Bicentennial Man: Ford '76 and Beyond

Big Trouble in a Little Country
Big Trouble in a Little Country

The administration's attention, as always, was fixated on Latin American ongoings and the Argentinian elections in early April were the primary focus. Ford was relieved that they were not marred by violence and Bush praised them for their fair conduct on such short notice after the dictatorship's collapse; the White House was not enthusiastic that the Peronists were returning under Italo Luder, who had won narrowly but cleanly thanks to massive margins in provincial Argentina, but Luder was a man they seemed able to work with. "One headache gone," Bush quipped to Baker a few days later, hopeful that the labor unions would not exercise too much power in the new regime and that Argentina might finally get away from its decades of chaos with the military's prestige completely destroyed.

It was a story from weeks earlier they should have had their eyes on, though. On March 24, just before GOP primary voters headed to the polls in New York and Connecticut, the Salvadoran Archbishop and fierce opponent of the country's military regime Oscar Romero was publicly gunned down in Church while performing Mass. Public reaction in El Salvador was swift and only fueled further discontent against the rightist regime as Romero became a cause celebre, and his funeral was perhaps one of the largest demonstrations in the history of Latin America and made matters worse with a stampede and gunfire that killed dozens in attendance. The political problems it caused in the United States, however, were just beginning.

It was Chief of Staff Cheney who created the issues when, in an off the cuff remark to reporters, he said, "There is no circumstance in which the United States will cease providing resources to those who are combating the influence of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba in the American backyard." An ABC reporter followed up by asking: "Even the Salvadoran regime, which is suspected of having ties to whatever group assassinated an Archbishop during Mass?" Cheney pointed straight at her and repeated, "No. Let me repeat: No. Circumstance."

The remarks were understandably taken as profoundly callous and a firestorm of criticism rained down on Cheney and the administration writ large. Suddenly, the entire foreign policy apparatus of the Ford White House was called into question: if shooting an archbishop performing Mass was not a step too far, what was? Bush and Baker condemned the shooting, Ford reiterated that the United States supported an end to the violence and pointed to his condemnation of the Letelier bombing, and that was supposed to be that. But scandals have a way of taking on a life of their own, and reporters were suddenly very interested in poking into other political killings and the whole affair became an anchor around the neck of Dole, who started fielding very uncomfortable questions about "how far is too far" in the long gap between his victories in Kansas and Wisconsin and the Pennsylvania primary to close out April. Reagan and Connally were able to pile on, portraying Dole's answers as weak and evasive on the fight against communism while implying that of course they didn't condone killing clergy. Senate Democrats began demanding a suspension of aid to the Salvadoran government and Birch Bayh's Intelligence Committee announced it would launch a broad and wide probe into American activities in Latin America.

The administration battened down the hatches to ride the storm out, with Ford declining to fire Cheney as he had considered initially, but the damage had been done. Dole placed third in Pennsylvania, shockingly, behind Reagan and Connally just weeks after it looked like he was likely to be the nominee, and a May and June sprint to the finish loomed ahead.
Of course Cheney...

Meanwhile, this is gonna be Reagan's last change of winning presidency. Afterwards, definitely be considered too old.
If I were Gerald Ford, hypothetically, the price I would be willing to pay for not firing Dick Cheney would be a no-consequences screaming fit about what a fucking idiot he is to his face. I'd not even want an apology, I'd just want to be able to tell him to go bite himself. What a rube!

Well as it stands now, Dole might win the battle but lose the war. With Birch Baye's report being compiled, the prospective nominee of the Democrats would have plenty of ammunition. While of course a Republican could win, the top three Republicans each have their own unique flaws. Connally has gained a reputation (Fairly or not, though I lean towards the former) as a weaselly backstabber who's corruption and scandals would be terrific fodder in a general election. Dole's moderate nature might mean that a third party challenger could emerge a la Anderson tailored to the conservative wing, and even if that's not the case he's got the anchor that is the Ford administration wrapped around his neck. And Reagan's not safe either. If Carey wins, then he's going to be a lot more bluff and outspoken compared to Carter, so some of Reagan's popularity might not translate to this timeline. And if it's Askew, then the man's impressive reputation his governorship gave him plus a lack of involvement in any particularly juicy scandals might gain him votes that Reagan might otherwise kept.

What I'm saying is that it's anyone's game still.
God, imagine the hilarity from reagan trying to distinguish himself from ford by running well to the right of any candidate OTL. Restricting the franchise to employed white, married homeowners, making sodomy executable and immediately going to war with the commies would be the *start*. The rest of it would get more extreme from there.
I think Carey will win the Democrat nomination maybe with Askew as his running mate. As for the GOP I think it will be a tight one between Reagan and Connally maybe a brokered convention?
Braniff will last a bit longer than it did OTL though it had a number of issues that make it tough to see it surviving into the present day. My thinking though is that it’s a merger partner rather than just going completely kaput. Lorenzo’s group of airlines would make a lot of sense as a big Texas op that could make life complicated for AA, for instance
What If Floyd Hall has the idea of A Eastern North West merger? They both have hubs in Florida, and Detroit. With our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the industry.
I know the odds of it happening these days are miniscule but I'd love to see one before I die.
I think a brokered 2020 DNC and RNC could've been very entertaining. Check out "The World Turned Upside Down" to see Trump face off with Marco Rubio at a brokered convention. In "I Know How To Win" the 2020 Democratic nomination are decided at the DNC in a very close race between Bernie Sanders, Mike Bloomberg, and Elizabeth Warren. I don't want to spoil it but they are quite good timelines.