Five Decades of Fear and Loathing - A Drew Spinoff.

Chapter I: January - March, 1971
A few years back, @Drew allowed me to write a spinoff for FLaG '72 which I've at last decided to launch. Much of the events of this version of the timeline between 1970-1975 will follow Drew's established arch, with a number of small PODs scattered throughout. The story will closely resemble the timeline in a condensed format, so if you haven't yet read Fear, Loathing, and Gumbo, I encourage you to stop reading here and check this link for Drew's timeline first. This timeline will set out to explain and expand upon the Gumboverse, and will be largely independent of the story arch by the end of the 1970s, meaning that Rumsfeldia (also a fantastic timeline worth reading) will be avoided by and large. I tested it out on another forum and got a good response, so I figured I'd try it here after reediting some of it.
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January - March, 1971.
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Governor John McKeithen.

The 1972 presidential campaign begins in earnest when liberal Democratic Senators Birch Bayh (D-IN) and George McGovern (D-SD) announce their candidacies. However, both Senators are beaten in the race for the earliest announcement by little known Louisiana Governor John McKeithen. A moderate in comparison to his other potential challengers with a questionable history on organized crime and race relations, McKeithen none the less runs as a center-left populist, the kind of Governor emblematic of what political scientists have dubbed “the new south.” Taking advantage of the rules laid out by the McGovern-Fraiser Committee which democratized the nominating process of the Democratic Party, McKeithen traveled throughout Iowa and New Hampshire with his two sons and a traveling aide. Starting his stump speech with the folksy introduction “I’m John McKeithen, and you don’t know me from Adam!” and ending with an earnest appeal, “won’t ‘cha ‘hep ‘me?,” the little known Governor of Louisiana played the long game under the radar.

As the month neared its end, former Vice President and Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey announces he too will enter the presidential primaries, though he once again does not actively campaign for the nomination. February saw Congressman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, the Chair of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, enter the arena. The Arkansas Congressman polled low but was optimistic that his patronage network in his home state could propel his favorite-son candidacy. McKeithen was not the only unknown to announce their presidential ambitions; Ken Hechler, a populist West Virginia Congressman with strong progressive credentials entered the race in early March. He was not known widely even within Washington, however, and many believed his candidacy was to boost his prospects for a potential Senate or gubernatorial campaign. While Bayh, Hechler, McKeithen, McGovern, and Mills hit the campaign trail, other prominent Democrats like Scoop Jackson and George Wallace waited in the wings.

But most importantly was the lingering shadow of Ted Kennedy, who despite facing serious scandal after the Chappaquiddick incident was still the obvious frontrunner. While Kennedy dithered about running, Terry Sanford made his choice clear – the former North Carolina Governor would not be running for President in 1972 and endorses McKeithen for the nomination instead. But Terry Sanford, however influential he may have been in his North Carolina, was but a grain of sand in comparison to the heir of Camelot. His scandal plagued history and the tragic fates of his elder brothers would suggest that such a candidate would be far, far, far away from the position of frontrunner. Yet by virtue of his name and the nostalgia it surrounding it, he remained a viable candidate and had the support of a major swathe of the party. Perhaps the most politically progressive of the Kennedy brothers, Ted knew that he was born to run. The only question he couldn't quite answer was "when?"

Meanwhile, the situation across the globe seemed to get only increasingly more chaotic. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge makes major breakthroughs and launches a ground offensive that advances quickly on the capital city of Phnom Penh. Forces loyal to President Lon Nol are able to repel the attack, though a raid on an airfield near the city leaves much of the Khmer Republic’s air force destroyed. The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot (referred to by the party as Brother #1) and Iang Sary, initially formed in the hinterlands as a small armed wing of the communist party, but had quickly grown into a powerful force within the destabilized nation. Having formed an alliance of convenience with exiled monarch Prince Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge blended hyper nationalism with a radically Maoist doctrine of leftism that vowed to take "Kampuchea" back to what they called "Year Zero."

