The Yellowhammer and The Pelican: Part One
After Richard Nixon was assassinated by Arthur Bremer on April 13, 1972 in Ottawa, Canada , Spiro Agnew was suddenly thrust into the role of America's 38th president. The colorful, conservative Agnew positioned himself as the unlikely figure for Americas to rally around after the second presidential murder in the span of nine years. He selected rising star Michigan senator Robert P. Griffin to serve as his vice president.
Meanwhile the Democratic Convention proved to be as hectic an affair as in 68, another portrait of a party in disarray. George Wallace narrowly won the nomination, beating out a myriad of Northern liberals, leading to riots and walkouts outside of the Miami Beach convention center. Wallace selected Speedy Long, the scion of the famous Louisiana family as his running mate. Long, who had successfully primaried his own cousin out of Congress in 1964 for being pro-civil rights, stood well for the Wallacean plank of economic working class populism and white resentment to the "chaos and crime" that the Civil Rights movement had brought upon the country.
Most liberals where dissatisfied with both tickets, but decided that Agnew would be better than Wallace, "the lesser of two evils". However, October brought scandal after it was exposed that Agnew was being investigated by the FBI over alleged crimes committed as governor of Maryland. The news shocked the nation, and left many staying at home on Election Day. This allowed the ever contentious, firebrand Wallace to eke out a victory. While the West Coast and Northeast went solidly for Agnew, Wallace's popularity among the right ensured him the keys to the Oval Office. The Wallace campaign, despite a lack of support from their own party, played up the corruption charges against Agnew alongside his "untrustworthy, foreign nature", a dig at his Greek ancestry.
Many Americans watched in utter bewilderment. How could the Democratic Party go from Humphrey to Wallace, near polar opposites. The "Old Dixie" guard had hijacked the party, and they weren't going to let go anytime soon.
Democrat: George Wallace (AL) / Speedy Long (LA): 270 ECV
Republican: Spiro Agnew (MD) / Robert P. Griffin (MI): 268 ECV
The more contentious and radical aspects of the Wallace agenda where thankfully shot down by either a stonewalling Congress or the courts. The escalation in Vietnam continued to anger the public who where sick of America's bloody "forever war" occurring halfway across the globe. The seemingly unending conflict continued to bring the anti-war movement to the forefront of the public conversation, every blunder continuing to hurt Wallace's already fragile image. Republicans and progressive Democrats alike venomously hated the man.
In 1973, a group of prominent leftwing Democrats, including Mike Gravel, Dave Obey, Patsy Mink, Barbara Jordan, and Patricia Schroeder, exited the party in protest of Wallace's policies. Forming the Progressive Party, they aimed to provide a voice to those unrepresented by both major parties, with working class and social justice issues pushed heavily. The Progressives where the biggest congressional thorn in Wallace's side, and their popularity lead to many independents and third party voters joining them.
Come 1976, Wallace did not have much to show for in the way of accomplishments. The Republicans nominated Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, who beat out Bob Dole, John Connally, Nelson Rockefeller, and Edward Brooke in the primaries. Ronald Reagan, the conservative's champion, declined to run, reportedly because he thought that Wallace wasn't as much of a paper tiger as he appeared. Baker picked George W. Romney, who had served as governor of Michigan and later as Nixon's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as his running mate. The Progressives did not run a presidential ticket that year, preferring to gear up to 1980. They instead offered the lightest of support to Baker.
Republicans had a strong untied force in their campaign. Meanwhile many remaining Democrats still continued to criticize Wallace and outright encouraged their constituents not to gift him with a second term. The party still fractured and furious, it was little surprise that Baker would be the victor.
Republican: Howard Baker (TN) / George Romney (MI): 381 ECV
Democrat: George Wallace (AL) / Speedy Long (LA): 157 ECV
The 70s proved themselves to be a tumultuous decade, from the violent end of the Nixon years, to the Agnew scandals, to Wallace's contentious conservative term in office, to the problems that Baker had to deal with. Finally pulling out of Vietnam in 1977, Baker was tasked with handling the Iranian crisis, including a deadly hostage situation, the Soviet-Afghan war, and the worst economic crisis in decades. With inflation out of control, Baker failed to prove himself to be the man of the hour.
Speedy Long, seeing himself as the rightful heir to both his family dynasty and the Democratic Party, easily won the Democratic nomination to minimal opposition. He picked elder statesman Robert Byrd of West Virginia, reinforcing the increasingly rightist bend of the party. For the Progressives, their ticket consisted of Representative Patsy Mink, the first female and first Asian-American on a major ticket, and novelist Kurt Vonnegut. The latter caused some debate with some accusing Mink of picking a "celebrity running mate". Nonetheless, he proved to be a good orator.
Both Long and Mink attacked Baker on his inability to improve the economy and international affairs. Despite Long being painted as crazed demagogue conservative, a man who would gladly backstab his own family in the mad pursuit of power, he handily won the election. In the 1930s, many assumed that his martyred cousin Huey Long would one day be in the White House, the unexpected ascent of the lesser Long would prove to be one of the most consequential events in 20th century American history.
Democrat: Speedy Long (LA) / Robert Byrd (WV): 306 ECV
Republican: Howard Baker (TN) / George Romney (MI): 225 ECV
Progressive: Pasty Mink (HI) / Kurt Vonnegut (NY): 7 ECV