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Walter Frederick “Fritz” Mondale, former senator from Minnesota and vice president to Jimmy Carter, has died at the fine old age of 93. He was a proud progressive from Minnesota who got his start in politics at age 20 by successfully getting out the vote in a Republican majority district for Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 Senate run. Mondale, on graduating college, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951, but was not deployed to Korea. On completing his enlistment, Mondale used the G.I. Bill to attend law school, during which time he married Joan Adams, his one and only love for the rest of their lives together, until she died at age 83.
In 1976, Walter Mondale helped balance the Democrats’ presidential ticket with the nuclear engineer Navy officer and peanut farming Southern governor, Jimmy Carter. Mondale helped deliver Minnesota for the Democrats in 1980, 46.50% to Reagan’s 42.56% and Independent John Anderson’s 8.53%. He had no political reach beyond his home state, however, as the electoral college map shows:
Mondale was then crushed by President Reagan in 1984, winning only his home state, as Reagan was keeping his campaign promises and delivering on at least two of three legs of the Reagan coalition stool: economic, national security, and religious conservatism. Mondale was an honest progressive Democrat and pledged to raise taxes while talking a weaker line on national defense. Facing a huge uphill fight, Mondale tried to shake up the political landscape with the first female major-party vice presidential candidate, New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. While Mondale only won his home state, he might have been beaten even worse in the popular vote if some number of college-educated women had not virtue-signaled, voting for him as they saw the polls showing their vote would not change the 1984 election outcome. As it was, he won his home state by less than 4,000 votes, 49.72% to 49.54%, and continued the unbroken trend of Democrats always getting the District of Columbia’s votes, unwisely granted in the 23rd Amendment in 1961.
Mondale was justifiably proud of never losing a Minnesota race between 1962 and 1972, when he carried the state handily even as Nixon won reelection at the top of the Minnesota ballot. However, that record was broken when he answered his party’s call to replace incumbent Democrat Senator Paul Wellstone weeks before the 2002 election. Wellstone had died in a plane crash in the home stretch of the campaign. There was a large public memorial that turned into a nakedly partisan political rally, with insults and boos towards Republicans who had shown up to honor a senior politician from their state. As a result, the state electorate was so repulsed that they gave the young Republican mayor Norm Coleman the Senate seat 49.5% to 47.3% for the senior statesman Wellstone. Wellstone then proudly stood with Al Franken after their party stole the 2008 Senate election in Minnesota, a foreshadowing of things to come, and as the G.W. Bush Justice Department and Republican Congressional majorities between 2003-2007 were happy to let the Democrats do what Democrats do.
Walter Mondale was engaged with progressive Democratic Party politics right up to his death, composing a final message to be issued upon his death. Mondale’s final message was reported by Axios [emphasis added]:
Well my time has come. I am eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor. Before I Go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side!
Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight.
Joe in the White House certainly helps.
I always knew it would be okay if I arrived some place and was greeted by one of you!
My best to all of you!
In the context of the leftist mayhem, the wild violation of the old image of “Minnesota nice” over the past year, accelerating now, it is worth noting that Mondale was on the phone Sunday, sensing he was near death, but there is absolutely no word of him fearing his party had lost its way, or that anything was going wrong from their side in America. Axios again reports:
Mondale spoke by phone on Sunday with President Biden and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as Vice President Harris and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, said his friend and former campaign staffer Tom Cosgrove. While he and his family believed his death was imminent, after those calls he “perked up.”
Jimmy Carter, the longest living former president in our history, praised his running mate, who had been the longest living former vice president [emphasis added]:
(ATLANTA ) Today I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice president in our country’s history. During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today. He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world. Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior. Rosalynn and I join all Americans in giving thanks for his exemplary life, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.
The Biden White House wrote in part [emphasis added]:
It’s with great sadness that Jill and I learned of the passing of Vice President Walter Mondale, but great gratitude that we were able to call one of our nation’s most dedicated patriots and public servants a dear friend and mentor.
[ . . . ]
He not only created a path for himself, he helped others do the same. Walter Mondale was the first presidential nominee of either party to select a woman as his running mate, and I know how pleased he was to be able to see Kamala Harris become Vice President.
In accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, he described the values he was taught to live by: “to play by the rules; to tell the truth; to obey the law; to care for others; to love our country; to cherish our faith.”
As a Senator, an Ambassador, a Vice President, and a candidate for President, he lived and spread those values.
Given how they and their party have conducted themselves, you are free to make of Mondale’s 1984 words what meaning you find most plausible. Indeed, in 2019, Mondale revealed himself as much a member of the hard left as the new generation, calling President Trump “detestable” in a leftist forum on human rights on June 28, 2019:
Vice President Mondale: . . . I also think you see a cheerleader in the president of the right wing surge that has occurred in the world. He openly loves our current leaders, has contempt for democratic leaders, his rhetoric is harsh, he’s divisiveness, all of this is kind of a hateful thrust. We are going to the right as a result. I’ve never seen a republican president in my lifetime do anything like that. It’s not about party politics. He’s got something deep inside him that is detestable. [laughter] [applause]
Mr. Meacham: is he a symptom or a cause?
Vice President Mondale: i think he is both. He is sui generis. We have never had a person like this even near the White House. Doctors tell me that they think they recognize symptoms of psychological problems in him. You can almost predict now what he will do. It will be about him, he will celebrate him, he will be right and we will be wrong no matter what goes on, that’s what he does. There is some need and him to do that. President carter: i think you just stated the headlines. [laughter]
Understand, when Mondale and Carter talked human rights, they were using the weaponized version that keeps the Jews on the defensive with the tool of Palestinian alleged suffering. Mondale was venting his hatred as President Trump had already given his ground-breaking speeches in 2017 to the Arab and Muslim world. It was also over a year since President Trump was the first president to actually recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, ordering the U.S. embassy moved to the capital as with all other nations in the world, another act detested by the Carter wing of the Democrat Party. President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem was cemented in law as Democrats voted with Republicans, approving a Republican amendment to prevent relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.
This was also after President Trump stood with the Polish people against both the Russians and the Germans. That speech celebrated and defended national character and a nation devoting itself to God against the tyrannies of secular trans-national ideologies, and was one of those supposed instances of praising the “right wing.” Likewise, President Trump had already made large public moves in Asia against the malign influence of Xi and the CCP, while trying a bold new strategy to simultaneously squeeze and offer incentives to the North Korean dictator, Kim the Third. Likewise, President Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, was calling out the world’s reprobates for their real human rights abuses and for their institutionalized hatred of Jews, by their monomaniacal condemnation of Israel.
Feed all of this into your decoder ring for comments by Walter Mondale or Jimmy Carter about “human rights,” and their real objection to President Trump effectively opposing their multi-decade agenda. Walter Mondale was an effective worker in the cause of leftist Democratic Party advancement for decades. He lost reelection as Vice President, then was crushed as the Democrat running against President Reagan, then lost narrowly in a final Senate race when Minnesota voters found his party had turned ugly. As the ugliness grew and spread, even as Democrats produced and cheered on mob rule in Minnesota, Walter Mondale cheered on the left’s advancement of their, and his, long term political objectives right to his dying breath.
On the other hand, Walter Mondale showed, in his prime, a much better grip on global reality than Carter or the current crop of Democrats in national office. As Steven Hayward notes in “Walter Mondale, RIP:”
One of the more interesting stories of Mondale is how he invited a number of the prominent “neoconservative” Democrats to meet with Carter at the White House in January 1980 after Carter had indicated he wanted to be tougher on the Soviet Union, and when many Dem neocons were still longing to be loyal to their old party. The meeting was a total disaster, because Carter was clueless. And Mondale knew it.
[ . . . ]
Mondale knew the meeting had been a disaster, and asked the group to stay after Carter left. It was to no avail. Carter, Jeane Kirkpatrick told Morton Kondrake after the meeting, “threw cold water on whatever hopes we had that Iran and Afghanistan would have a broad effect on the president’s foreign policy orientation.” Kirkpatrick announced on the White House lawn after the meeting that she now intended to vote for Reagan.
Watching the Biden Administration now, it is not hard to long for the kind of liberalism Mondale represented, for all of its flaws. He’d have been a much better president than Biden. Or Obama.
I hope John and Scott will weigh in on this great Minnesotan, but for now: RIP.