Reagan v. Mondale debate 1984

I watched it again last night (the one with the age question). It is amazing how much politics has changed.

Reagan said that interest rates were now “only” 12.5% and down from Mondale’s 21.25% and would likely go lower. I cringed at such a rate.

On illegal immigration Reagan said that we have to control our borders, but we have to be kind to folks even if they came here illegally and give them amnesty. Mondale, of all people, said that was fine but that we needed a new administration so that “these people” didn’t want to come here illegally.

Reagan also said that he believed that many theologians were right that “prophecy” was “coming together” and that Armageddon would likely come within 10 years, but that didn’t mean he was starting a nuclear war. Imagine if he had said that today!

It’s amazing how different things were then. Mondale and Reagan each refer to countries as “she” for example.

Yeah, as someone who was a vigorous member of the Republican party at the time–back then nativism just wasn’t as much of a concern; the Chamber of Commerce types wanted some element of liberalization because they liked the supply of cheap labor. I think that since the country was over 80% white any fears of “displacement” just weren’t very prominent. Meanwhile the labor unions have basically always hated liberalized immigration because they saw the influx of unskilled labor as a threat to their membership, so unsurprisingly Mondale was the more hawkish of the two on immigration.

The old high interest rate era does feel very foreign now. I moved too much back then so wasn’t a homeowner, but my parents had sold the home they were in and got a “retirement home” (rancher that was easier for them to get around in, closer to stores/church etc) and I remember thinking their mortgage rate was good because it was like 10%.

Interest rates in that era were truly absurd. In early 1979, when I was a teenager, my parents, along with my aunt and uncle, took out a loan from a local bank to finance the construction of a building which would become our new hardware store.

We broke ground on it in May, and we opened the store in October; my father has since told me that, in the time between those two dates, the interest rate on the loan doubled. I don’t know what the exact rate was, but needless to say, it was punitive. Soon after we opened the store, a recession also hit, and the combination doomed the store, which we finally closed in early 1983; it took the better part of a decade for my family to recover financially from all of that.

And you can see why Reagan was so popular. When he explained what happened in Lebanon (well maybe it was his acting training) it doesn’t come across as a talking point that his campaign manager told him. It sounds just like if you asked your grandfather what happened and he just tells you how it is and why he did what he did.

Mondale comes across as a know it all who sounds like he has been told what to say, and history has proven him wrong. I’ll bet if he got elected, the Soviet Union would still exist.

Were there not such a thing as fixed rate loans then? IIRC, that is a fairly knew thing because I have heard such stories, but every real estate loan I have had in my life has been a fixed rate (I’m 45).

I don’t know for certain; if there were, I would guess that we didn’t qualify for one (as small businesspeople without a great deal of equity to borrow against).

That seems awful. Tell someone their house payment just doubled. When I was younger that would have put me on my buddy’s couch, if he still had a house.

The inflation rate in 1980 was 13.5%. A 10% mortgage was like legally stealing from the bank.

The Soviet Union was inherently unsustainable due to a combination of political and economic factors that had finally reached their peak in the late 1980s. Russia just isn’t a wealthy enough country to hold so many countries under its thumb indefinitely. The Soviet Union certainly would not still exist had Mondale won.

I would guess they were less common back then; it was a period of dramatic changes in the interest rates so banks probably were looking to limit their risks. The fixed-rate mortgage was likely only still around because of how much they are basically propped up by government (the 30-yr fixed likely would not exist in an unregulated market.)

I’m not an expert on the history of loans but I do know at one-point lenders much more commonly offered loan terms at a rate of “x% over prime”, and as the prime interest rate changed so did the rate on the loan.

They bought their house in the mid-1980s when the average mortgage rates were in the 11-12% range, but it was still a good rate for the time. I think in the early 80s the rates were over 16% for mortgages.

Why would it be necessary to do this for the Soviet Union to survive? Unless you are talking about the other “socialist republics” in the USSR proper, but I guess I’m too young to recall them clamoring for freedom.

SDI or “Star Wars” was a big part of the debate. I thought Reagan did what he should. He gave the “aw, shucks” look and said that you guys want to call it “Star Wars” but I just asked people about if there was a way to defend against a nuclear attack. Some smart scientists came up with this plan, not me, and Mr. Mondale wants to accuse me of being dangerous and aggressive because of it, but if it works, I’ll give it to the Soviets so we are all protected from terrible nuclear weapons. And then, if they don’t work, we can all get rid of them.

Then Mondale, Mr. Nuclear Freeze, says how very dangerous it would be for Reagan to give that to the Soviets. But, but I thought it was a joke to be mocked with a term like “Star Wars” but all of a sudden it is dangerous? Just like how so many Mexicans are coming here because Reagan fucked up the country. Wait, doesn’t that mean that it is a good country if people are risking their lives to come here? Reagan must be doing something right then.

