Blue Skies in Camelot: An Alternate 60's and Beyond

Chapter 112
  • Chapter 112: Stayin’ Alive - Shoring Up the Democratic Alliance; The Fall of Former State Senator Bundy
    Above: Two of the more moderate to conservative Democrats in the Senate, Jimmy Carter (D - GA) left, and Joe Biden (D - DE), right, often took issue with some of the more progressive stances held by President Udall and his supporters. Right, President Udall, photographed from the Oval Office.

    “I think the Democratic Party could stand a liberal George Wallace—someone who's not afraid to stand up and offend people, someone who wouldn't pander but would say what the American people know in their gut is right.” - Senator Joe Biden (D - DE), when asked about what qualities he would like to see in a Democratic nominee in 1976 by a reporter from The Washington Post.

    “It is better to light even one candle than to do nothing but curse the darkness.”
    - President Mo Udall, in his Inaugural Address.

    Mo Udall’s first year as President of the United States was a spectacular success. Few but the new President’s most ardent critics could contend that his administration was not taking bold steps to remedy the problems facing the nation. Universal, single-payer health care was finally a reality for Americans, with Medicare-for-All helping to ease the financial burden on families already stricken by the Great Recession. The environment, including the Alaska Land Use Act and another law to reclaim land formerly destroyed by strip mining across the American West; energy policy which aimed to completely eliminate dependence on fossil fuels in 40 years’ time, employment programs, infrastructure, and a bold return to a Kennedy-inspired foreign policy centered once again on human rights, not realpolitik; these were but some of the President’s early achievements. He had many to thank for his victories, which the ever modest Udall did with earnestness. The vast popular support he received in the polls helped, as did his charming personality and razor sharp wit. Even William F. Buckley was forced to admit, in a 1976 episode of Firing Line with Udall on the campaign trail, that the then-Congressman, “Had a manner of speaking which could convince just about anyone of just about anything.” Shortly after Denis Healey’s election to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1978, it often remarked by pundits that the Special Relationship was “now in the hands of, perhaps, the two wittiest men in politics today.” Udall and Healey would become fast personal friends, but more importantly for his domestic agenda, the President used his sense of humor to prop up the “common sense” nature of his proposals, and to tactfully disarm those who stood against them. Udall told his brother, White House Chief of Staff Stewart Udall, that his goal was “never to hurt anybody. Just to convince the American people that they were wrong on policy.” A reputation swept the nation of Mo Udall as “the People’s President”.

    But it would be remiss of any student of history to ignore the “power politics” happening behind the scenes in Washington as the new administration fought intense, cutthroat battles in the halls of Congress that were anything but easy.

    For starters, though the Democrats had grown their majority in the ‘76 elections by riding Mo’s coattails, the Republicans still held 44 seats in the Senate and 174 seats in the House, in other words, enough to maintain a fair deal of influence, especially with veterans Gerald R. Ford (R - MI) and Senator Howard Baker (R - TN) at the helm as Minority Leaders. While Ford and Baker were relatively moderate as Republicans went, and were willing to play ball with Udall’s people for the good of the country, they weren’t going to do so without throwing their own weight around first. Anywhere they could, Ford and Baker scored points by appearing “reasonable” in the Minority, holding Democrats to task by asking about where funding for new programs was to come from and the like. Unfortunately for both the GOP and their Democratic rivals, both parties were suffering from their own “big tent” nature which had allowed their respective victories in recent elections over the years. For the Republicans, the divide between “Romney Republicans”, (socially liberal and fiscally moderate), neo-liberals (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) and Buckley-ite conservatives (socially and fiscally conservative) remained open. While it was possible for the various wings of the party to work together, their differing beliefs on issues often led to open conflict, such as at the 1976 Republican National Convention, when a clash over the issue of abortion in the party platform almost led to fistfights on the floor. In the end, President Bush and Vice President Reagan had compromised to a “neutral” position - neither fully pro-life or pro-choice - which condemned the practice in theory, but proposed no meaningful federal efforts to overturn Doe v. Bolton. Of course, this failed to fully please either wing of the party, but it was a temporary solution to a deeper problem.

    Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, President Udall’s brand of progressive liberalism may have flooded the country with new feelings of enthusiasm for community-mindedness and collective solutions to America’s problems, but his party too faced internal divides over the burgeoning culture wars which were playing out in the country’s neighborhoods and cities. On the more progressive side were allies of the President like Congressman Harvey Milk of California, the first openly gay person elected to Congress. Milk began his time in Washington with a bang by almost immediately calling for the legalization of marijuana and a constitutional amendment to ban sodomy laws. Such moves were seen as unthinkable for a freshman congressman to propose, but Milk didn’t care. He’d only won election to his seat by only about 100 votes. As far as he could tell, he might never get back to Congress. He wanted his one term to count. Democrats like Milk, Leader and Founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, Ron Dellums (D - CA), and the Rev. Jesse Jackson (D - IL) represented a “new generation” of Democrats, who believed that identity, abortion, Gay and Lesbian rights, and a continued conversation about race, were all issues worth talking about, in addition to getting the economy back on track. On the other end of the spectrum were folks like Vice President Lloyd Bentsen, Congressman Pat Robertson (D - VA), and Senator Fritz Hollings (D - SC), social conservatives with large power bases in the South and Midwest, who felt that Milk, Dellums, Jackson, and their allies gave other Democrats “a bad name”. Largely successors of LBJ’s “new Southern machine” of the early 70’s, these self-proclaimed “Christian Democrats” largely opposed abortion, or changing the social status quo too much, and were largely supported by a large number of blue collar Americans, who had no idea what their more Progressive neighbors were talking about. Because these divides in the parties could not be fully healed, issues often made for strange political bedfellows. Though Udall personally sided far more often with the progressives than against them, he also recognized the need to maintain the Democratic alliance, and often tried to eschew dealing with social issues in favor of economic or environmental ones, as evidenced in his forced silence about the Death Penalty rulings by the Supreme Court.

    Above: Diametrically opposed “rising stars” of the Democratic Party in the 1970’s. On the left, Congressmen Harvey Milk of California and Jesse Jackson of Illinois. On the right, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

    But even this was still too liberal for some Democrats. As Ron Dellums, Jesse Jackson, Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, and their allies were building what would one day be called the “Rainbow Coalition” for progress in a more inclusive and equal America, more conservative members of the party were laying the groundwork for what would become another major wing: the “Communitarians”. Socially moderate, and in favor of only “qualified” economic interventionism, Communitarian Democrats are somewhat akin to the “Christian Democratic” parties of Europe and Latin America. Early leaders of this fledgling movement within the party included two ambitious junior Senators: Jimmy Carter of Georgia, and Joe Biden of Delaware. Carter, a fervently religious Southern Baptist, former Lieutenant in the United States Navy, and moderate Governor of Georgia had considered a run for the Presidency in 1976 after he was term limited in 1975, but decided against it after his wife, Rosealynn, convinced him that a Senate seat might give him the legislative experience he needed to one day make a more effective bid for the White House. Once elected, Carter gained a reputation as an expert on agricultural affairs, given his background as a farmer himself; but also on economic issues, on which he disagreed vehemently with the President and his progressive allies. Carter supported neo-liberal ideas of privatization in several industries, as well as the deregulation of others. The only area of agreement he seemed to share with President Udall was their mutual loathing for the death penalty. But when Udall failed to condemn the Court’s rulings defending the practice, it only served to further the wedge between him and Senator Carter. Though he had only been a Senator for two and a half years by the time Mo Udall had sworn the oath, Carter already saw the lanky Commander in Chief as a rival, someone in the way of his own rise to the top. He was joined in these sentiments by Joseph R. Biden, Jr., a handsome young gun and former City Councillor from Delaware, who had promised his wife Neilia when they’d first met: “I’ll be a Senator by the time I’m 30. And shortly thereafter, I’ll be President.” He aimed to meet this goal in earnest. Coming to Washington with his wife and their beautiful young family, Biden, Irish Catholic and decidedly middle class struck many D.C. insiders as “a figure to watch in the Party”. After his wife narrowly avoided a collision with a tractor-trailer truck in 1972 that would have surely ended her life, Biden “thanked God profusely” and took his wife’s good fortune as a sign that he and his family were destined for greatness in the capital. He immediately set to work getting in the good graces of committee heads, and became something of a pupil and confidant to Senate Majority Leader Russell B. Long (D - LA).

