Thursday, May 18, 2023

Guest Post: Biden VP in '80

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Robbie Taylor.

July 12 to July 15, 1976 - Democratic National Convention

Former Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter arrived in New York City with enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination.

A Washington outsider and devout Christian certain of his own position, Carter felt a heavy weight of moral leadership responsibility to create an appearance of party unity, which had been sadly lacking in the 1968 and 1972 Democratic Conventions. This imperative was foremost in his mind, a primary consideration behind his choice of running mate. By inclination, he favored Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a "flexible liberal" and a protégé of Hubert Humphrey, as his running mate. Obvious alternatives included Edmund Muskie, Frank Church, Adlai Stevenson III, John Glenn, and Henry M. Jackson. All of these candidates offered regional advantages and other perceived benefits.

Taking soundings at the convention, Carter, a virtue-signaler, was tempted to make a more daring choice. Thirty-three-year-old "Blue Collar" Joe Biden of Delaware was the first senator to endorse Carter's presidential bid when he was a long shot. Certainly he had an inspiring personal story of family-based redemption, hope, and faith that resonated with Carter who was humble and supremely ethical. Like Mondale, Biden was also flexible, liberal on civil rights and liberties, senior citizens' concerns, and healthcare but conservative on other issues. Born in Pennsylvania, a state that was showing unexpectedly close polling figures, Biden offered more potential impact on the 27 electoral college votes. Delaware was smaller in area than Minnesota, but the "First State" was more populous. And finally, he was considered a better conduit for campaign funding.

To Carter's lasting disappointment, Biden was ineligible due to the Twelfth Amendment requirement that a vice president must be constitutionally eligible to the presidency. He would be thirty-four years old in November, so, being below the threshold of thirty-five, he could not fulfil this requirement. Nevertheless, Carter enthusiastically offered him a speaking slot, and Biden delivered a fine, if not somewhat emotional, address to the convention. Thereafter, he helped Carter by vigorously campaigning in the north-east.

Mondale, who delivered a well-received acceptance speech, soon proved his worth. He put in an impressive performance at the first-ever Vice Presidential Debate. Held at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas, Mondale was an assured figure to the 43.2 million viewers who tuned in. Due to Ford's gaffe in the second presidential debate, these televised performances played an unusually significant role in the 1976 race.

Mondale was a key participant in the negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that resulted in the Camp David Accords. But tragedy would strike during the Iran hostage crisis when VP Mondale bravely undertook a dangerous mission for his country. He was killed in a plane crash en route to the USS Midway (CV-41) in the Indian Ocean. In the final year of his first term office, Carter desperately needed an inspiring choice of running mate to beat Ronald Reagan. His thoughts immediately returned to Biden. Although much less of an activist vice president than Mondale, he freshened up the campaign much as Gerald Ford had sought to do in replacing Nelson Rockefeller with Bob Dole.

A former lawyer with a sharp mind, Biden distrusted Reagan's hawkish patriotism and exposed his back-channel dialogue with the Iranians. This October Surprise transformed the voting calculations handing Carter-Biden an improbable narrow victory in the polls. In a magnificent gesture, Carter famously sent Biden to meet the embassy hostages when they disembarked from Freedom One, an Air Force Boeing C-137 Stratoliner aircraft, upon their return.

Author's Note:

In reality, Mondale has been credited with shifting the US Vice Presidency into having a more substantive role in an administration as an advisor to the president.

Provine's Alternative Ending:

Unfettered from Carter, Mondale continued his efforts toward the presidency and worked alongside Biden, who was thought still too young to lead the free world in the presidency itself but was applauded as vice president. The Mondale-Biden ticket won in '84, managing to convince the public that they could recover from the second act of the double-dip recession as readily as the Oval Office had in the earlier part. With inflation under control, unemployment low, and wages matching the increased productivity thanks to the Democratic partnership with unions as well as increased automation in industry and offices, American workers in the 1990s came to a four-day workweek as predicted in 1956 by another then-vice-president, and ironically Republican, Richard Nixon.


  1. So... Mondale came back from the dead?

  2. What kind of delusional reality is this Biden brown-noser living in?


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