Walter Mondale

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Walter Mondale
42nd Vice-President of the United States
Term of office
January 20, 1977 - January 20, 1981
Political party Democratic
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Nelson Rockefeller
Succeeded by George H. W. Bush
Born January 5, 1928
[[Ceylon, Martin County, Minnesota]]
Spouse Joan Adams Mondale (died 2014)

Walter Frederick Mondale (January 5, 1928 – April 19, 2021[1]) is a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota who served as vice president under U.S. President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.[2] In 1984, as the former vice president, Mondale was the Democratic Party nominee for President. An avowed liberal, Mondale was defeated by the incumbent Ronald Reagan. Mondale carried only his home state and the District of Columbia. He is the only person in history to have lost a statewide election as the nominee of a major party in all fifty states, having lost the 2002 senatorial election in Minnesota and the 1984 presidential election in the other forty-nine.

Secular humanist

Author Tim LaHaye, in The Battle for the Mind, A Subtle Warfare recounts Mondale's humanist background. Mondale was a contributor to The Humanist magazine and attended the 5th Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union held in August 1970 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At that conference, then Senator Mondale said: "Although I have never formally joined a humanist society, I think I am a member by inheritance. My preacher father was a humanist ... and I grew up on a very rich diet of humanism from him. All of our family has been deeply influenced by this tradition including my brother Lester, a Unitarian minister ..." Indeed, Robert Lester Mondale (1904–2003), Walter Mondale's older half-brother, was the only person to sign each of the three Humanist Manifestos in 1933, 1973, and 2003.[3]

1964 DNC Convention

The Mississippi Freedom Party was organized by African Americans to challenge the establishment Democratic Party, which had denied them the right to vote. The Freedom party ran a slate of delegates with close to 80,000 people casting ballots.[4] The party hoped to replace the Regular Democrats as the official Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

At the convention the party challenged the Regular Democrats' right to be seated, claiming that the Regular Democrats were illegally elected in a segregated process that violated both party regulations and federal law.[5] The Equal Protection Clause had been on the books for nearly 100 years already, yet Democrats regularly violated it. The Democratic Party referred the challenge to the credentials committee,[6] which televised its proceedings and allowed the nation to see and hear the moving testimony of several delegates and the retaliation inflicted on them by Democrats for attempting to vote.[7]

After that, most observers and pundits thought the credentials committee were ready to unseat the Regular Democrats and seat the Freedom Party delegates in their place. But some Democrats from other states threatened to leave the convention and bolt the party if the Regular Democrats were unseated. President Lyndon Johnson wanted a united convention and feared losing support. To ensure his victory in November, Johnson maneuvered to prevent the Mississippi Freedom Democrats from replacing the all-white Regular Democrats.

Two future Democrat Presidential nominees, Sen. Hubert Humphrey and then-Minnesota Attorney General Walter Mondale, denied Blacks equal protection and made a mockery of the civil rights movement.[8] Johnson held a private meeting with Humphrey, Mondale, Roy Wilkins, Andrew Young, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther and Martin Luther King Jr. A plan was hatched to offer the Freedom Democrats two non-voting At-Large seats with observer status, rather than replace the all-white delegation which had been undemocratically and illegally elected.[9] Johnson arrogated to himself the right to pick which two, and Johnson chose one white and one black. Johnson dispatched Humphrey and Mondale and ordered them to make sure that “that illiterate woman," Fannie Lou Hamer would never be a delegate. Dr. King protested, and was told by Reuther to shut up.

The offer was rejected, but Humphrey and Mondale remained powerhouse liberals in the Democratic party for another 20 years.

1976 presidential election

Mayor Moscone (left) and the Rev. Jim Jones (center) meet with VP candidate Walter Mondale (background, right) during the 1976 presidential election.

The Democrats nominated political-unknown Jimmy Carter, Governor of Georgia and peanut farmer, who won his party's nomination. Under the new McGovern-Fraser delegate selection rules and expanded primary schedule, and the locking out party bosses, Carter was first to recognize the new system and successfully manipulated free television air time with early primary and caucus wins to pile up a rapid delegate lead and donor contributions. Carter had scarce contacts with old party bosses and soon buried competitors working under the old system. In keeping with the Democrats Southern Strategy, Carter selected a Northerner, Sen. Walter Mondale of Minnesota, as his running mate to balance the ticket.

Rosalynn Carter called the Rev. Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple at candidate Jimmy Carter's behest. She held a private dinner with him and had the Peoples Temple leader introduce her at the 1976 grand opening of the San Francisco Democratic Party Headquarters. Mondale, met with Jones and Mayor George Moscone on the tarmac in San Francisco during the campaign.