    During his first years in the Senate, Biden focused his work on legislation regarding consumer protection and environmental issues. He also called for “greater accountability” on the part of the government in the aftermath of the Hoover Affair. In mid-1974, freshman Senator Biden was named one of the “200 Faces for the Future” by Time magazine, in a profile that characterized the Senator as "endlessly self-confident" and "compulsively ambitious". He also began to fill out his political resume with more positions. He became one of the Senate’s most vocal opponents against “forced” busing as a means to desegregate de facto segregated schools, and further worked with fellow Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans to try and limit the scope of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to prevent what Biden considered “federal overreach into our nation’s schools”. Biden also went on to call busing: “a bankrupt idea that violated the cardinal rule of common sense.” Because of his stances on these issues, Biden became a divisive figure among the African American community, though he gained the support and admiration of conservative, blue collar white workers who opposed the practice. He also gained notoriety for his calls for the government to get “tough on crime”, as rates of theft and murder soared across the nation throughout the mid to late 70’s. This, once again, did little to endear him to minorities, but made him a great rallying figure for more conservative Democrats. To his credit, Biden did support integration measures in housing, employment, and welfare, and claimed that he considered issues faced by the African American community “very close to home”.

    While Mo Udall was on a roll in 1977, passing progressive legislation, Biden, Carter and their allies were working together to grow their own influence in the party as well. They wanted the party to have a real reckoning on issues many Democrats had avoided in the past, being willing to risk the fissures between the party’s members such a move would cause if the President was going to keep relying on their votes. The Communitarians, along with the Southerners, Christian Democrats, and other more conservative factions of the party were coming back for “their” day as well. They would not be ignored forever.

    Above: Congressman Ron Dellums (D - CA), a leading social democratic voice in the Democratic Party and Chairman of the House’s Armed Services Committee (left). A proto-type model of the B-1 Bomber (right).

    Meanwhile another new issue was appearing for the President - the B-1 bomber. Originally envisioned in the 1960’s as a platform that would combine the Mach 2 speed of the B-58 Hustler with the range and payload of the B-52, the so-called “B-1” was being designed by Rockwell International with the eventual goal of replacing both bombers. Though the R&D behind the project came back with strong results, the high cost of the project (which experienced numerous delays and went WAY over budget by 1977), the high projected cost of the finished aircraft, the introduction of new AGM-86 cruise missiles which largely flew the same profile and served the same purpose, not to mention early tests on a stealth bomber that would eventually replace the B-1 anyway, all contributed to a firm but unpopular decision by President Udall - the cancellation of the B-1 Bomber project. In a statement explaining the President’s decision, his press secretary pointed to a series of “open lambasts” at its expense made by Senator William Proxmire (D - WI). The Senator publicly and repeatedly mocked the project calling it an “outlandishly expensive dinosaur”. Immediately after coming into office, Udall had ordered a complete review of the program. By then, Pentagon experts were predicting that each new B-1 bomber would cost more than $100 Million to the American taxpayers. Pentagon officials also assured him that if the Air Force’s existing B-52 fleet were upgraded with the new AGM missiles, they would have the same effective range as the proposed bombers. With new stealth planes under development anyway, it seemed to Udall’s practical mind a senseless waste of money to continue to fund the soon to be obsolete project. On June 30th, 1977, Udall announced that he was pulling the plug on the project. No mention of the stealth bomber project was made to the public of course, meaning the President’s political rivals immediately had a new line of attack to make on the popular Commander in Chief. While Democrats, with the exception of Scoop Jackson largely lined up in support of the President’s decision, Republicans immediately set to attacking him as being “weak on defense”. Congressman Bob Dornan (R - CA), a paleoconservative bomb thrower led the pack when he boldly declared that in response to Udall’s decision, “They’re breaking out the vodka and caviar in Moscow.” Udall countered these and other claims about perceived weakness by announcing new investments on ICBMs and the updated fleet of B-52’s, as well as emphasizing that “Money we save on building bombers can and will be used to better the lives of the American people here at home.” Ron Dellums (D - CA), ever an ally of the President on many fronts, also defended his decision, saying as a guest on William F. Buckley’s television program, Firing Line: “We have unemployment like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. We have rising rates of poverty and crime. We have real issues faced by working families here at home, issues which the government has the ability to step in and do something about. You’re going to tell me our biggest concern is having a new toy for the military to fly bombs in? Mr. Buckley, I served in the Marine Corps. Let me assure you, the Soviets aren’t getting the leg up on us just because we canceled the B-1.” While the public largely agreed with Udall’s decision (about 56% according to a poll conducted by Gallup), many more conservative Americans used this as their hill to stand against the very liberal President. Among these were Senate Minority Whip Donald Rumsfeld (R - IL), seen as a leading expert on Military issues on Capitol Hill, and a former Secretary of State and Vice President, who just so happened to begin a flurry of new Sunday show appearances in the aftermath of the B-1’s cancellation. His name? Richard Nixon.

    Above: Senator Donald Rumsfeld (R - IL) expresses his concern over President Udall’s decision to cancel the B-1 Bomber during a press conference (left); Former Secretary of State Richard Nixon begins an interview with British Newsman David Frost at his home in London. During this historic interview, Nixon would explain his disagreements with President Bush and President Udall regarding foreign policy, and all but announce, to anyone reading between the lines, that he would be running for the White House in 1980, (right).


    The 1976 Election had been yet another political disappointment for Theodore Robert Bundy, Washington State Senator and hardcore Romney Republican. Despite his best efforts and a vigorous, door-to-door campaign, not only had President Bush failed to carry Washington State or hold the White House, but Bundy actually lost his seat in the State House as well, albeit narrowly. Bundy, whose ambition only seemed to grow by the day, was devastated. Returning to private law practice after several years in Olympia, sounded like absolute torture, especially given the personal distance developing between Bundy and his hitherto “perfect” wife, Stephanie. She’d gotten pregnant the year before and had never really lost the weight after giving birth to their firstborn, a son they named Ted, Jr. Bundy disturbed his staffers whenever he brought Stephanie up in conversation, calling her “Miss Piggy”, and even mentioning offhandedly that he “thought about killing her” once, “just to get her to shut the hell up.” Though the former State Senator quickly reassured his staff that he was “only kidding around”, Bundy’s comments disturbed and disgusted them nonetheless. Claiming that he needed to “clear his head”, Bundy told Stephanie shortly after leaving office in February of 1977 that he would be going on a road trip down the West Coast, alone. By this time, Stephanie could feel the love slipping away from their marriage, and was already considering filing for a divorce. The road trip seemed to her to be a good thing. Maybe when Ted returned, she reasoned, his head would clear and he would be able to love her again like he used to. Little did she know, she would never see her husband as a free man ever again. As with many psychopaths, Bundy did not handle rejection well. His loss, and Bush’s defeat by Mo Udall prompted Bundy to not only drive out of state in isolation. It also led to an attempted murder.

    Leah Cooke was a 19 year old sophomore at Oregon State University, hitchhiking on the interstate in the middle of a March evening with her friend, Aspen Sloan, when a modest American Motors roadster slowed down to the side to pick her up. The driver was a handsome, lightly bearded man in his early 30’s. He appeared to be injured, with his right arm put up in a sling when he idled the car and asked the girls if they needed a ride someplace. Aspen immediately felt like something was off and declined the man’s offer, but Leah was always the more adventurous of the two. She informed the stranger that she and Aspen had just come from a party, but had no way back to campus, about 15 miles away, because Aspen’s boyfriend had left without warning to tend to a sick friend. Sympathetic, the man said he’d be glad to drive them back. Aspen said she’d rather walk. “Suit yourself.” The man leered, with a devilish grin. Aspen started walking in the direction of the University, while Leah climbed into the car’s passenger side.

    Bundy, who Cooke would later report “started at me with this unsettling gaze” for the entirety of the ride, would drive several miles down the highway before thankfully being pulled over by an Oregon state trooper for a busted tail light. As the officer approached the car, Leah noticed the .32 revolver Bundy was retrieving from the driver’s side door. Screaming and lunging at the strange driver, Leah was able to restrain Bundy long enough for the State Trooper to open the driver’s door, notice the weapon himself, remove Bundy from the vehicle and get him in handcuffs. Originally taken to a local jail for “unlicensed possession of a firearm”, Bundy would eventually be charged in connection with a series of unexplained murders over the last several years throughout the Pacific Northwest. Though the former State Senator viciously battled for his freedom in court, as details emerged and the case against him mounted, hope for his absolution started to slip, and ultimately vanished. Though Bundy would become infamous throughout the country for his crimes, as well as his truly chilling appearance and total lack of remorse, most Americans had no idea how lucky they were that this psychopath was apprehended and locked away before even more innocent people were harmed...

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Mitt Romney and Caroline Kennedy - All Grown Up
    On Winning the Turtledove...
  • In light of this astounding, utterly unexpected, but absolutely appreciated award... I am speechless! I cannot express how grateful I am, from the very bottom of my heart to all of you for reading, supporting, and believing in this timeline. Since I first starting working on it almost three years ago, my life has changed a great deal. I have gone through university, seen friendships come and go, and (I hope) grown as a person. I like to think a great deal of that growth (including a newfound confidence in myself and especially my ability as a writer) is thanks to all of you. Without you and your support, none of this would have been possible.

