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VP scholar Joel Goldstein weighs in on Walter Mondale’s legacy

Professor Goldstein summarized his findings on Mondale’s role in elevating the office of the vice president in an essay for the History News Network.

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City, July 15, 1976.
Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City, July 15, 1976.
Library of Congress/Warren K. Leffler/Handout via REUTERS

Another note on the passing of the great Walter Mondale, from my friend Joel Goldstein, who has the rare distinction of being a scholar of the vice presidency.

Joel Goldstein
Joel Goldstein
(I don’t recall for sure, but it seems likely that I got to know Goldstein through Mondale, about whom Goldstein wrote a great deal. Goldstein argued in books like “The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden” (2016) that — and this has now become the common wisdom — the Carter-Mondale partnership transformed the office of the vice presidency.)

Goldstein, now an emeritus professor at the St. Louis University School of Law, summarized his findings on Mondale’s role in elevating the office (which Franklin Roosevelt’s first vice president, John Nance Garner, once described as an office that was “not worth a bucket of warm piss”) to an unprecedented significance that seems to have changed it permanently, in a fresh essay for the History News Network.

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It’s not long, and you should read it all. The main point — that Mondale deeply and permanently changed the office — is not much in dispute. But Goldstein is an expert on the Mondale transformation. Here’s the opening paragraph from Goldstein’s HNN piece:

Walter F. Mondale transformed the American vice presidency.  Converting that disparaged position into the true second office of the land was an historic accomplishment that tells a lot about the gifted public servant he was. Whereas others had failed to make the office consequential, Mondale created a new vision of the vice presidency and demonstrated that it could be a force for good. He reinvented the office, not as an end in itself, but to allow government to better promote the general welfare and foster a more just society and more peaceful world.

I already recommended the whole piece and here’s a link to it.