Yes, tonight's vice presidential debate sounds about as rousing as a lukewarm cup of Sleepytime tea. Mike Pence and Tim Kaine aren't known for their colorful personalities, or known that much at all. (One recent poll found that more than 40 percent of Americans can't even name either vice presidential candidate). And why should anyone care? Vice presidents don't have that much power anyway, right?
But the next vice president might. If Trump wins, Pence might end up running the show. And at least as far as Silicon Valley is concerned, that could be a big problem.
Wait, what? How could Pence pull off such a power grab?
The short answer is he wouldn't even have to try. Vice presidents have become more influential since the early `90s, when President Bill Clinton entrusted major issues like protecting the environment to then-Vice President Al Gore. Since then, presidential nominees have started to see their vice presidents not as understudies but as partners, according to a new paper from the Brookings Institution. Modern vice presidents usually have something they run on their own for the president, says Elaine Kamarck, who wrote the paper and worked for Gore. "They also have an ongoing relationship and the ability to be the last person in the room."
As vice president, Kaine would likely follow in this tradition by assuming responsibility for domestic policy projects, especially given his experience in state and local government Kamarck says. (Kaine is a US Senator from Virginia, where he previously served as governor and mayor of Richmond.) But barring a tragedy—or some Chris Christie fever dream in which Clinton actually gets indicted—it's hard to imagine Clinton, a noted policy wonk, letting Kaine steer much of anything.