Hubert Humphrey was a liberal in an era when liberalism wasn’t en vogue. After working as a professor at a small private college, he moved up through local politics – he served a term as mayor of Minneapolis – before election into the U.S. Senate.
When Democrats began their John Kennedy-led surge in the 1960s, Humphrey was becoming known as an up-and-comer who pushed for social justice and who was against the growing conflict in Vietnam.
But he wasn’t popular in some parts of the nation, and especially the South. Thus began his relationship with Lyndon Johnson, who became president upon Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Johnson needed help organizing the more liberal side of the Democratic Party and named Humphrey as his vice president.
To quote a 2018 piece written in the New York Times by Michael Brenes, the Johnson-Humphrey relationship “was a devil’s bargain: Johnson helped Humphrey with his relationship with Southerners, and Humphrey vowed to keep the liberals in line.”
A decade later, another Minnesotan came into prominence. Walter Mondale was attorney general of the state and later appointed to the Senate to fill the spot of Humphrey, when the latter became vice president.
Mondale, too, served a purpose: To quell concerns from the far-left about presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter, who eventually edged Gerald Ford in 1976.
Now, as Democrat Joe Biden considers a running mate for the November election, some wonder if it will be Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who unsuccessfully ran for the nomination but dropped out after a lukewarm response from Democrats.
It’s intriguing, and our regional loyalties sway us to hope Biden chooses the Minnesotan to share the ticket.
There are similarities between Klobuchar, Humphrey and Mondale. Each started in local politics, and some analysts believe that’s important for vice presidential hopefuls. A piece this week in The Hill – the newspaper that covers the U.S. Capitol – said Klobuchar and another potential VP, Kamala Harris, “have won the political triple crown” by serving in elective office at the local, state and federal level. Klobuchar was a local district attorney before becoming attorney general and, now, a senator.
And like Humphrey and Mondale, Klobuchar could solve a big problem for a presidential hopeful. Biden, who is from Delaware, needs help in shoring up the Midwest. He also needs a woman running mate to help ease concerns of alleged inappropriate behavior with a staffer in 1993 and also general clumsiness around women.
And unlike her predecessors, Humphrey and Mondale, Klobuchar is crafting an image as a moderate rather than a hard-left liberal. Even Republicans have praised her.
A February piece by Politico noted that Klobuchar has “established herself as someone who can cut deals with Republicans and occasionally tacks to the center.” A handful of Republican senators praised Klobuchar in the article.
This isn’t an endorsement of Biden for president, but rather a hope that Biden chooses a running mate that would have moderate political beliefs, can work with both parties and who understands rural issues specific to Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Klobuchar seems to be that kind of candidate.
This editorial is the opinion of the Grand Forks Heralds editorial board.