New York in History and Anecdote
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Another Last Hurrah?

As becomes a citizen, I have occasionally run for public office. As Édouard Herriot, four times Prime Minister under the Third Republic, said whenever he was running for anything, from conseilleur municipal to Président de la République, “I have placed myself at the disposal of my friends and the service of the Republic.” In my case, I was simply doing my best to sabotage and annoy the office-holding element among The Wicked Who Prosper.

Most recently, I stood for Vice President of the United States in the New Hampshire primaries, which I wrote about in 2000.  It was all in good fun and as—much to my surprise and delight—I won, I found myself with yet another anecdote for dinner conversation.

So I was saddened when the May 1, 2009 issue of Richard Winger’s indispensable Ballot Access News reported that on April 22 the New Hampshire legislature passed a bill to eliminate the vice-presidential primary.  As Mr. Winger notes, “No other state has a vice-presidential primary.”

He goes on to point out that “Generally, no one who really has a chance to be chosen by a major party for vice-president ever files in this primary.” There is, in a sense, a reason for this. Since New Hampshire instituted the vice-presidential primary over fifty years ago, the contest had developed a laudable purpose uniquely its own: the potential embarrassment of an incumbent vice-president.  If, like myself, you believe that politicians are fair game, then the vice-presidential primary is simply a happy hunting ground.  Besides, until fairly recently, the vice-presidency was an absurdly empty job with its occupants as worthy of respect as the hapless Alexander Throttlebottom, the vice-president in Gershwin’s 1931 musical Of Thee I Sing.

All is not yet lost: the Legislature’s website indicates that the bill has not yet gone to the governor for signature. Though my stumping days are behind me, I for one fervently hope that it does not. While only one incumbent has actually been defeated (Dan Quayle, 1992, who did not have his name appear on the ballot, did not wage a subrosa campaign for votes as most incumbents do, and was overwhelmed by the unknown candidate who paid his filing fee and appeared on the ballot, never to be heard from again), the possibilities presented in 2012 by the loose-lipped Joe Biden seem limitless and irresistible.  It would be a pity if New Hampshire were to spare him that potential humiliation.

May 3, 2009   No Comments