    As I sit in awe and deep gratitude for this moment, I raise my glass to you, my magnificent audience. Thank you all for voting to make this victory happen! I cannot wait to continue exploring this alternate history with you. I still hope to someday see it carry through several more decades and bring this story toward an ultimate conclusion (one which I think I finally have in sight now).

    My warmest possible regards,


    "Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." - Marilyn Monroe​
    Chapter 113
  • Chapter 113: “Come Sail Away” - The Next Generation of Romneys and Kennedys

    Above: Mitt and Ann Romney with their eldest two children, sons Taggart and George Romney, circa 1976.​

    “A gathering of angels
    Appeared above my head
    They sang to me this song of hope
    And this is what they said
    They said, come sail away, come sail away”
    - Styx, “Come Sail Away”

    “I think that the presidency really brings out the best in a lot of people. It definitely brought out the best in him.” - Caroline Kennedy, commenting on her father’s legacy, 1985.

    The 1970’s passed by slowly at first for the youngest son of the slain President Romney. Still attending university when his father’s life slipped away in his arms, felled by an assassin’s bullet, Mitt had taken his father’s last words to heart. Every day of his life, he strove to do the right thing whenever possible, to be a good, hardworking, decent man like his father had been before him, and to build a life for himself and his young family that his old man would have been proud of. He kept his head down while attending Harvard Law, where he labored to finish the J.D. which his father had always insisted, to his reluctance, that he earn. Classmates reported that Mitt was often a quiet, thoughtful presence in class, usually practicing silence unless specifically asked a question by the instructor. When Mitt did choose to speak however, he did so with poise and power, often winning mock cases and shutting down arguments with just a few short words. Over time, his confidence and buoyant sense of optimism returned, and he was able to make friends with some of his peers. Later in life, Mitt would claim that delving deeply and earnestly into his Mormon faith, and the love and support of his wife, Ann, were the only things which restored his spirit and gave him the strength to carry on after the death of his father, a man who would forever be his hero. Come back Mitt did, graduating summa cum laude, in the top third of his class in 1975, and delivering a brief, but moving speech to his peers before welcoming President George Bush, his father’s former Vice President and successor, to give the commencement address. Harvard had, despite its challenges, been good for Mitt, a place for him to develop himself and discover a deep wellspring of empathy, compassion, and a desire to do good in the world. It also provided him with plenty of opportunities for starting the career in business that he’d always wanted.

    Almost immediately upon Mitt’s graduation, he and Ann were beset by hundreds of job offers from firms all over Massachusetts and the country at large. Mitt decided to go into consulting, believing that such work would better prepare him for the career he really wanted, that of an executive (he had received several lucrative offers to do just that in Boston and elsewhere). Before he had reached his decision, however, he had faced a conflicting interest in the form of his mother, Lenore, who wanted Mitt, Ann, and their children to come and live with her in Washington, D.C., where she headed several volunteer organizations, and remained active in public service. Naturally, Mitt resisted his mother’s plea, though not without reluctance. He felt sympathy for her, left alone by his older siblings and his father’s passing, but he also felt that he and his wife had every right to their own lives, independent of his mother and her wishes. After a brief, tender conversation between them over a summer holiday in the nation’s capital, Lenore agreed to see her son and daughter in law make their own life elsewhere. Mitt and his mother also ventured to Arlington National Cemetery together to visit his father’s grave, the first time he had visited since resuming college. With tears in his eyes, he softly whispered “Thank you” to his father’s tombstone. Shortly thereafter, he and Ann sifted through the various job offers and Mitt decided on what he considered a “fitting” place to start - a consulting firm in Detroit which worked with auto manufacturers, the same industry in which his father had made his name. Returning to motor city, Mitt and Ann quickly found that many of his father’s old friends were still around and were eager to see him succeed. These included Governor William Milliken (R), who had been his father’s Lieutenant Governor and Successor, and visited the younger Romneys as often as his schedule would allow. The Governor, nearing retirement himself, told Mitt that he was “happy” to see him making a go of it in the auto industry, and also that he hoped that someday, like his father, Mitt’s keen eye and sharp mind would be put toward public service. “Let’s not get carried away, Governor.” Mitt simply smiled. “One job at a time, here.” Milliken agreed and laid off, but he couldn’t deny that there was something special about George Romney’s youngest son. He had the guts, the brains, and the heart to make a hell of a politician someday. He only hoped that the young man wouldn’t be intimidated by his father’s rather large shoes and would just make a go of it.

    Of course, Romney thrived in Motor City. Within five years of settling there, he transitioned out of consulting and was offered a more permanent position as a Junior Vice President at Jeep, one of the auto brands owned by American Motors, the company his father had turned around from bankruptcy to prosperity in “nothing short of a miracle” only twenty years prior. Always a fan of their products, which he personally owned and used to take his burgeoning family on week long camping trips on his state’s upper peninsula and into Canada, Mitt accepted the position eagerly. His boss, then President of the company, Ben Wells, described Mitt as: “having the confidence of an executive ten years older than he is. He’s precise, no-nonsense, and most importantly - he always does his homework. When Vice President Romney walks into a room, you can guarantee that no deal will be made where he could be leaving money on the table.” His coworkers, like his classmates before them, made frequent notes of his “kindness, gentle demeanor, and shrewd business sense”. They admitted that in some ways, Mitt was “harder” than his father, ambitious, and developing into something of a perfectionist in his work. He often spent long nights pouring over his accounts, just as his father had before and during his time in the Oval Office. To avoid “turning into” his father completely, as Ann liked to tease him about, Romney also developed a chiding sense of humor, and played lighthearted pranks on his coworkers, friends, and neighbors with the help of his sons. Speaking of which, he and Ann would eventually have five: Taggart (born 1970); George II (born 1972); Joshua (born 1975); Benjamin (born 1978); and Joseph (born 1981). Besides family and work, Mitt filled the remainder of his time with serving as an ordained priest in his LDS church, eventually rising to the rank of Bishop of his ward in Detroit, developing a lifelong passion for fitness and in particular, running and water sports, and volunteering his time and money to the church’s various charities. Mitt remained with Jeep, even serving briefly as President of the Brand, until leaving in 1985 to be made CEO of American Motors, his father’s old company at the incredibly young age of 38. All the while, Mitt kept a reasonable distance from politics, claiming that he wanted to “do his father proud” primarily in the business world. In line with this vision for his future, he limited himself to donating to Liberal Republicans in his father’s mold. But as the prosperous 1980’s continued and the Michigan GOP struggled to combat the popular appeal of Udall-esque Progressive Democracy, more and more friends of the young executive started muttering to him: “maybe you ought to give this politics thing another look.” Though it would take many years and the personal lobbying of his mother, Mitt would eventually rise to the call in the early 1990’s, following once more the path set for him by his beloved father.
    Above: The Romney family in 1982, about a year after the birth of their youngest son, Joseph. (Left); The 1983 Jeep CJ-5 Laredo, one of the company’s most popular off-road models, was developed and released during Romney’s first year as President of the Brand.

    Above: Caroline Kennedy, eldest child of former President Kennedy at her graduation from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science (left). John F. Kennedy, Jr. seen here in 1978 working as a horse and cattle wrangler in Wyoming (right). Shortly after this photo was taken, John would go to Hollywood to pursue his dream - a career in acting.

    While Mitt Romney was busy pursuing his future and building a family of his own, so too were the eldest daughter and son of JFK and Jackie-O taking the first steps of their own journeys into adulthood. For young Caroline, ever called “the quiet Kennedy” for her introverted nature and soft-spoken demeanor, Mo Udall’s election to the Presidency in 1976, as well as the gargantuan influence of her father convinced her not to take up the career in the arts she had initially considered, and instead dedicate her life to public service. After graduating from Radcliffe in 1980, Kennedy immediately entered Harvard Law, laboring from even the admissions process to keep her head down and focus on her work, a difficult task when the University you’re attending had its School of Government recently renamed after your father. Sometimes painfully shy, and always aware of the near-constant threat of publicity and paparazzi around everything she did, Caroline nearly flunked out of several of her first semester classes from the sheer stress and pressure. Depressed and running out of options to recover her grades and mental health, Kennedy turned to the campus’ tutoring program and attended mass every Sunday at the nearby St. Paul’s Catholic Church. She would never clearly recall where she first encountered the young man who would help her save her grades and one day become her husband, but it was definitely one of the two aforementioned graces.