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Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
But Indochina was not the only hotspot in Southeast Asia. In neighboring Vietnam, the war still raged much to the horror of American anti-war activists, and the Viet Cong insurgency continued bedeviling the American aligned government in Saigon for the duration of the year. In East Pakistan, an uprising by the region’s Bengali population throws India and Pakistan into a brief military conflict, which Nixon and Kissinger exploited masterfully. Having maintained close ties with both the United States and the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan used the Nixon administration’s desired rapprochement with China to trade access to Peking for military support. In violation of arms sanctions placed on Pakistan due to their heavy-handed tactics against Bengali independence activists in the leadup to the revolt, Nixon routed weapons to Pakistan through backchannels like Jordan and Iran. The USSR on the other hand provided support for India and the leftist inspired liberation movement in East Pakistan, which declared their independence as Bangladesh. Ultimately, Indian military intervention led to the surrender of all Pakistani forces remaining in the country, while the war on Pakistan and India’s eastern border remained a tense series of skirmishes. With the United States recognizing Bangladesh after the Indian intervention, the war ended quickly and without further bloodshed. Though relations on the Indian subcontinent would remain bitter, the prospect of nuclear conflict had been once again avoided.

At home, radicals were just as prolific. The capital building itself was bombed by the Weather Underground in April, though the blast only damaged an empty restroom and failed to injure or kill anyone. Weeks later, a group called the “Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI” successfully burgled an FBI field office in Pennsylvania while the security guards were distracted watching the Muhammed Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight. Though the radical left seemed increasingly active, the President enjoyed relative popularity and kept the “Silent Majority” coalition largely intact. Nixon had no trouble whatsoever getting former Democratic Governor of Texas John Connally to join his administration as Secretary of the Treasury, who was confirmed by a vote of 59-41. Nixon also surprised liberals when he lent his support to the successful effort to ratify the 26th amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 just in time for the elections, in addition to his signing legislation that created the Environmental Protection Agency the year before.

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Treasury Secretary John Connally of Texas.
As winter gave way to spring, the 1972 election was already fully underway. Yet the field, small but growing, was far from set. Worst yet, all four candidates remained under Kennedy’s shadow, nervously awaiting the frontrunner’s decision. Several prominent potential candidates like Ed Muskie, Fred Harris, and George Wallace remained noncommittal about the race as a result, knowing that challenging Ted Kennedy would surely become a fruitless endeavor.

Gallup: 1,000 Democratic Voters (Nationwide).
Edward Kennedy: 31%
Hubert Humphrey: 14%*
George McGovern: 13%*
Edmund Muskie: 11%
George Wallace: 10%
Henry Jackson: 5%
Birch Bayh: 5%*
John McKeithen: 4%*
Eugene McCarthy: 3%
Harold Hughes: 2%
Wilbur Mills: 1%
Ken Helcher: 1%
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  • No major PODs here aside from the obvious entry of McKeithen and Helcher into the race.​
 
Chapter II: April - June, 1971
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April - June, 1971.
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Senator Ted Kennedy - heir to Camelot.

Facing mounting pressure from the party leadership to make his intentions known, Senator Ted Kennedy announced on April 5th that he would not be a candidate for the Democratic nomination, instead vowing to support and campaign for the ultimate nominee. The decision and announcement by the dynasty scion and Massachusetts Senator frees up considerable support for other candidates, who begin testing the waters in rapid succession. The only one to officially announce however is 1968 Vice Presidential nominee and Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, who draws most of Kennedy’s loyal base of New England Democrats into his camp. Likewise, Senator William Proxmire and Harold Hughes both publicly weigh presidential runs, though both will later bow out before making any official announcements. John McKeithen, despite seeing only minimal traction, goes so far as to resign from his office as Governor in order to focus on his longshot presidential bid.

It is not a good spring for dictators, however. In East Germany, Walter Ulbricht is effectively removed from power after the ruling Socialist Unity Party names Erich Honecker as General Secretary. Though Ulbricht remains head of state for ceremonial purposes, his “retirement” from the party leadership means he has lost control over the day to day functions of the state. Ulbricht is lucky – he is still alive. The same can not be said of Haitian President Francois Duvalier, also known as “Papa Doc.” His death results in the ascension of his 19 year old son to the Presidency, though real power is wielded by the elder Duvalier’s widow and her lover, the feared leader of the Tonton Macoute.

