Nothing looks easy on House of Cards. Politics, marriage, even something as simple as watching television takes a huge toll on its characters – usually because what's on the television is a news story about themselves. The characters in House of Cards always seem to have the deck stacked against them, and yet they always find ways to make it harder for themselves. House of Cards Season 4, Episode 3 spoilers: When Claire Underwood said she wanted to be Vice President on House of Cards , she suggested it so casually. But, vice presidents aren't just picked willy-nilly. Or are they? In real life, what's the vice president selection process?
It seems borderline absurd that a First Lady could ever become the vice president to their own husband, but there's actually no law against a husband and wife running together on the same ballot. The reasoning behind Claire and Frank's choice to run together seems sound, as these two trust each other more than anyone else in the world to rule with an iron Underwood fist. However, could this type of thing happen in real life? Could the Bill-and-Hillary-type political power-couples of the future run on the same ballot? How are vice presidents even picked in the real world?
According to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, "The person having the greatest number of votes as vice president, shall be the vice president." So, why don't we see any vice presidential debates or campaigns, or a Republican president with a Democratic vice president? It comes down to the idea of "running mates," and the political parties working together to not split their own votes amongst competing members of the same party. Running mates are picked by a presidential nominee as an implied two-for-one package if elected. Prior to the 20th century, the VP was selected via a delegate vote as stated in the 12th Amendment from the 1800s, just like the presidential nominee was. But, according to History Today magazine, "Since 1940, when Franklin Roosevelt established a precedent by choosing his own running-mate, the choice has been down to the candidate."
There are a variety of things that could influence a presidential nominee as to who their running mate should be. For example, Mac Tan of Quora StatSheet wrote that nominees often ticket split or ticket balance to attempt to gain the vote of the most people. (Which is not the same thing as a split ticket, which, if permitted, would give voters the option to vote for any president/vice president combo across party lines. That's not currently how our voting procedure works.) A ticket split can occur across regional or experience divides. For example, Obama was a collected, calm, and younger presidential candidate so he paired up with the more experienced and less-restricted Joe Biden to balance the ticket. Tan also claimed that splits can be used to cover geographic popularity, with candidates from southern states joining with running mates from northern states, and vice-versa.
So hypothetically, anyone could be picked as vice president. But, the question that may end up on a lot of people's minds is whether or not it's a good idea for the Underwoods to run together. They're both based in the South, meaning they'd have a lot of work ahead of them in the northern states, and they both share similar levels of experience. The only difference seems to be in public appearance, as Frank has attempted to be as calm and objective as possible as president while Claire has not been afraid to speak her mind to those she thinks are acting dishonestly.
The vice president is a surprisingly small role with a lot of power. Their only two roles are to serve as president-in-waiting should something happen to the president, and deliver tie-breaking votes in the Senate. However, it's not the power that Frank and Claire want by running together — it's the illusion of power. Even if enemies of the Underwoods take out Frank, Claire could be there to take the presidency, and she will not hesitate to use her power. It's a pretty out-there idea, but crazier things have happened in real American politics.
Image: David Giesbrecht/Netflix