    Timothy Michael Kaine, a Kansas boy born in St. Paul, Minnesota to thoroughly Irish Catholic stock, was about three months Kennedy’s junior, but ahead of her by a semester in his studies at Harvard Law. Recently returned from a nine month trip to Honduras, where he had helped Jesuit missionaries run a vocational center which taught local children carpentry and welding (which Kaine’s own father did for a living), Kaine was eager to dive back into his own study of the law, aimed, like Miss Kennedy’s, at some day forming the basis of a career in public service of some kind. “Tim” as he preferred to be called, was serving as a part-time tutor at the Academic Assistance office when Caroline first stumbled in, desperate for help to catch up in her classes. Even though he recognized her in an instant from the millions of photographs he’d seen of her throughout her life, Tim made an honest effort not to treat her any differently from the other students he tutored. “Come on in,” he said with a gentle smile. “Grab a seat and get out your textbook.”

    Caroline, so accustomed to being either pampered or put through the ringer for her famous last name, was utterly flabbergasted. “He was just this incredibly kind… dorky guy.” She would later tell Barbara Walters with a chuckle in an exclusive interview about her years at Harvard. “He didn’t condescend, or look down at me because of who my father was. Nor did he go easy on me with the material. When he expected me to memorize something and I was wrong about it, he would let me know!”

    Over time, the two would become friends and start spending time together outside of their tutoring sessions. When they found out that they both went to St. Paul’s, they made an effort to go to the same mass with their small but close-knit group of friends. When they weren’t busy studying, listening to Beatles records, or in Tim’s case, working at the tutoring center, they took road trips to Walden Pond (a favorite destination of her father’s due to his admiration for Thoreau), and went on skiing trips in Vermont. When Caroline took up the guitar, she and Tim, who played the harmonica, would “jam” together and sometimes play open mics on campus and at local coffee shops. In the evenings, with her friends Ruth Marcus and Anne Holton, Caroline had Tim teach her Spanish, which he’d become fluent in during his time in Honduras. By the end of Caroline’s first semester, she was in the top 10% of her class. With Tim’s help, she had clawed her way to credibility on her own terms. With his own quiet, shy ways and “micromanaging” personality, Tim showed her that it was okay to be yourself, no matter who you were. Kennedy would credit this lesson as one of the most important of her young life. As the year wore on into the spring thaw, their friendship developed into something more. Tim asked Caroline if she would like to “go steady” with him. His old-fashioned geekiness had her captivated. She agreed in an instant. Though their dates and outings to Boston would sometimes be interrupted by the errant photographer or headline chaser, the media had blessedly moved on to mostly covering her younger brother, John by the time she and Tim started seeing each other romantically. Caroline brought her beau home to meet the parents (and Aunt Judy Garland) at Hyannis Port over the summer of 1982, and though the aging JFK paternally joked with Tim about “a tad gangly for his daughter”, good impressions were had all around. Tim would remember the trip as a highlight of his life. “Who would have thought… Not only would I meet one of my all-time heroes in person, I’d wind up marrying his daughter! She’s the most wonderful woman in the world, and I’m the luckiest of all fools.”

    Caroline would marry Kaine shortly after their graduation from Harvard Law with Juris Doctor degrees in 1983 and 1984, respectively. The ceremony was a beautiful, traditional Irish Catholic affair, though suitably muted to match the personalities of the bride and groom. The guest list was thus limited to only the most essential friends and family members. The bride’s family did their best to invite all of Tim’s family, so it wouldn’t seem like a “purely Kennedy” wedding, even if it was being held at St. Paul’s in Cambridge, Mass. Caroline’s cousin, Maria Shriver, served as her Maid of Honor. Senators Bobby and Ted Kennedy, both in attendance with their wives and families, reported being moved to tears as their eldest living brother, the patriarch of the family, rose from his wheelchair, and with the help of a cane and Jackie’s arm, managed to walk Caroline down the aisle to Tim waiting at the altar. The bride kissed her father’s cheek and before the priest, her fiance, and God, swore the vows of marriage.

    Having taken their seats in the front row of the assembly, Jack turned to Jackie and squeezed her hand as the priest asked Caroline and Tim if they would always care for each other “in sickness and in health”.

    “We’ve sure done that, haven’t we, my love?”

    Jackie reached behind her husband and gently rubbed the spot on his shoulder, where the would-be assassin had struck all those years ago. There was nothing there anymore, save a small scar where the Doctors had removed the bullet. The former First Lady had always wondered at how blessed they had been… She still shuddered at night to think of what might have happened there in Dallas. She had only to remember Nellie Connelly’s face to realize that God had shown her and her husband a sign that morning down in Texas. She looked at the deep lines of laughter and care in Jack’s face, admired the snow white mane of hair on his head, the immortal brightness of his slate-emerald eyes. More than twenty years had passed since they’d lost Patrick, since the attempt on Jack’s life. Never once had he cheated again. He was the love of her life. Even as his body betrayed him in the way that all bodies eventually do, she didn’t see the wheelchair bound patient that many around him did, she still saw the brilliant, generous, courageous man of action who had saved the lives of several comrades on PT-109, who had stormed the halls of government in Washington and laid the groundwork for the triumph of liberal thinking in the twentieth century, made civil rights a legal reality, rewrote American foreign policy to one of peacemaking and alliance building, took the first steps to creating universal healthcare in the United States, and ultimately left behind one of the definitive legacies on what it meant to be President of the United States. She pulled him close to her, kissed him softly, then whispered.

    “We sure have, Jack. We sure have.”

    The wedding concluded with a splendid reception. Caroline gleamed in her newfound joy with Tim. By the end of the year, both would be admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar. Tim soon found a job as an adjunct ethics professor at Boston College; Caroline became a junior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s Massachusetts branch.

    Jack and Jackie returned to the Compound and spent the former President’s final days always in each other’s company. The former First Lady’s journal revealed that in the last months of his life, JFK frequently read from the Bible and Thoreau’s Cape Cod, coming to believe that he was ready to face death. He had made his peace with his own mortality, and commented one night, after a painful flare up of his Addison’s Disease, that he was ready to “see Dad, Joe, Kathleen, and Patrick again”. Caroline’s wedding had been a great personal triumph for him to go out on.

    On February 14th, 1985, Valentine’s Day, former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy would pass away in his sleep at the Kennedy Family Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Jackie, overcome with grief, would forever remember Jack’s final words from the night before: “Goodnight, Jackie. I love you with all of my heart.” He was sixty-seven years old. Jackie would note in her journal that day - “One of the greatest men to ever live has passed into history. May the world remember him even half as well as he deserves”.

    JFK’s passing touched the nation deeply. Former President Udall, and his successor; Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert F. Kennedy; Senate Majority Leader Ted Kennedy (D - MA), and nearly every Senator and members of Congress, not to mention hundreds of foreign dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans made the journey to Washington for the President’s state funeral at the National Cathedral. Among the many faces to pass by President Kennedy’s coffin that day was that of Marilyn Monroe, come to pay her respects to an old friend and flame. Against her husband’s wishes, Marilyn felt she had to say goodbye. Like her country at large, she would miss the wise presence of President Kennedy, whom she had known better than most. His death was a rainy day in the nation’s capital. But though Jack was gone, the world he left behind would carry his legacy forward… and his eldest daughter, the heir to his family line here on earth, would ensure that the Kennedy name continued to be synonymous in the United States with progress, change, and hope.

    “Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met - obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty... Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men.” - John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

    RIP John F. Kennedy (May 29th, 1917 - February 14th, 1985)

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: 1977 in Pop Culture

    OOC: I know that this update jumped into the future a fair bit, but I thought it would be best to wrap up the rest of JFK's life and the beginning of Caroline's adult life all in one chapter. I will, of course, continue to follow the Kennedy family (as well as many other characters ITTL), but I wanted to keep this update from having too many spoilers of what's to come.
    Pop Culture 1977
  • Pop Culture in 1977 - Disco Inferno
    Above: John Travolta as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, the John Badham directed film which would come to be the definitive cinematic tribute to the Disco era.

    Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1977 (Top Ten):
    1. “Dancing Queen” - ABBA
    2. “Margaritaville” - Jimmy Buffet
    3. “Heroes” - David Bowie
    4. “Southern Nights” - Elvis Presley
    5. “The Things We Do for Love” - 10cc
    6. “Best of my Love” - The Emotions
    7. “Evergreen (Love theme from A Star is Born)” - Olivia Newton-John
    8. “Rich Girl” - Hall & Oates
    9. “The Gambler” - Kenny Rogers
    10. “Barracuda” - Heart

    News in Music

    January 1st - Legendary Punk band the Clash headline the opening night of London’s only punk rock club, the Roxy.

    January 6th - After releasing only one single for controversial English rock band the Sex Pistols, EMI terminates its contract with them following the band’s “disruptive” behavior in public. They are quickly scooped up by the Paul McCartney-led Apple Records, who begin to try to capitalize on punk’s “underground” popularity. The contract signing ceremony, organized by “senior talent scout” John Lennon is held outside of Buckingham Palace, where an impromptu concert is also held despite the winter chill.