If America was still at risk of being pulled apart by the increasing polarization, then Europe was surely the opposite. The growth of the European Economic Community results in French President Pompidou ultimately acquiescing to pressure from his West German counterpart over the issue of British membership within the EEC. While Pompidou is not thrilled by the prospect of the United Kingdom joining the European Community, other nations view British membership as a means of expanding Europe’s collective role in world affairs.

June ended with the release of the “Pentagon Papers,” a leaked series of documents which chronicled the history of American involvement in Indochina during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The New York Times published the contents of the report on the morning of Nixon’s daughter Tricia’s White House wedding. Yet once the wedding festivities died down as the day ended, the President went on the warpath. Seeking an injunction to stop the New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers, the controversy became tangled up in the courts. That did not stop Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) from reading them aloud into the congressional record, much to the displeasure of the President. Two weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times had a constitutionally protected right to publish them.

  • This chapter is kind of filler from OTL, which I did my best to fatten up. The real action will start soon. I want to again highlight the fact that this is a spinoff/retrospective look at FLaG '72, so all credit for what is to come through 1975 goes to Drew.
 
Chapter III: July - September, 1971
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July - September, 1971.
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Congressman John Ashbrook (R-OH)​

July saw little activity on the campaign trail, with the only major development being New York City Mayor John Lindsey’s defection to the Democratic Party. Though it was rumored that the Mayor had White House ambitions, he made no effort in the short run to put together a presidential campaign. Nixon meanwhile receives his first primary challenger in the form of Congressman John Ashbrook, a hard-right Republican from Ohio who announced a long shot presidential bid on July 4th. With Ashbrook virtually unknown outside of his district and the full weight of the Republican National Committee behind him, the President paid little attention to his primary challenger and continued his Rose Garden strategy for the time being. While the President governed undeterred by his longshot challenger, a new opportunity in the east emerged.

It was born out of the Bangladesh Liberation War, in which the United States armed Pakistan in exchange for a backchannel with the Chinese government in Peking. The deal was honored; in August of 1971, Nixon shocked the world by announcing the Chinese regime had extended an invitation for the President to the People’s Republic after Kissinger joined the US Ping Pong team in order to secretly travel unnoticed to China. By visiting Maoist China, the President hoped to exploit the divide in the communist world in order to diplomatically isolate the Soviet Union. Though this angered some conservatives (Ashbrook quipped that his only issue with Nixon’s China visit was his eventual return), the announcement was generally well received by the American public. This was not the case within the upper echelons of the Communist Party of China, where many devoted Maoists found themselves flummoxed by the “Great Helmsman’s” sudden shift in opinion to the United States. That’s when Lin Biao decided to act. A fierce radical and military leader whom Mao had named as his successor, Lin’s loyalty to the Chairman was unquestioned. It was a devastating personal shock to the aging Chinese leader when Lin attempted a military coup while Mao was traveling through the country on his train; the plot was foiled by Lin’s daughter just hours before the coup was attempted, resulting in Lin and his family fleeing the country by plane for neighboring Mongolia. Their plane crashed in mysterious circumstances as it neared the border, with many believing to this day that Mao had ordered it to be shot out of the sky.

Economic concerns were as pressing as foreign affairs; in mid-August, Nixon stunned the nation by announcing in a televised address that the United States would leave the Bretton Woods system and effectively abandon the gold standard. The President also introduced wage and price controls, which he promised would fight inflation. Though Nixon and his Treasury Secretary John Connally promised to only maintain these regulations for ninety days, they would remain in place much longer in the end. While the right grimaced at the greater role of government in the economy, the left complained bitterly that Nixon was not doing enough.

