She did exactly what she was supposed to do. She balanced the Republican ticket and assured everyone that the GOP wasn't the Old White Guy Party, and she made some Democrats really scared.
The Palin gamble didn't work out, but it could have. If the GOP had done a better job training her to get her more prepared for the spotlight, or if the media hadn't so quickly fallen in love with highlighting her many flaws, or if the people who dug into her past to uncover previous political scandals weren't paying close enough attention, Palin would have just come off as a charming and likable ticket-balancing politician with folksy, down-home charm.
And then she would have been the vice president of America.
She's not, and that's very good, but the fact of the matter remains: She was in a position where she could have potentially been the vice president, which means she was in a position where she could have been the president. George H.W. Bush was admitted to the hospital with an irregular heartbeat, a condition that could have led to something benign and simple OR could have preceded a heart attack. If Bush had died as a result of these complications, Dan Quayle would have been president, a man who, at the time of Bush's surgery, had an approval rating of 19.
Why It Needs to Change
By choosing VPs based on how well they balance the ticket (that is, by focusing on playing good politics instead of picking good politicians), we're ensuring two things: 1) the chances that we'll ever get two brilliant political minds in the same White House at the same time are getting smaller every year and 2) in the event of an assassination or resignation, we're making someone next in line for the presidency despite the fact that they might be wildly unqualified for the position.
Sarah Palin and Swingin' Joe Biden were terrific ticket-balancers, but would either of them make a great president? We have no idea, because those just aren't things we're trained to look out for in election season.
Instead we'll hear that Biden and Obama probably want to rub each other's butts.
Changing the vice presidency would actually be tremendously helpful for everything on this list. If we gave the VP more power (Cheney actually wielded a ton of power as a VP, but upon taking over, Swingin' Joe immediately reduced the role of VP back to that of an adviser), there would be less work for the president himself, which would make the presidency less of a killing job (which means it would probably attract fewer lunatics). Additionally, turning the vice presidency into a position of power and importance means that we wouldn't have to look at potential VPs just based on how well they'd balance the ticket; we'd have to examine them with the same level of scrutiny we use when we vet presidents. No more Dan Quayles would be able to sneak into the White House because people would be paying attention.
It's probably impossible to change the current system at this point, but I'm still trying to tell a crabby, old American Government professor to suck it, so I can't entertain "probably impossible" as an option. I did my job by writing about this (which I believe makes me the John Adams of Cracked.com, a distinction I'm absolutely fine with, assuming that it makes Soren the tiny James Madison), and the rest is up to you. So, when you go into the voting booths this November, vote for ... this article, I guess?
Let's say that. Vote for this article this November.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's senior writer (ladies), and still secretly considers the presidency a backup plan if this whole Cracked thing falls apart (wildly influential American Government professor whose name escapes me).
Check out more from Dan in 5 Presidential Elections Even Dumber Than This One (Somehow) and The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time.