    February 4th - American band Fleetwood Mac release their legendary album Rumors. It will go on to become one of the highest selling and most critically acclaimed rock records of all time.

    February 14th - The B-52’s perform their first concert at a college party in Athens, Georgia.

    February 15th - Sid Vicious replaces Glen Matlock as the bassist of the Sex Pistols.

    April 22nd - Pink Floyd opens the North American leg of their Animals tour to massive success and critical acclaim.

    April 24th - Joan Baez, Carlos Santana, Johnny Cash, and Townes Van Zandt headline a free concert for nearly 700 inmates of California’s Soledad Prison.

    April 26th - New York City’s Studio 54, arguably the heart of the disco genre, opens.

    May 29th - Elvis Presley releases “Southern Nights”, a highly successful single which seems to mark a change in direction of his sound toward a more country-influenced direction. Over the next several years, Presley would fade somewhat from the active music scene as he spent more of his time and energy on raising his daughters with his wife, Ann Margret.

    June 7th - The Sex Pistols are arrested in London after interrupting Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee celebrations by performing their version of “God Save the Queen” from a boat on the River Thames. Privately, Paul McCartney questions John Lennon on his decision to sign the band.

    June 22nd - KISS are elected “the most popular band in America” by a Gallup poll.

    June 26th - Elvis Presley receives a plaque from RCA, commemorating his “two billionth” pressing from singles sales in his career. To celebrate, the King embarks on a tour of the US and Europe. It will be his final international tour for the next fifteen years.

    July 9th - Donna Summer’s hit record “I Feel Love” is released in the UK; it is the first hit record to have an entirely synthesized backing track, portending a future trend in popular music.

    August 20th - NASA's unmanned Voyager 2 probe is launched. It carries a golden record containing sounds and images representing life and culture on Earth, including the first movements of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Guan Pinghu's Liu Shui, played on the guqin, and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". President Udall jokes in a statement at its launch, that “he hopes anybody listening up there likes Rock N Roll as much as we do.”

    September 29th - New York song-smith Billy Joel releases The Stranger, a classic album featuring such songs as “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “Just the Way You Are”, and “Only the Good Die Young”.

    October 20th - American Rock Band Lynyrd Skynyrd count their lucky stars as they narrowly avoid a plane crash over rural Mississippi when the pilot of their private jet notices a lack of fuel and pitches an emergency landing in Jackson. The event would later inspire the band’s song “Flyin’ High”.

    October 27th - British punk band the Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols on Apple Records. Despite the refusal of most major UK retailers to stock it, the album debuted at number one on the UK album charts. John Lennon felt very justified indeed for his faith in the punk movement.

    October 29th - Also at Apple, British rock band Queen released News of the World, containing the immortal songs “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions”.

    December 13th - While on tour in the Midwest to promote his recent album Cat Scratch Fever, “the Motor City Madman” Ted Nugent is killed instantly when his tour bus careens off the road during a snowstorm near Sandusky, Ohio. The rock world mourns the loss of a talented guitar player and songwriter. Tragically enough, it was his 29th birthday.

    RIP Ted Nugent
    (December 13th, 1948 - December 13th, 1977)​

    December 14th - Saturday Night Fever is released in the United States, bringing disco music to the forefront of the American pop cultural landscape.

    December 22nd - After much anticipation and delay due to the untimely passing of lead guitarist Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones release Hand of Fate, their thirteenth studio album and the first with former Led Zeppelin member Jimmy Page on lead guitar. Largely seen as a “fitting tribute” to their founding member and dear friend, Richards, Hand of Fate amplified the band’s hard rock credentials and showcased a heavier sound, inspired largely by Page’s solos and occult-inspired lyrics. To promote the record, the Stones announced a new world-wide tour, which would also feature co-headliners The Who, who were now backed by fellow former Zeppelin member John Bonham on drums.

    1977 in Film - The Year’s Biggest

    Star Wars - Space Opera. Directed and written by George Lucas, starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Toshiro Mifune, and Orson Welles. (As Star Wars has already been covered in its own chapter, I will be brief here). Shattering the record for biggest blockbuster of all time, set two years prior by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Star Wars took the world by storm in 1977, exploding onto an unsuspecting world and redefining major motion pictures as we know them. Rooted deeply in Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces and the Hero’s Journey archetype, Star Wars became a sort of myth or fairy tale for the modern age. It also became a major cash cow for Lucas and Fox, who instantly green-lit Lucas’ request for a sequel, set for release in 1980.

    Smokey and the Bandit - Road action/Comedy. Directorial debut of stuntman Hal Needman. Starring Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Jackie Gleeson, and Jerry Reed. A fun, lighthearted and action packed tale of two bootleggers trying to smuggle their beer from Texas to Atlanta in 28 hours or less, this film started its life as a low-budget B movie and passion project for country musician Jerry Reed. After Presley, then one of the top box office draws in the world and a close friend of Reed's, read the script, he brought the production value up considerably. Its theme song, “Eastbound and Down” would be written and released by Reed, becoming his biggest hit and signature song. The film was a major box office smash, being beaten only by the gargantuan Star Wars for highest grossing film of ‘77.

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Science Fiction. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, and François Truffaut. Arguably one of the most influential and breathtaking blockbusters in cinematic history, Spielberg’s tribute to the UFO culture of his childhood and interest in extraterrestrials (a theme he would revisit in future films) would make Close Encounters the third highest grossing film of the year, snag John Williams yet another Academy Award for his amazing score, as well as another for the film for cinematography. This film, preceded by Jaws in ‘75 and succeeded by Superman in ‘78 cemented Spielberg as the new “sure thing” in Hollywood hit making.

    Eraserhead - Experimental body horror. Written, directed, produced, and edited by David Lynch. Starring Jack Nance and Charlotte Stewart. The first of many films from the man who would come to be known as “the first popular surrealist”, Eraserhead was the result of Lynch’s years at the American Film Institute (AFI). Inspired by the director’s readings of Franz Kafka’s "The Metamorphosis", a Bible verse chosen at random (Lynch claims to not be able to remember which one), and his own precarious experiences as a new father, the film was not a commercial success upon its initial release, but over the years it would develop a following as a cult classic and give Lynch the credibility he needed to work on other projects.

    News in Television and Film, Throughout the Year

    The 50th Academy Awards - April 3rd, 1978 - Hosted by Bob Hope

    Best Picture: Star Wars
    Best Director: Woody Allen - Anhedonia
    Best Actor: John Travolta - Tony Manero, Saturday Night Fever
    Best Actress: Diane Keaton - Annie Hall, Anhedonia
    Best Supporting Actor: Leonard Nimoy - Julia as Dashiell Hammett
    Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave - Julia as Julia
    Best Original Screenplay: Star Wars by George Lucas
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Julia by Alvin Sargent, based on the novel Pentimento by Lillian Hellman

    January 15th - Bill Murray, a Chicago, Illinois native, joins the cast of Saturday Night Live, replacing Chevy Chase who left the previous year. In his inaugural appearance on the show, Murray would earn props for his “folksy”, often deadpan impression of President Udall, whom he often portrayed as the put upon every man amidst the “intrigue” of Washington life. Udall was incredibly taken with Murray's (admittedly kind) impersonation and became the first President to meet his SNL impersonator, doing so at the 1979 White House Correspondents' Dinner.

    January - Roots, a miniseries based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family airs on ABC to massive viewership, commercial success, and critical acclaim. The series tells the story of one Black family’s history in colonial America and subsequently, the United States through the end of the Civil War. It would boast the second most watched finale in television history, and set the standard for mini-series as a format for years to come.

    January 31st - The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries premieres on ABC. The series alternated between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew each week, and made for a fun mystery series for kids and teens.

    February 27th - Fed up with images of “excessive sex and violence on television”, the Reverend Donald Wildmon declares “Turn Off the TV Week”. He is largely ignored.

    March 11th - Sesame Street broadcasts its 1,000th episode.

    May 4th - Star Wars hits theaters, shattering box office records and giving rise to the pseudo-holiday “Star Wars Day” from the phrase “May the Fourth be with you.”

    June 22nd - Walt Disney Productions release Scruffy, an adaptation of Paul Gallico’s novel which centered on the barbary macaques of Gibraltar, with their honorary leader, called Scruffy (and voiced by Bob Newhart). The apes live happy and free, until they are threatened by Nazi Germany, who attempt to take Gibraltar from the British Empire during World War II. Ultimately a heartwarming, family friendly take on surviving Axis persecution, Scruffy would be a modest success for the company and encourage Disney to return more full time to making full-length animated pictures.

    September 14th - A tube-top clad woman named Rhonda Stevens is called into contestants’ row on the CBS Game Show The Price is Right. While running down the aisle to the podium, her breasts popped out of her shirt. The incident would be censored before audiences at home could see, but it would be a memorable moment in pop culture for years to come.