The President had better luck shaping the judiciary; in late September, Justice Hugo Black died and only a week later, Justice John Marshall Harlan announced his retirement. President Nixon tasked White House Counsel John Dean to lead the effort in finding suitable replacements for the Judge; having seen his first nomination (Harold Carswell) go down in flames a year earlier, Nixon intended to nominate more moderate and mainstream judicial figures. After reviewing the list compiled by Dean, Nixon announced his intention to nominate conservative Yale professor Alexander Bickel and former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairman William Brown to the high court. Though the First Lady had advised him to appoint a woman, Nixon made history in a different manner by nominating Bickel, a Romanian immigrant, and Brown, the second African American to be nominated to the federal bench, to the court instead. Though Brown would be quickly confirmed by a 70-30 vote after a brief and easy committee process, the more conservative Bickel encountered more resistance. After a grueling confirmation process, Bickel was approved by the Senate in a 57-43 vote.

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Alexander Bikel & William Brown III
Law and order minded voters were galvanized by the Attica Prison riots, where inmates seized control of the facility and took corrections officers hostage. On the order of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the National Guard was called up. Having seized arms from the armory, the inmates resisted violently, and a lengthy shootout followed. During the crossfire, 11 hostages and 33 prisoners are killed before order is restored at the prison. Governor Rockefeller, despite his liberal Republican credentials, was a fierce opponent of narcotics and was as committed to maintaining the social order as much as the President was. Despite the (eventually realized) fear of high casualties, Rockefeller had no qualms with sending in the National Guard. With explicit orders to shoot to kill anyone who resisted, the riot was put down in a matter of hours. The Governor receives nationwide attention and an equal share of praise and rancor over the incident.

Lastly, September saw liberal Senator Birch Bayh abandon his campaign following his wife Marvella’s cancer diagnosis. He was replaced in the race by Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, who was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration’s environmental and Vietnam policies. Other potential candidates began lining up their resources and staff to make last minute entrances to the race, including George Wallace and Eugene McCarthy among others.

1972 Democratic Primary (Gallup – Nationwide).
Hubert Humphrey: 24%
George McGovern: 20%
George Wallace: 18%
Edmund Muskie: 14%
Henry Jackson: 10%
John McKeithen: 8%
Eugene McCarthy: 3%
Fred Harris: 1%
Wilbur Mills: 1%
Ken Helcher: 1%

  • The first POD is the fact that Nixon placed two alternate judges on the Supreme Court, Bickel (an immigrant) and Brown III (second African American justice). This will have implications later on.
  • As I have noted, this timeline is basically entirely the work of Drew, who came up with the scenario. Right now, I'm laying out the events of 1971 quickly to bring context to the events to come. The timeline will parallel Drew's work through the mid/late-1970s, but will take on a different path at a certain point. Credit to Drew for creating the incredibly complex constitutional crisis.
 
Chapter IV: October - December, 1971
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October - December, 1971.
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George Wallace announces his candidacy in Birmingham.
The final phase of the Democratic campaign began in the late fall and early winter; George Wallace, Scoop Jackson, John Lindsey, and Eugene McCarthy rounded out the 1971 entries, though they would not be the last as others considered jumping in after the New Year's holiday. Despite his own primary challengers in the form of Ashbrook, and towards the end of December, Pete McCloskey as well, Nixon was not concerned. He was content to govern the country from the White House, confident in his solid lead in the polls. In any case, the battle to confirm his justices to the Supreme Court were much, much more important than the election, which remained a year off in the future.

While the Democratic field continued to fluctuate, the increasingly vocal left feared a repeat of 1968. Some outside the party formed a new organization called the People’s Party, which was an umbrella consisting of several already existing socialist parties and various social groups and radical causes. Nominating famed pediatrician Ben Spock for President and activist Julius Hobson for Vice President, the party’s electoral efforts quickly floundered when the Peace & Freedom party withdrew their ballot line in favor of nominating their own candidates.

Yet while the Democrats worried about their left flank, the Republican incumbent famous for his paranoia began to fear challengers who were emerging from both sides. Facing a challenge from the right in Ashbrook and the left in McCloskey, Nixon portrayed an air of confidence in spite of his private inclinations that suggested the Silent Majority was not as loud as he had hoped for. But the right was not entirely united around the Republican Party; in the Denver, Colorado living room of a Mr. David Nolan, seven libertarian and objectivist activists launched the Libertarian Party. Immediately setting out to work towards expanding their movement and party, they quickly grew in numbers and began slowly working out a ballot access strategy. Within a short time, they had even named a presidential ticket – philosopher and Ayn Rand acolyte John Hospers and activist Theodora Nathan of Oregon.

