible for vice president. Here’s what the second reader had to say: “While the concept of President Obama becoming a vice-presidential candidate is interesting, it may run afoul of the 12th Amendment: “But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible that of Vice-President of the United States.”
How this interacts with the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to two elected terms, is uncertain, but on the face of it Mr. Obama wouldn’t be permitted now to become vice president.”
Alternative vice presidents
The likelihood that Obama would have accepted a position as Joe Biden’s underling is low. Maybe Obama would have found that Biden has long since exceeded the US male life expectancy and taken the vice presidency with the expectation that he would re-assume the presidency shortly.
But this is all wildly hypothetical and probably hasn’t crossed the mind of either Obama or Biden. Regardless, the 12th Amendment seems clear on the point: Obama is not eligible for the vice presidency.
Still, the Democrats may want to consider alternatives to Harris. While Harris may be more popular than Biden himself (according to recently released polls), she remains solidly unpopular. The simple fact is that most Americans don’t want Harris to be president – and given Biden’s advanced age, Harris is very likely to assume the presidency should she be reelected vice president.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.