A Very Different Cold War, POD 1912 US Election [Timeline Sketch]

This is an admittedly half-baked timeline idea that's been sitting on my hard drive for a little while. I don't think I'm ever going to do anything with it, so I figured I'd dump the sketch on this forum and see what you guys think. Please, pick away.


1912 US Presidential Election
284 EVs – Theodore Roosevelt / Hiram Johnson (Progressive)
217 EVs – Woodrow Wilson / Thomas Marshall (Democratic)
30 EVs – William Taft / Nicholas Butler (Republican)

The Great War Begins
[ OTL Historical beginning of WWI ]

Roosevelt signals desire to enter war on Entente side, begins military build-up (has to be held back by military advisors from jumping in straight-away).

A Second Assassination in 15 Years
1915: Roosevelt assassinated by anti-war anarchist (maybe an Italian immigrant?). This assassin is of sound mind and clearly political motivated, unlike McKinley’s killer.

VP Johnson pledges to keep US out of the War. He faces hysterical opposition from a multi-partisan coalition of interventionist politicians, media magnates, financiers, and businessmen, who try to whip up popular fervor to join the war.

1916 US Presidential Election
Johnson wins election to full term on "He kept us out of the War" slogan. Various progressives win state-wide & local elections

Bolshevik Revolution
Russia exits the war on terms very favorable to the German Empire as the new Bolshevik Party begins its efforts to centralize its control of the October Revolution. Germany shifts its full might to the Western Front.

The revolution stirs anti-communist hysteria in the United States. However, there is no organized Red Scare as in OTL. The United States is at peace, so there are no war-time laws or measures to invoke to arrest or deport labor and left-wing activists. President Johnson is also ambivalent about the notion of cracking down on the left; though he has no strong affinity for the Bolsheviks, he is not as virulently anti-communist as the mainstream, prompting the right to characterize him as a “secret red.”

1918: German summer offensive overwhelms Entente (aided by French mutinies), Germany wins the war

1919: Financial Crisis caused by Britain defaulting on its loans brings down JP Morgan, plunges US into recession (following Britain, France)

1920: Dueling narratives on Johnson ("He Kept Us Out of the War" vs. Commie in Disguise, 1st election w/women voters who tend to favor Johnson), election decided in House after no electoral majority

The Short-Lived German Empire
Germany emerged from the Great War with a total victory. However, the costs of that victory were enormous. The economy and morale of the nation was entirely sapped. Integrating the newly-won provinces into the Empire and newly returned veterans to society proved surprisingly difficult. And the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of the UK banking system and its knock-on effects in the US crashed down upon the continent as well.

Another major stressor was the looming conflict with the Soviet Union. Having unified the Russian heartland by 1920, the Reds were driving west, looking to integrate Ukraine and Belarussia while threatening the German-controlled Baltic and Poland. At the same time, a communist revolt seemed on the verge in the newborn Fifth French Republic and socialist activity in the homeland kept German security ministers up at night.

A Red Tide Sweeps Europe
Revolution breaks out in France in 1921. Taking this as its signal, Bolshevik armies cross the frontier into German-occupied Poland, linking forces with Patriot Polish irregulars. Facing an invasion in the east and an existential threat in the West, Germany scrambles troops in both direction. The German public, weary from the Great War, balks at the specter of another. Communist insurrection in Germany is met with broad popular support. By the end of the year, the German Empire has collapsed, its royalty fled to Britain.

Revolution follows in Italy and the Austrian Empire, then elsewhere across Europe. With the span of a couple years, socialist republics span the continent. Only the United Kingdom remains as a major capitalist power, weakened though it is by the Great War and subsequent financial collapse. Various struggles ensue between factions within the Communist movement along national lines; notably between the Russians and Germans for preeminence, and between France and others on questions of colonies (fomenting revolution vs. holding onto them). However, none of these questions break into armed conflict; the need to present a united front against the capitalist world trumps all other matters.

There is a weak supra-national coordinating body formed among the socialist republics. To better coordinate a multi-lingual polity, Esperanto is promoted as a language of politics.

In the middle of the twenties, France withdraws from the Bloc, prioritizing maintaining (and regaining control over) its colonies. This comes after events in the Former French Indochina, where communist-backed nationalists established their independence, only to be invaded and occupied by Japan.

World War II, 1931-36: Capitalists vs. Communists
Communist revolution in the Ottoman Empire threatens British oil supplies, forcing the UK to declare war on the Soviet Bloc. The war takes on a global character, merging with the ongoing three-sided conflict in China (between the Communists, Nationalists, and Japanese), with the United States supporting the capitalists on all fronts. The war is a clear Communist victory, with the UK falling to Soviet invasion, communist forces prevailing in the middle east, and China (a few years after the wars end) unifying under CCP rule and Japan forced off the continent, leaving behind a Communist Republic of Korea.

Alt Cold War
After the war, the capitalist system is centered on the United States, with Japan an important secondary power. Their sphere encompasses the entirety of the Americas and much of the Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Indonesia). Additionally France, though a neutral party in previous war, tend more towards the capitalists as they struggle to maintain their colonial possessions in Africa.

The African continent is the new locus of struggle, with many exiled European colonialists maintaining apartheid regimes (many of the former British colonies, the former German Congo, South Africa, the former Portuguese colonies, etc.). Meanwhile, African nationalist and communist movements are gaining ground with the support of the Soviet Bloc. They take inspiration from the independent Kingdom of Ethiopia, as well as newly formed countries in West Africa.

India is newly independent after the British collapse. It is a site of struggle between communists who wish to integrate closely with the Soviet Bloc and nationalists who desire an independent path. Also freed from western imperialism is Persia, which is governed by soft theocracy/parliamentary democracy and serves an important source of oil for the non-aligned world.

The Brink of Nuclear War
Nuclear weapons are discovered in the 1940s in the Soviet Bloc as a joint effort between German and Russian scientists. Within a matter of years, the technology makes it way to the United States. A nuclear stand-off ensues, with both sides rapidly building arsenals said to make a third world war unthinkable.

The fifties sees a new round of communist revolutions, which become sites of proxy wars between the two sides. France relinquishes control of Algeria and commits to broad decolonization after a grueling multi-year struggle. This capitulation paves the way for France’s reentry into the Soviet Bloc, an outcome long advocated for by intellectuals and the strong french communist party. A simultaneous revolution in Cuba draws an immediate US invasion which quashes an attempted guerrilla war. The example of Cuba, however, inspires revolutions in nominally-independent Indonesia and the US Philippines, both of which evolve into decade-long civil wars which pit Chinese and Russian-backed communist forces against US and Japanese nationalist armies.

The strain of building a nuclear arsenal capable of credibly threatening MAD against the massive Communist Bloc as well as prosecuting simultaneous “pacification wars” in Indonesia and the Philippines, combined with the shrunken frontiers available to capitalist expansion, create an existential crisis for the capitalist system in the 1960s. Skyrocketing inflation, mounting war dead, and massive civil unrest in the South as black Americans struggle for equal rights combine to shake the legitimacy of the American political system.

A coalition of black freedom fighters, wildcat labor strikers, draft dodgers and radical youth foment an insurrection which paralyzes the overseas war effort and forces an unprecedented crackdown on the home front. This backfires, and the Presidential Election of 1968 sees the election of a progressive figure who is able to initiate a detente with Soviet Bloc, withdraw from the colonial wars, and pass a civil rights bill. Thus the US steps back from the brink of a samson-esque nuclear strike (advocated by many leading military and business figures) and begins down a path of social democracy and measured integration with the Soviet Bloc.