I just didn’t see a consistent message from Mondale.

You’re making two points here–one of them is that Mondale was a bad politician. That is very correct. It is shocking in retrospect he won the nomination; he had no real national political base going into it and as the Vice President of a one term President who was not popular by any measure in the 1980s (however popular Carter is today) it’s strange so many in the party coalesced behind him.

The other that the USSR for some reason collapsed because of Reagan, which is not supported by the historical evidence. If you don’t understand how trying to maintain a large empire can cause a country to collapse, I highly suggest reading this book:

It’s a pretty famous work dealing with the rise and collapse of various great Empires in history. Kennedy makes a very compelling argument that one of the primary causes of imperial collapse is “strategic overextension.” The collapse of an Empire is not always limited to just losing the imperial possessions, it has quite often in history lead to serious dysfunction in the home country. Spain became almost a third world country compared to its previous Great Power “peers” like Britain and France (I say peers only vaguely, at Spain’s height in the 16th and 17th century when its Habsburg rulers-controlled Spain, Austria, by extension held the Holy Roman Emperorship, as well as a vast overseas Empire, Spain was the preeminent power in multi-polar Europe.)

The USSR was a successor state of the Russian Empire, many of the SSRs were never fully integrated as part of Russia proper in the era of the Tsars, and the SSR situation under the USSR never fully changed that in many respects. I’d look at this map of the Russian Empire for comparison sake:

Other than promoting Russian as sort of a lingua franca, many of these regions never had tremendous loyalty to Russia, however they also weren’t typically violent nationalists as were many of the countries in the Warsaw Pact that Russia also had to maintain control over. However, Russia’s maintenance of the SSRs was very expensive. Russia was always pouring vast resources into the modern day “-stans”, many of the great public works in those countries even to this day, go back to Soviet times. In most cases the investment in those countries, in a strict economic sense, never paid back positive gains. It’s actually not too dissimilar from Crimea, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and having to take over pension payments there among other costs, has been estimated to cost something like 10% of Russia’s annual budget for the last decade, and the province generates nowhere close to that economic value in recompense. Situations like that were multiplied dozens of times over in the old USSR.

Note that maintaining and defending that Empire under the Tsars, is in no small part why the last Tsar’s government collapsed.

At least 48% of the country wouldn’t bat an eye. Compared to 1980, I hardly think it matters anymore what a candidate says about anything. We’ve had a president that attacks the military, gold star families, and the U.S. Intelligence agencies. Imagine that happening in 1980!

I don’t recall ever watching the debate, but it’s been reported that by that time Reagan was already recanting his vision of an impending apocalypse.

"Later, asked during his debate with Walter Mondale in Kansas City about the Armageddon prophecy, the President appeared to be backing away. He said:

“A number of theologians, for the last decade, have believed that this was true, that the prophecies are coming together to portend that. But no one knows whether Armageddon–those prophecies mean that Armageddon is a thousand years away or the day after tomorrow. So I have never seriously warned and said that we must plan according to Armageddon.”

His earlier statements were rather scary though.

The power of institutional America has been in a constant decline since then. All groups, churches of all sorts, struggle with membership. People aren’t joiners any more. Political parties also have seen membership declines.

So you no longer have these organizations coming together as a cross section of America. Every group that does exist is just a bunch of fanatical die hards. And many others still don’t belong to any group at all. Like the Unabomber. That sort of mentality is winning the day.

No matter how insane someone’s words may be, they still sounded much more dignified in 1970s-1980s debates than today.

See how the human mind hears things? I could have sworn he said that he believed it would happen in the next ten years and specifically mentioned nuclear war. Probably for another thread, but it shows how bad eyewitness testimony is.

We bought the house we still live in in 1982. We had a fixed rate mortgage with a 13.5% interest rate. This was a really good rate – the bank offered it to a qualified buyer for that house. The owners were in the process of divorcing and we always thought the bank wanted the house to sell so they wouldn’t have to foreclose. The prevailing fixed rate for a 30 year loan was 15.5%.

We refinanced about 5 years later and got a 9.75% fixed rate loan with a 15 year term.

I never “got” Reagan’s so-called charm. He always seemed smarmy and fake to me. And, somehow, blank.

I feel this way about most actors. I don’t understand their appeal. Similarly, don’t get me started on “influencers.”

I remember during the Carter administration my father sitting me down and explaining interest rates. He explained how it was a good idea to put my paper route and allowance money into a short term CD. I can’t even imagine that now.