    October 24th - A new Peanuts special, It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, airs on CBS. It shows and names “Heather”, the Little-Red-Haired-Girl, thereupon ending the “mystery” of Charlie Brown’s crush.

    Throughout the Year - The average cost of a Movie ticket in the U.S. was $2.25.

    1977 in Sport

    Super Bowl XI - “America’s Cinderella Team”, the New England Patriots win a major upset over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings, coached by Bud Grant. In the first Super Bowl ever to go into overtime, Pats quarterback Steve Grogan won the game for his team with a daring “Hail Mary” pass to wide receiver Marlin Briscoe. With a final score of 28 - 21, Super Bowl XI would go down in history as one of the closest, most competitive, and best received of all time. The image of the underdog Pats celebrating after their upset victory would be cheered all over New England.

    The MLB Expands once again! The Seattle Pilots and Toronto Blue Jays make their debut. This brings the total number of teams to 26. Find a full list of the teams below, by division.

    AL East:
    New York Yankees
    Boston Red Sox
    Baltimore Orioles
    Detroit Tigers
    Cleveland Indians
    Milwaukee Brewers
    Toronto Blue Jays

    AL West:
    Kansas City Royals
    Texas Rangers
    Chicago White Sox
    Minnesota Twins
    California Angels
    Seattle Pilots
    Oakland Athletics

    NL East:
    Philadelphia Phillies
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    St. Louis Cardinals
    Chicago Cubs
    Montreal Voyageurs
    New York Mets

    NL West:
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Cincinnati Reds
    Houston Colts
    San Francisco Giants
    San Diego Padres
    Atlanta Braves

    World Series - Led by Catcher Thurman Munson, second baseman Willie Randolph, rookie phenom and eventual all-time stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson in left field, and their legendary right fielder Reggie Jackson (aka “Mr. October”), the New York Yankees would defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games to three. This year’s playoff race was especially meaningful for New York. As the city suffered through the worst heat wave in years, the lingering effects of their financial collapse and near bankruptcy, the Son of Sam killings, and thousands of municipal layoffs, Jackson and his Yanks were able to rally the city behind them and provide hope as they clawed their way into the play offs and then, the Championship. In a year of feel good sports stories, this was one of the best. This would also be batting coach Joe DiMaggio’s final year with the Dodgers before his retirement to a quiet life with wife Marilyn Monroe and their adopted son, Percy. Upon returning to New York, the Bronx Bombers were greeted with a massive parade by Mayor Herman Badillo.

    NBA Finals

    The Philadelphia 76’s defeat the Portland Trail-Blazers 4 games to 2.


    The Stanley Cup - Montreal Canadiens defeat the Boston Bruins 4 games to 0.

    Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: Chairman Hu Yaobang of the People’s Republic of China. A dedicated reformer and ardent anti-Maoist, Chairman Hu’s rise to leadership in the wake of Zhou Enlai’s passing showed the west that the PRC was serious about economic liberalization. It also portented the possibility of political reform, though the West wasn’t holding its breath on that just yet.

    Other Headlines Throughout the Year

    The release of the Atari 2600 in the United States is a tremendous success.

    The United States Senate voted (68 - 32) to Return Control of the Panama Canal to Panama on December 31st, 1999.

    Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Indian National Congress won big in the March General election

    President Mo Udall signs an official pardon for all draft dodgers during the Cambodian and Rhodesian Conflicts, and officially ends the peacetime draft.

    The Medal of Freedom is posthumously awarded to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    The Last Ever Execution by Guillotine is performed in France.

    French Becomes the Official Language of Quebec as Canadian Prime Minister Robert Stanfield helps ease tensions between Anglo-phone and Franco-phone Canadians. He celebrates with the Canadiens Hockey team after they win the Stanley Cup. This marks the beginning of the decline of the popularity of Quebecois nationalism.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Coal Miners' Strike of 1978; Or, How Mo Udall Became Labor's Best Friend
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    Chapter 114
  • Chapter 114: The Promised Land - President Udall and the Coal Crisis of ‘78
    Above: President Mo Udall, opening a summit between union and management representatives in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 3rd, 1978 (left); Thousands of UMWA on strike in rural West Virginia (right).

    “I’ve done my best to live the right way
    I get up every morning, and go to work each day
    But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
    Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
    Explode and tear this whole town apart
    Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
    Find somebody itching for something to start

    The dogs on Main Street howl, ‘cause they understand
    If I could take one moment into my hands
    Mister, I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man
    And I believe in a Promised Land”
    - Bruce Springsteen, “The Promised Land”

    “A leader is best
    When people hardly know
    That he exists.
    Less good when they
    Praise and obey him.
    Worse, when they
    Fear and despise him.
    But of a good leader,
    When his aim is met
    His dreams fulfilled
    They will say:
    ‘We did this ourselves!’”
    - President Mo Udall, quoting an ancient poem by Lao Tsu

    The discordant seeds of the largest national strike of the Great Recession in the United States were planted some forty years earlier during the Great Depression. In those dark, forlorn days, bottomed out coal prices drove operators to severely cut wages for miners. For management of these companies, be they small or (mostly) large, the cost of paying workers a truly fair, living wage whilst simultaneously suffering from record losses would have seemingly proved too much to bear for them to stay in business at all. This of course was mirrored in most major industries across the nation. But as wages decreased and workers had less money to spend, so too did aggregate demand for goods and services (coal among them) decrease as well. This was arguably the vicious cycle at the heart of the Depression. This was not an easy problem to fix of course, but over time, the programs and reforms of the New Deal sought to remedy it wherever and however it could. During the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and other labor unions established industry-wide national collective bargaining agreements. While these agreements completely legitimized labor’s bargaining rights for the first time in American history, they also came at a steep cost. In UMWA’s case, their agreement meant barring local unions from striking without the prior consent and approval of the international union. Such unsanctioned strikes, called “wildcat strikes”, became common however in the coal industry as the decades wore on and the desperate times of the 30’s and early 40’s gave way to the prosperity of the 50’s and 60’s. Made outright illegal by the Federal Taft-Hartley Act of 1950, wildcat strikes continued into the Great Recession years as miners grew increasingly frustrated, feeling that the national agreements negotiated by UMWA failed to adequately address and resolve their grievances. Democratic voting reforms within the Mine Workers and the 1974 contract negotiated with owners had not released the pressure which caused wildcat strikes. Absent the right to strike, UMWA's democracy movement rejected labor peace, and wildcat strikes had become even more common as the Recession worsened during the years of the Bush Administration. Largely apathetic to the plight of labor, and a self-professed “Business Republican”, President Bush’s opposition to labor reform may have contributed to his lopsided defeat at the hands of the at least nominally pro-labor Udall in 1976. Still, the issue of wildcat strikes had not even been addressed during the national election.

    Arnold Miller, President of the UMWA had only been able to win re-election himself in June of 1977 by accepting the right of member unions to strike over local issues As a narrowly re-elected Miller turned to renegotiate worker contracts in the fall, Miller insisted on changing the national collective bargaining agreement to give each UMWA affiliate the limited right to strike over local issues. If passed, such a change would fundamentally fulfill his campaign pledge, and legitimize “wildcat strikes” within the legal framework laid out by Taft-Hartley by effectively removing the label “wildcat strike” from existence. Miller argued that the only way to suppress previously unsanctioned strikes was to regulate the process and give affiliate unions the right to strike independently. With the power that the ability to strike would give local unions, local mine operators would no longer create the conditions which led to strikes. Unconvinced, the owners rejected Miller's demand. They claimed to have little faith that his proposal would work. Instead, they demanded the right to fire wildcat strikers and fine any miner who refused to cross wildcat picket lines.

    UMWA’s position at the negotiating table was not an enviable one, either. Power utility companies had amassed a 120-day backup supply of coal, while iron and steel manufacturers possessed a 75-day supply. These stockpiles were both more than sufficient to outlast even the most determined miners’ strike, they believed. Additionally, the number of coal mines controlled by UMWA across the country had fallen since their last negotiation in 1974, from 67% to only 55%. This decrease left more mines in continued operation to supply national needs during a strike. Additionally, the 1973-74 oil crisis which had given the miners’ their largest source of leverage the last time around was no longer a threat to management. With demand for coal down and the economy as a whole still stagnant, the owners felt little pressure to cave to union demands. Though Miller was in the position of the veritable David staring down the Goliath of big coal, he knew he had no room to budge on this issue. Effectively at a negotiating impasse, the owners let the miners’ contracts run out on December 7th, 1977 and the UMWA officially went on strike.