After Carter and Mondale were elected, Jones dined with Rosalynn Carter at the head table at the Democratic National Convention.[10] Jones wrote to Carter requesting aid for Fidel Castro, whom Jones had earlier met with in Cuba.[11] In a handwritten letter to Jones on White House stationery, the First Lady wrote "Your comments on Cuba have been helpful. I hope your suggestion can be acted on in the near future." Carter also wrote that "I enjoyed being with you during the campaign -- and do hope you can meet Ruth soon", referring to her sister-in-law, Ruth Carter Stapleton.[12] Mondale stated regarding the Temple that "knowing the congregations deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country . . . is a great inspiration to me."[13] Health and Human Services Secretary Joseph Califano stated "your humanitarian principles and your interest in protecting individual liberty and freedom have made an outstanding contribution to furthering the cause of human dignity." President Carter sent a representative to a dinner at the Temple at which Jones and Gov. Jerry Brown spoke.[14]


Vice President

When the Deputy Minister of Guyana, Ptolemy Reid traveled to Washington, D.C. in September 1977 to sign the Panama Canal Treaties, Mondale asked him, "How's Jim?", which indicated to Reid that Mondale had a personal interest in Rev. Jones' well being.[15]

1984 presidential election

Primary and convention rules

After Ted Kennedy's primary challenge and President Carter's loss to Reagan in 1980, Democrats rewrote their nominating and convention procedures for the fourth time in twelve years.[16] Anticipating a two-way contest in 1984 between Sen. Kennedy and former Vice President Walter Mondale,[17] the original point of contention between them was over bound delegates which Sen. Kennedy wanted to loosen, while the Mondale machine wanted a candidate to be able to go so far as to replace a "disloyal delegate".[18]

The Mondale machine, supported by Chairman Jim Hunt and union bosses, more importantly wanted to do something about outsiders and New Left “extremists”[19] they felt had taken over the party.[20][21][22] The Mondale and Kennedy machines agreed to do away with portions of the McGovern-Fraser Commission (known as the "reform movement") that had striped influence and power from elected government office holders in the nomination process[23] and paved the way for outsiders and an "insurgent candidate" . The rules the Democratic National Committee (DNC) adopted from Hunt Commission recommendations didn't just allow or encourage incumbents to return, it guaranteed them seats outside the regular democratic selection process. The Kennedy faction wanted to cut the number from about 800 reserved seats in half,[24] but over the years the base number of other delegates was expanded to meet the target of about 1-in-6 rather than the 1-in-3 originally proposed. Susan Estrich, who was to manage Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign[25] strenuously objected to the plan, and derisively coined the term "super-delegate", whom she claimed would disproportionately be white males.[26] Nevertheless, the idea became rule, and the figure of about 800 positions has held,[27] while the requirements for non-elected office holders chosen outside of the primary and caucus system has only been expanded.[28] The "Old Democrats" had retaken power with a vengeance.


The Hunt Commission (or "counter-reform movement") discarded the proportional allocation rules from the 1970s in favor of winner-take-all. Prior to proportional representation there was the “unit rule”, a delegation had to vote as a unit, now known as “winner-take-all”. McGovern-Fraser scraped the unit rule in favor of affirmative action, or “proportional representation”, rather than actual votes cast. Today's “unpledged” Superdelegates are party bosses whose cronies, the “pledged delegates”, earn their seats in state machines by working to elect Superdelegates in previous elections. Together they function as a unit, wherein the boss makes a deal to throw his weight behind a candidate—a re-creation of the 19th century political machine that Progressive reformers such as Bob La Follette fought to eliminate.[29]

The winner-take-all rules had the embarrassing affect in 1984 of allowing an insurgent candidate to rack up big delegate wins in late primary states.[30] So after 1984 the party brought back "proportional allocation".[31]

When Sen. Kennedy decided not to run in 1984, two insurgent candidates did appear, McGovern's 1972 "New Democrat" campaign manager Sen. Gary Hart, and Jesse Jackson, who was to be the first African-American to win states in a major party primary election for president. Susan Estrich's words were prophetic: the good old white boy network, including Hart, shot him down.[32] The rules were written for a two-way contest between establishment insiders—Mondale and Kennedy, not the three-way slugfest between baby boomers, blacks, and the party Old Guard it came to be.

1984 Campaign

Democratic nominee Walter Mondale on the campaign trail with Jimmy Carter in 1984.

Jimmy Carter actively campaigned for Mondale against Ronald Reagan in 1984 under the Confederate flag. Jesse Jackson refused to release his delegates in 1984 to Gary Hart, Clinton's old boss from the McGovern campaign of 1972. Jackson, the first African-American to win states in a major party primary, questioned the disparity between his vote total and delegate count, but even Hart sided with the DNC's rigging the primary rules.[33] In 1988 Jackson selected Ron Brown as his chief negotiator at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.[34] Brown went on to serve as DNC Chairman and Commerce Secretary until he died in a mysterious plane crash.[35]

Mondale stated outright that he would raise taxes as president. Americans rejected Mondale in a landslide—a repudiation of liberal policies.[36]

Mondale's defeat was by the largest margin since the 1930s, worse even than George McGovern's in 1972. While Mondale's defeat is striking, the campaign is also notable because it was the first time a woman was included on a major party's ticket. Mondale seriously considered Dianne Feinstein of California for vice president, but passed her over for Geraldine Ferraro.[37]

2002 Senate campaign

In 2002 Mondale ran for the Senate again as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota to succeed the late Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash eleven days before the election. Mondale lost to Republican Norm Coleman, who in turn was narrowly unseated in 2008 by the popular liberal comedian Al Franken.


