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Old December 4th, 2011, 12:15 AM
Brainbin Brainbin is online now
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Appendix B, Part I: Current Events (US Presidential Election, 1968)

This marks the first installment of a series that I'll be writing about "serious alternate history". One important point: these posts are going to be the only ones that aren't focused on pop culture. And even then, expect a general overview meant solely to provide a frame of reference... along with some trivia and statistics, largely because I'm a fan of those things myself. (Just as before, my editorial comments, and comparisons to OTL, will be highlighted in RED and placed in brackets.)

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"With the counting of the last ballots in Illinois, CBS News is now ready to project that Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic nominee, has been elected the 37th President of the United States. His running mate, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, will succeed him as Vice-President. California remains too close to call at the moment, but even if former Vice-President Nixon wins his home state, it will not be enough for him to take the Presidency. With at least 275 electoral votes, Vice-President Humphrey has also surpassed the 270 necessary to attain a majority in the Electoral College, thwarting Governor Wallace's attempts to split the electoral vote and throw the election to the House. Once again, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey will be the next President of the United States of America."

- Walter Cronkite, for CBS News, calling the presidential election early in the morning of November 6, 1968

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Map of Presidential election results. Red denotes states won by Humphrey and Muskie; Blue denotes those won by Nixon and Agnew; Gold denotes those won by Wallace and LeMay. (IOTL, Nixon won seven states that he lost ITTL: New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri to Humphrey; and Tennessee and South Carolina to Wallace. It's not a uniform swing: Nixon very narrowly retains California, along with Alaska and Wisconsin, despite them being closer IOTL than several states that were lost ITTL. Also IOTL, Wallace received the support of a faithless elector pledged to Nixon, one Lloyd W. Bailey from North Carolina; butterflies take care of him.)

Turnout for the election was approximately 60%. (Just below 73 million; slightly below OTL.) Though Democratic Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey and his running mate, Senator Edmund Muskie, carried only 18 states out of 50 (along with the District of Columbia), this translated to 275 electoral votes out of 538; in contrast to Republican Richard Nixon and his running mate Governor Spiro T. Agnew, who won 25 states but only 199 electoral votes. Third-party candidate, Governor George Wallace, and his running mate, retired General Curtis LeMay, won the remaining seven states and 64 electoral votes. (IOTL, Nixon won 302 electoral votes, Humphrey won 191, and Wallace won 45; Wallace then gained an additional vote at Nixon's expense from the aforementioned faithless elector.)

As is so often the case, the popular vote was much closer than the electoral tally might suggest. Humphrey had a less than one million-vote lead over Nixon; approximately 32 million to 31 million. This translated to a lead of slightly more than 1% of the vote: 43.6% to 42.4%. (This is almost double the OTL margin - in the other direction, of course - of about 500,000 votes. Nixon loses over 750,000 votes from OTL; Humphrey gains a little less than that.) Wallace received over 10 million votes, or almost 14%. (Up about 200,000 or so from OTL.) No other candidate received more than 25,000 votes nationwide. (Eugene McCarthy receives about 20,000 write-in votes in California, which is larger than the margin between Nixon and Humphrey there ITTL.)

As for the campaign, it was a long and divisive one, on both sides, though certainly more so on the Democratic side. Both Humphrey and Nixon emerged as candidates largely because the opposition to them within their respective parties could not coalesce around an alternative. From the nadir at the Democratic Convention in late August, when it had seemed that most factions within that party's coalition of supporters would not support the ticket, Humphrey staged an incredible recovery. By October, most polls showed him in a dead heat with Nixon - a few had him slightly ahead. (Though still within the margin of error.)

(And so begins the chain of events: In early 1967, Lucille Ball did not sell Desilu to Gulf+Western, and remained in a hands-on role running her company. In this capacity, a year later, in early 1968, she spoke on behalf of her series, Star Trek, to NBC executives. Because of her prestige and influence, the network decided to move the show to a better timeslot. IOTL, they instead sided with George Schlatter, producer of "Laugh-In". But ITTL, Schlatter was shafted. In retaliation, he abandoned his duties at "Laugh-In" to focus on the ill-fated sister series, "Turn-On". But Schlatter had the idea to invite both Nixon and Humphrey to appear on "Laugh-In" and say "Sock it to me!" IOTL, only Nixon accepted. ITTL, Schlatter can't even make the offer, so Nixon can't accept it.)

(So here's where we play the numbers game. "Laugh-In" was the #1 show on the air in the 1968-69 season. It had a 31.8 rating. This means that 31.8% of all TV-owning households were estimated to be watching the average episode. At this time, that's 18.5 million households. Let's assume that just one person in each of those households goes to vote. In fact, we'll even go down to a nice, round number: 18 million. Now, suppose that 1% of these people are swayed toward Nixon by his appearance on "Laugh-In"; that they find him warmer, more personable, and so on. That's 180,000 people, or all you need to change the election result from OTL (as it's more than half of 300,000). But we know these people are more easily swayed than most, less set in their ways; that's why advertisers find them so attractive. So let's bump it up to 5%. That's nearly a million people, with a potential impact of 1.8 million votes. These people, being so demographically attractive, would be disproportionately found in urban/suburban states, like Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, and Illinois.)

It was during the month of October that Humphrey opened up a lead and maintained it until election day. This was largely due to two key events: first was the endorsement of his nomination rival, Eugene McCarthy, and the second was the announcement of a bombing halt in their quagmire of an overseas conflict, and a resulting peace conference. (Sorry, I promised I wouldn't say the "V"-word. It's verboten. And yes, Nixon's people attempted their backdoor sabotage ITTL, too, but the polls showed Humphrey slightly ahead and those in charge waffled; they saw that Nixon wasn't likely to win and weren't sure what move to make. In the end, they didn't pull out of the peace talks.) The last Gallup poll taken just before the election showed Humphrey's lead to be just outside the margin of error; as it turned out, support for Nixon was understated, and the result was the second close election in three cycles. Nixon had the dubious distinction of being on the losing end of both of them. (Projecting based on Gallup's poll would show Nixon losing Alaska, California, Wisconsin, and Oregon to Humphrey, and North Carolina to Wallace; in the actual TTL results, he won all five states by less than three points.)

A third high-profile defeat, following his loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and his California gubernatorial loss to Pat Brown in 1962 was the final curtain for Richard Nixon's political career. He became to the Republicans what Adlai Stevenson had been to Democrats a generation earlier: a respected elder statesman, revered within his party, who nonetheless failed to gain traction with the people. Never terribly gracious in defeat, Nixon largely retreated from public life, doing his best to avoid the scrutiny of his bete noire, the news media. (And so, Nixon and the man who won him the election, George Schlatter, are two of TTL's biggest losers. I'm not deliberately planning a zero-sum game, but when you focus on a dog-eat-dog industry like television, it's hard to avoid.)

The closely-fought election and, to put it delicately, the eventful year of 1968 behind him, Hubert H. Humphrey was inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States on January 20, 1969.

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I bet now it's pretty obvious that psephology is one of my other interests I hope all the lovely statistics distracted you from the dearth of policy discussions. And if you're waiting for me to name every member of the Humphrey Cabinet... well, keep waiting! One thing that's worth thinking about is how a Humphrey presidency might affect popular culture... because it will affect popular culture.

Any other, minor discrepancies with OTL can be explained away by butterflies too insignificant to mention

Coming up, another production appendix for Star Trek! How will what was known in OTL as the "Turd Season" turn out ITTL? Stay tuned.
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Last edited by Brainbin; December 5th, 2011 at 11:20 PM..
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