To secure his position, Nixon reevaluated the Republican ticket. Spiro Agnew was largely a do-nothing Vice President who was afforded little influence or responsibility. A conservative attack dog who was popular with the party’s right-wing base of support, Agnew had largely served his purpose. If Nixon were to face a strong challenge in the form of Humphrey, Muskie, or Jackson, then a more moderate replacement would be needed. Yet Agnew, for all his gaffes and flaws, still managed to be a powerfully effective spokesperson for the more conservative wing of the Republican Party. He was vocally critical of the mainstream press and was able to articulately communicate his disgust with the press in a manner that was creative and comical. With American’s major broadcasting networks all leaning to the left, and with Nixon’s historic animosity to the press, there was appetite in the White House and on Main Street for a more pro-Nixon outlet.

Sensing opportunity, Howard Hughes met privately with a number of White House aides on the prospect of forming a television network, tentatively named “the Hughes network.” Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman also saw opportunity – a chance to ditch Agnew at least. With John Ehrlichman’s help, the Chief of Staff pitched the incumbent Vice President as a possible nightly broadcaster. Intrigued by the idea and with both Nixon and Hughes blessing, Haldeman and Ehrlichman both approached Agnew with the idea. Though initially interested, Agnew declined the offer in the end with his heart and mind set on a 1976 presidential campaign. Agnew’s decision forced the President to consider dumping Agnew and naming John Connally Vice President instead. But in the end, however, Nixon surmised that Connally could beat Agnew in the next primary and decided the move would simply be too divisive. Agnew’s position was safe…for now at least.

In December, Nixon sent mixed signals to the left and right alike on where his exact ideological core was. First, he shepherded the Clean Water Act of 1971 through Congress to the delight of Democrats, and then signed it into law. The sweeping new environmental regulations empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to act against pollution, earning Nixon the support of some environmentalists.

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Controversial Agriculture nominee Earl Butz.
And yet he also nominates Earl Butz to the position of Secretary of Agriculture; the fiercely conservative academic had previously run in the 1968 Republican gubernatorial primary in Indiana before becoming known in Washington as an advocate of agribusiness. His mantra being “get big or get out,” Butz immediately stirs the pot upon his nomination by calling for the repeal of New Deal era regulations on crop size. Senators Robert Dole of Kansas and Milton Young of North Dakota, both pro-Nixon Republicans, tried and failed to prevent the nomination during a private meeting with the President before the roll-out. In the wake of this, the two formed a coalition of western Republican Senators over the course of the Holiday season in an attempt to stall and defeat Butz’s confirmation process. But Nixon’s occasional allies – the southern Dixiecrats – came to the rescue, pushing Butz’s nomination through the Senate by a margin of 54-46.

The Nixon shock meanwhile had created ripples across the global economy, which all together slightly slowed down during the final stage of the year. In December, Secretary Connally hosted the Group of 10’s representatives for a conference in Washington held at the Smithsonian Museum. What resulted from this meeting was the “Smithsonian Agreement,” in which the United States agrees to peg the dollar at $38 per ounce. This amounts to an 8% devaluation of the US dollar as part of the Nixon administration’s ongoing effort to move away from the gold standard. The move proves to be popular, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rises thirty plus points the following morning on Wall Street.

As the new year dawned and the primary contest approached, the field appeared to have largely taken hold. With Bayh’s withdrawal, McGovern largely had dominated the liberal wing while the grassroots, shoe-string budget McKeithen campaign began to slowly grow into the middle tier. Humphrey still dithered on the side, declining to enter his name into the upcoming New Hampshire primary while Wallace immediately began rallying his forces across the deep south.