    Amidst the onset of the national strike, sporadic violence also began to break out across the country. In the mountains of Georgia, workers sabotaged tools. In western Pennsylvania, coal trains were stopped and delayed by picketing workers holding hands in solidarity across the tracks. On December 13th, State Police in riot-gear threw canisters of tear gas at over four hundred picketing coal miners in Kentucky, because the Police claimed that the miners had been throwing rocks and beer cans at passing coal trucks. When some of the gassed miners refused to disperse, several police officers assaulted the miners with clubs. This incident (called the Daviess County Incident of 1978 by the UMWA afterward) resulted in one miner’s death and several others to be severely wounded. As a result of the incident, Kentucky Governor Julian Carroll (D) would join his colleagues in Indiana (Otis Bowen - R), and Virginia (John Dalton - R) in calling out the national guard to protect coal truck convoys. These Governors also declared states of emergency and ordered their respective State Police to patrol coal-producing areas. On the other hand, Governors Milton Shapp (D - PA), Jay Rockefeller (D - WV), and Adlai Stevenson III (D - IL) refused to call out the national guard in their states, and openly refused to have their state police organizations enforce federal labor law until the negotiations were completed. Though these were indeed dark times for the miners, as many others were arrested and charged for crimes ranging from harassment to conspiracy, rays of hope were breaking over the horizon.

    The death of Finley Doyle, the Irish-American miner killed in the Daviess County incident marked a turning point in the negotiations. The media, starting to finally pay the developing situation in coal country the attention it deserved, started to paint the miners, not management in a highly sympathetic light, with Doyle’s wife and children interviewed by Dan Rather of CBS. The image of his teenage daughter, Molly, bursting into tears and screaming “My Daddy died for greed!” would become one of the most harrowing of the decade. This poor PR for management, combined with workers no longer needing to worry about their health insurance coverage due to the successful passage of Medicare-for-All, aka “MoCare” the year before, meant that Miller and his team were able to enter the new year and second round of negotiations with additional leverage. While public opinion began to shift toward the miners, management retained one final hope of avoiding having to cave to the union’s demands. The Taft-Hartley Act gave the federal government the authority to immediately shut down labor actions, including strikes, if the President felt that they posed an “emergency” to the national interest. All eyes turned to Mo Udall in the first months of 1978, as a blizzard ravaged much of the country and with their renewed momentum, it appeared that the miners might pull off the impossible and outlast company stockpiles after all.

    Though Udall was about as progressive, nominally pro-labor of a Democrat as you could be in those days, management believed that they had reason to remain confident. As a Congressman for the ultra-conservative state of Arizona for more than fifteen years, Udall’s arm had been twisted into voting for so called “right-to-work” laws several times throughout the course of his tenure. Though the President insisted that he had always opposed such measures on principle, as they undermined labor unions, which he felt were “critical” to the American Dream, Udall’s constituents at the time had supported them, so reluctantly, he did too. Labor leaders had harangued him about it on the campaign trail in ‘76, and without the endorsement of Social Democrats for the USA (SDUSA), he might very well have lost out on the AFL-CIO’s endorsement as well. Given his “pliable” history on labor issues, management felt assured that they could pressure the President, who had already been making enemies of pro-business Republicans and moderate Democrats, into invoking Taft-Hartley and forcing the strike to end just as it was really gaining steam. Unfortunately for the business owners, they vastly misread the still relatively new Commander in Chief and his intentions. Honest to a fault, Udall hadn’t just been paying lip service to his support for unions. He really meant it! In mid-February, the President made an announcement from the Oval Office that he would not be invoking Taft-Hartley to order an end to bring about a premature ending of the strike. Though this decision had his enemies howling in the halls of Congress, with some even calling for his impeachment for his refusal to invoke the law (hence the title of his future memoir - Too Funny to Be Impeached), Udall explained that he was merely agreeing with the precedent set by Governors across the country, such as Stevenson, Shapp, and Rockefeller. He claimed that after weeks of listening to reports from a special investigative commission, comprising members of both labor leadership and company management, the commission and his administration had come to conclude that there was no impending national emergency which justified the invocation of the law. National stockpiles of coal were still set to last through the winter, and if the steel industry ran out before the end of the strike, the President instructed them to “use their business degrees and negotiate.” This sharp line angered the business community, who felt the White House was using “undue influence” to tip the scales in favor of the union. Udall, when asked by a reporter during a press conference how he responded to this, laughed and retorted, “Why is it that when the government helps the common man, it’s called ‘socialism’ or ‘exerting undue influence’, but when it sides with big business it’s called ‘working in the national interest’?” With his firm, yet sly rhetoric, Udall managed to disarm management’s smear campaign against him, and swayed even more Americans to the miners’ cause. Drawing comparisons to Theodore Roosevelt, another of his role models, Udall instantly dispelled organized labor’s fears about him, and became a New Deal-esque hero to many ordinary Americans overnight. Of course, he also became an “anti-American socialist” to many others. This marked the beginning of the end of Udall’s “honeymoon period”.

    Still, Udall was more concerned with doing what was right than whether or not his actions would benefit his popularity. To take initiative and try to bring about an end to the strike, he called for a summit between Arnold Miller and other UMWA leaders and the head negotiators for management to be held, with himself presiding as chief arbiter, in the White House, beginning March 3rd. The conflicting parties, unsure of how else to bring this miserable action to an end, agreed. Ultimately, the miners did not get everything they wanted, but they got a lot more than they initially expected they would, given their initially weak position. As a result of widespread public sympathy and the attentive ear, if not outright support of the President of the United States, the Miners were able to claim the following:

    • An across-the-board 42% wage hike for all miners, though they lost the cost-of-living clause they had won in 1974.
    • Guaranteed payment of pension/retirement benefits, even if the Union’s pension funds were depleted.
    • New, improved reforms to the process of dispute resolution between management and affiliate unions, which they hoped would reduce the number of wildcat strikes.
    • A “soft acceptance” of the possibility of such local strikes on the part of management, a watershed moment for labor.

    Defeated, management were however able to force the creation of a productivity incentive bonus plan, which would reward workers who were more productive, rather than promising future wage hikes in this round of negotiations. Though owners had been livid to give ground on the core issue of wildcat strikes, they eventually came around when they realized that Udall would not be President forever. Though labor and progressive Democrats were eager to repeal Taft-Hartley altogether, Republicans largely stood firmly against such a move, and moderate to conservative Democrats were lukewarm on it as well. Even if Udall attempted such a bold legislative run, even for an effective wielder of the bully pulpit like him, that would be a damned easy hill to die on.

    For the time being, Udall was largely praised for his role in ending the strike, especially among working class Americans and those with labor sympathies. He helped turn what looked like a surefire defeat for labor at the hands of the monied class into what many saw as a more equitable arrangement. The miners and union workers would never forget what Mo had done for them, and turned into even more loyal Democrats in the midterm elections and further, in 1980.

    But supporting their cause in a labor dispute was not the only way President Udall sought to help coal miners. Having continued the early experiments in alternative energy conducted by the Kennedy Administration during his first year in office, Mo next used the publicity generated by the coal strike to get Congress to authorize a “Presidential Commission on the Future Viability of American Energy Sources”. The stated purpose of this commission, overseen by the nearly created Department of Energy, was to formally and scientifically investigate the widely-known phenomenon of “peak oil” as well as the less studied trend of the “greenhouse effect”, first identified as far back as the 1820’s, and theoretically solidified as a relationship between global warming and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions in the 1960’s during the Kennedy years. The commission’s investigation would last for much of the year, but by the autumn, they returned to the President with damning news: not only had the United States likely hit its own “peak oil” moment in production, but the world was likely to face its own sooner than expected. Though it was impossible to know the extent of world petroleum reserves with any certainty, commission geologists estimated that by as soon as 2050, less than 100 years in the future, the world could hit peak oil. Further, for the first time, scientists became acutely aware of CO2 emissions' effect on global climate, and began to postulate the potentially disastrous consequences continued emissions could spawn. Horrified, the staunchly environmentally-friendly Udall made it his mission, for the rest of his Presidency, to educate the public on the potential dangers of man-made climate change, and to lay the groundwork for a gradual transition away from fossil fuels and toward alternative, clean, renewable energies, such as hydroelectric, geothermal, safe nuclear, and the developing fields of solar and wind energy. In the meantime, he also ordered his Energy Department to produce ever-stricter fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and other vehicles and strengthened the Environmental Protection Agency to help cut air, water, and land pollution as much as possible.

