I’ve always loved the 1980s. I know it’s cliché nowadays, because pretty much everyone does, but to me, it just oozes cool. Everything from the music, to the films, the cars, the bad outfits and bad hairstyles, the political dynamics of the time, the intrigue of the Cold War, the awful tragedy of the AIDS virus, the big personalities and big achievements of leaders at the time (Reagan, Thatcher, Hawke, Gorbachev etc) and so much more. There was so much triumph and tragedy wrapped up in a single decade and it bookended so many important events like The Cold War.
Looking back, it just felt like a special time and important decade in the development of the world. And Reaganism was such a big part of that.
In my opinion, the 1980s, was like Reagan's Presidency, cinematic in nature.
But Reagan himself was a deeply complicated man, and his legacy is deeply complicated. Generally when people think of a Democratic 1980s, they have to remove Reagan entirely. Either Carter beats him in 1980, or Ford is re-elected in 1976.
But what if Reagan comes into office, the actor President who promised fundamental change in the America, and then fails to win re-election? What if Walter Mondale, the decent but doomed liberal candidate from out timeline, defeats him?
The kernels of that Reagan Revolution are still there, that famous inaugural address and landslide victory which showed a demand for change – but now, Mondale picks up the baton in 1984 and runs with it.
I make no secret that two of my biggest pieces of inspiration for writing this timeline are timeslines found in this website. The first is Patton in Korea/MacArthur in the White House, which proved to me how great narrative, chapter-based storytelling could be in an alternate history scenario, and how it didn’t necessarily have to be a novel in length to be compelling.
The other, of course, is McGoverning – a great, longer form style narrative which takes a deep dive into what a McGovern upset would truly be like. This, in many ways, is my own tribute to that – a feel good story about the victory of a fundamentally decent, doomed candidate in our world who ran on honestly, only to lose to sketchy, right wing demagogue because he told the people what they wanted to hear at the time.
And in a similiar twist, Nixon and Reagan, the two victorious demagogues, were damaged by scandal in their second term which told us more about the sort of administrations they truly ran.
McGovern and Mondale, for as different as they were, share a popular place in history: doomed idealists who seem predetermined to lose based on the popular perception of events as we know them. But for a shining moment, victory seemed within grasp for their true believers.
Well, consider this timeline a tribute to those true believers, and to the late, great Walter Mondale – the greatest and most influential Vice President in American history, and a man who stood for what was right, even when it was not popular.