  1. Schnell, Mychael (April 19, 2021). Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93. The Hill. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  2. Fandex, Workman Publishing, 2002.
  3. Tim LaHaye, The Battle for the Mind, A Subtle Warfare, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Power Books (Fleming H. Revell Company), 1980), p. 139.
  4. Freedom Ballot in MS ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  5. The Mississippi Movement & the MFDP ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  6. Branch, Taylor (1998). Pillar of Fire. Simon & Schuster. 
  7. Carmichael, Stokely, and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 90.
  9. Mills, Kay, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, (New York: Plume, 1994), p. 5.
  10. Layton, Deborah. Seductive Poison. Anchor, 1999. ISBN|978-0-385-48984-. p. 53.
  11. Reiterman, Tim, and John Jacobs. Raven (book)|Raven: The Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People. Dutton, 1982. ISBN|978-0-525-24136-2. page 305.
  12. LA Times November 21, 1978
  13. "First Lady Among Cult's References" "First Lady Among Cult's References; Mondale and Califano also listed", Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1978. 
  14. Mehren, Elizabeth, "Politicians Defend Associations With Jones", Oakland Tribune, November 21, 1978
  15. Moore, Rebecca. American as Cherry Pie Template:Webarchive, Jonestown Institute, San Diego State University, , p. 173.
  16. See Broder, below.
  17. Bad blood existed between the Humphrey-Mondale and Kennedy machines going back to Hubert Humphrey's 1960 Presidential primary campaign. Humphrey later wrote of the Kennedy machine, "underneath the beautiful exterior there was an element of ruthlessness and toughness I had trouble either accepting or forgetting."
  18. Democratic party convention rule changes. . Delegates must march in lockstep.
  19. Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process, Steven S. Smith & Melanie J. Springer, p.7, below.
  20. Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden are interesting case studies; by 1980 Fonda was calling herself a "small 'd' democrat" advocating “industrial policy” and “economic democracy” while Hayden was entering the ranks of the “establishment” electoral process through the California Democratic machine. Fonda’s terminology remarkably resembles views espoused by Bernie Sanders, who also began a career in electoral politics outside the Establishment Democratic Party in the early 1980s. Fonda and Hayden became involved in the ‘save the whales’ and Greenpeace movement. By 1979 after the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam, the Cambodian genocide in which 2 million persons were murdered was well under way, and a popular reaction against the “anti-establishment” New Left peace movement of the 1960s took hold in the United States. Bumper stickers with slogans such as “nuke the whales” became fashionable.
  22. See also Russia Iran Disco Suck for a summary of the popular mood in the late 1970s.
  23. UPI Reporting on the Hunt Commission by ARNOLD SAWISLAK, Jan. 15, 1982.
  24. Democrats and Unintended Consequences, By David S. Broder, Washington Post, January 17, 1982.
  25. Estrich and Dukakis are ranking members in the Massachusetts Kennedy machine which tried to resurrect the 1960 alliance and victory with Texas Democrats on the Dukakis/Bentsen ticket.
  26. A History of 'Super-Delegates' in the Democratic Party, Elaine Kamarck, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, 2016.
  27. The number varies cycle to cycle based upon the number of Congressional seats, Governorships, and other offices the Democratic party controls, and when vacancies occur during the 90 day window for selection or at the time the Credentials Committee convenes. Superdelegatges have been likened to the ruling Nomenklatura of the Soviet era.
  28. Democratic party convention rule changes, , above.
  29. La Follette wanted to do away with caucuses and conventions completely, which he said were "prostituted to the service of corrupt organization" and wanted to rely on the direct open primary so that "nominations of the party will not be the result of 'compromise' or impulse, or evil design...[but rather] the candidates of the majority, honestly and fairly nominated." Robert La Follette's Autobiography, pp. 195-200.
  30. Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process, Chapter 1 Choosing Presidential Candidates, Steven S. Smith & Melanie J. Springer, eds., Brookings Institute, 2009, pp. 4-8. . An excellent and timely synopsis.
  31. This had the consequence in Democratically controlled states, after the 2000 Florida Recount and calls to abolish the Electoral College, for party bosses to explain why winner-take-all is more beneficial to the state and that "proportional allocation" is a "feel-good" measure that has the effect of cancelling out votes within the same party and state.
  32. DISPARITY BETWEEN JACKSON'S VOTE AND DELEGATE COUNT VEXES PARTY, By DAVID E. ROSENBAUM, New York Times, May 20, 1984; see also New York Times on April 24, May 11, and May 24 of 1984 for articles reporting Jackson's complaint
  36. United States presidential election of 1984. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  37. The Almanac of American Politics, 2010

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