    Udall also began working to deliver on one of his other top campaign promises from 1976 - breaking up gigantic oil and gas conglomerates to help combat the energy crisis. From the mid-1940’ to the onset of the energy crisis in the early 70’s, the world’s petroleum market was utterly dominated by a group of companies referred to colloquially as the “Seven Sisters”. These companies: BP; Gulf Oil; Standard Oil of California (SoCal); Texaco; Royal Dutch Shell; Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso); and Standard Oil of New York (Socony) had formed a veritable cartel on the oil market, and were on the receiving end of a massive wave of populist anger from average Americans amidst the economic hardships of the Great Recession. Between them, these companies controlled 85% of the world’s petroleum reserves, leading many (especially more progressive) economists to consider their control a monopoly. A former Texas oil man with myriad connections to the fossil fuel industry himself, former President Bush did little to curb the companies’ influence during his time in the White House. If anything, the OPEC embargo, and the subsequent “shock” as oil prices soared, ended up being good business for the Seven Sisters. The Bush Administration responded to the crisis by “opening up” increased energy exploration on public lands, especially in states like Alaska, Montana, and Oklahoma. These lands, of course, were sold almost entirely to companies within the Big Seven. In the ‘76 Election, then-Congressman Udall accused Bush of “giving the mega-corporations a boon to help his cronies at the expense of the American people." Once President himself, Udall turned to the Justice Department, and his Attorney General, Archibald Cox, and asked him to sue Esso, Socony, Socal, and Texaco for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. This lawsuit would work its way through the court system for the next several years, earning Cox and the Udall Administration the undying enmity of the fossil fuel lobby, and the further respect of liberals and progressives the nation over. Though it would ultimately fail to fully “break up” the oil conglomerates as Udall intended, the case did manage to force Chevron and several of the other companies to divest themselves from some of their stations, refineries, and other subsidiaries. This allowed for other, smaller companies to enter the market, fostered competition, and helped to lower gas prices for average Americans. A mixed bag for a President who was growing used to policy successes, the ongoing court battles with Big Oil occupied a fair amount of Mo Udall’s time over the next year and a half. That is not to say, of course, that he did not continue to lead and propose solutions to the country’s problems, but he did come to increasingly rely on House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D - MA) and Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy (D - MA) to craft and pursue his legislative agenda for him. Throughout 1978, this would largely take the form of a long-sought after liberal goal: a bill for full-employment in the United States of America.

    Though President Udall would ultimately have another very productive year in the legislative department, close advisors such as first brother and White House Chief of Staff Stew Udall urged Mo to “pace himself” and remember that November’s midterms were, as always, going to take the place of numerous issues as the party’s chief concern. While Udall remained largely popular, more conservative Americans were one step away from frothing at the mouth over his “liberal” guidance of the country. Moderates were often divided on their support for his progressive policy agenda, and while most working class American supported the President and his party, the middle and upper middle classes were beginning to grow leery of his open support of blue collar America. These suburbanites were largely more concerned with the possibility of a return of inflation than they were about workers’ rights or the potential impacts of carbon emissions on the environment. In some regions of the country, particularly Midwestern suburbs and the rural western States, Udall’s popularity slipped. These voters were traditional Republicans to begin with, sure, but as 1978 went on and Udall next turned his attention to fulfilling the pledge of signing a national Full-Employment Bill into law, they began to return to the GOP in droves. This was seen by those on the right as a positive trend, and conservative thinkers like William F. Buckley began to lay out the Republican strategy for November of ‘78: once again, appear reasonable in opposition, and push the national dialogue slowly and steadily toward the right. Make Udall look like a loon. Still, even Buckley had to admit, this would be no easy feat.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Full Employment and the Death of the Pork Barrel
    Update - 5/25 New
  • Hello everyone! Time for a quick update post, I reckon.

    I want to apologize quickly for the LONG hiatus I have (unintentionally) been taking from the site lately. This is not due to a loss of interest in the board at all, but rather a reflection of the state of my own IRL affairs at the moment. I have finally finished my course-work and graduated from College, albeit without a ceremony of course due to the pandemic and whatnot. But in the last several weeks since I have been trying to get back in touch with friends, help family with issues/situations they have been having, and helping my girlfriend move her stuff back home from school. On top of these, as some of you have pointed out, I have in fact been trying to keep up my personal habits as well - reading, writing, brainstorming, watching Jeopardy!, reading some Stephen King... I am very thankful for my continued health and safety, as well as the lively conversation that appears to be going on here in my absence. Thank you all for your continued interest. I will attempt to fill you in on your many questions, but apologize in advance if I miss someone or something. Please always feel free to PM me as well, as I will try to check back in more frequently now that school is a settled matter.

    Now... Let's try to dig in and answer some of these, shall we?

    Not by a long shot! :D I'm still working on new updates as we speak. As stated above, I've just been slow lately. Besides how busy I've been kept, one of my major challenges at the moment is deciding which topics to devote full updates to and which to combine into "mega updates" as it were. So much of this time period is so fascinating, and we're far enough away from the PoD now that butterflies are really starting to pile up... As Udall revolutionizes the country and keeps Progressive politics popular with at least some of the country, expect politics to be quite different from our own.

    I’m re-watching Rocketman with family right now, and I was wondering if we could get an update on what Elton Hercules John is up to ITTL in a future chapter?
    Yes! I will definitely make an effort to cover Elton John in more detail here soon. His personal life encountered some changes ITTL, and working for Apple Corps has given him the opportunity to play/record with his idols, the Beatles on more than one occasion for one thing...

    Will Spitting Image come along ITTL?
    I have every reason to believe it will! I look forward to imagining how it will cover PM Healy and President Udall, among other figures...

    Sounds cool. I wonder how James Bond has changed in Blue Skies
    A question which probably deserves its own update, no? I'm admittedly a touch amateur on my Bond lore, and could use some help generating possible divergences. I would welcome ideas from anyone who is interested. :)

    What are the following people doing ITTL?:
    Ben Carson
    Dick Clark
    Warren Beatty
    Howard Dean
    Carlos Ray Norris
    Speed round: :D

    Ben Carson - As per OTL, enrolled in the neurosurgery program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    Dick Clark - Hosting American Bandstand, Pyramid, and Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve every New Year's Eve. As per OTL, Clark has also opened a chain of restaurants - the American Bandstand Diner, which is analogous to the Hard Rock Cafe.

    Warren Beatty - One of the premiere movie stars and sex symbols of the 1970's. Beatty still debuted here with Bonnie and Clyde and is making a major name for himself as a writer and director as well as actor. Perhaps his most acclaimed role would come in 1987, when he played President John F. Kennedy in the moving, Oliver Stone written and directed biopic, JFK, which largely covered Kennedy's time in the White House and the various struggles he encountered there. (Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy was said to have "hand picked" Beatty for the role).

    Howard Dean - As of 1978, Dean just began his medical residency at the University of Vermont.

    Chuck Norris - Friend and protege of Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen, Norris is an up and coming action star who is still looking for that BIG breakout role. The closest he's come so far is 1977's Breaker! Breaker!

    What are Henrey Youngman and Gary Shandling doing so far ITTL?
    Gary Shandling - Encouraged by a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with George Carlin in the early 70's, Shandling has been hard at work as a comedy writer in Los Angeles, particularly on sitcoms like Sanford and Son, Welcome Back, Kotter, and Three's Company. As of '78, he's begun to move to stand-up, and seems to have a bright career ahead of him.

    Henry Youngman - The King of One-Liners is still hard at work in the comedy world. Currently (1978), he is working a residency at the Flamingo on the Las Vegas Strip.

    What I’m really curious is how Iran plays out. Khomeni is dead as a door nail but another radical could take his place and the revolution itself was a complex affair
    This will be covered very soon...

    Hi Mr president if i may ask how is Joe biden in this TL he still aiming for senate?
    I have covered this more at length in previous updates, but the short version is: yes! Biden was (as per OTL) elected as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat from Delaware in 1972. As of 1978, he is seen as one of the fastest rising stars in the party, and a leader of its more right-ward facing wing. He is up for reelection in this year's midterms, but he is confident he will be reelected. One major difference is that Biden's wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, were not killed in a car accident ITTL. Expect Biden to remain an important figure ITTL moving forward.

    Also what happens to Roman Polanski? The bastard jumped bail and saw a lot of people in Hollywood defend him. Maybe Marilyn can bring that up
    Unfortunately, Polanski's intention toward sexual abuse occurred ITTL as well, also in 1977. Charged with six crimes, including rape, Polanski attempted to plead "not guilty", but intense media scrutiny, the enmity of his ex-wife Sharon Tate (as well as her powerful new husband, Senator Ted Kennedy), and outspoken push back and advocacy, including by Marilyn Monroe, who offered to pay for all of the victim's legal fees, resulted in Polanski being convicted on all charges. He is currently serving fifty years at San Quentin Prison in California. While this conviction has rocked Hollywood to its core, it will still take time before the prevailing, sick underground culture of the powerful in Los Angeles is fully put on notice. This will ABSOLUTELY get a full update in the future, but I wanted to answer your question in the meantime.

    Thank you all as well for your kind words! I am blown away that Blue Skies has reached over 400 pages. Let's keep it going!

    Best wishes,