1972 Democratic Primary (Gallup – Nationwide)
George McGovern: 22%
Hubert Humphrey: 20%
George Wallace: 15%
Edmund Muskie: 12%
Henry Jackson: 11%
John McKeithen: 9%
John Lindsay: 6%
Eugene McCarthy: 2%
Wilbur Mills: 1%
Fred Harris: 1%
Ken Helcher: 1%

  • So far, the only major POD of note is the entry of Ken Helcher into the race. The virtually unknown West Virginia Representative was inspired by McKeithen's "New South" ideology. This is just a minor display of the growing influence of the New South Governors (LeRoy Collins, Jimmy Carter, Lawton Chiles, Reuben Askew, etc, etc).
  • The Hughes Network job was pitched to Agnew in 1971. This isn't the last you'll hear of the proposed network, which you'd know if you've read the original FLaG '72 timeline.
 
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Chapter V: January - March, 1972
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January - March, 1972.
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Vice President Agnew and President Nixon.
Politically, the month of January was a fast moving one for sure. In the beginning of the month, Nixon appoints Governor Reagan of California to chair a blue-ribbon panel on bureaucratic reform. This was a position Agnew eyed and lobbied intensely for, and the snub created tension between the two men. The President’s goal was to isolate and eventually drive Agnew into retirement, but the plan would prove to backfire spectacularly. The Vice President had gotten used to spending his empty days golfing and also enjoyed being hosted by other world leaders at opulent state dinners. Similarly, the widely traveled Vice President liked to believe that his foreign goodwill missions were complicated diplomatic maneuvers, but in reality, Agnew held uninformed but unbreakably strong opinions and first impressions of other national leaders and international institutions. In spite of this, Agnew continued on in his role as #2, playing dumb when confronted by the press and pretending to have never desired the minor appointment to begin with. With McCloskey and Ashbrook to deal with on the campaign trail, plus the slowing economy at home and the increasingly violent war abroad on his plate, Nixon had little desire to rock the boat with Agnew in any event.

The race for President begins to heat up as the election year begins; the surprise announce of Las Angeles’s law and order focused Mayor Sam Yorty gives Wallace a competitor for the party’s populist votes. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm also enters the race, challenging McGovern’s monopoly on the liberal wing of the party while also attracting black and female voters to her fold. Campaigning as “unbought and unbossed,” Chisholm’s historic candidacy is met with a whirlwind of press attention. Inspired by her colleagues presence on the campaign trail, Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink also announces her plans to run as a favorite son daughter.

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Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm announces her longshot candidacy for the Presidency.

The first electoral contest takes place in the Hawkeye state, where the caucuses are conducted on January 24th. The new regulations put in place by the McGovern-Fraser Committee ensures that there is unprecedented public participation in the caucuses for the first time, though the contest fails to attract the attention of most candidates. Over 2,500 precinct delegates, most of whom were publicly committed to a certain candidate, would be elected by the caucusgoers. The result is a victory for Senator Ed Muskie, who did not actively campaign in the state. Following him in a close race for second is Governor McKeithen and Senator McGovern.

1972 Iowa Democratic Caucus: 2,600 Precinct Delegates, 46 Delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 29.54%-768 votes, 18 delegates.
John McKeithen: 23.87%-621 votes, 14 delegates.
George McGovern: 23.65%-615 votes, 14 delegates.
Uncommitted: 14.52%-378 votes.
Hubert Humphrey: 6.79%-177 votes.
George Wallace: 0.59%-15 votes.
Henry Jackson: 0.42%-11 votes.
Ken Helcher: 0.35%-9 votes.
Eugene McCarthy: 0.27%-7 votes.

One contender who did pay attention and actively participate in the caucuses was McKeithen, who placed second to Ed Muskie and gained fourteen delegates plus a plethora of media interviews. The now former Louisiana Governor doubled down in New Hampshire, where he was determined to make a splash. He fared equally well in the Arizona caucus, where he placed fourth in the similarly sleepy and ignored contest. Though Muskie won Arizona, his underwhelming margin of victory was noted, as was the surprisingly strong performance of Mayor Lindsay among retirees.

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Democratic Delegate Count
Edmund Muskie: 27 delegates.
George McGovern: 19 delegates.
John McKeithen: 18 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

The new “anti-McGovern” appeared for a period to be Muskie, who took the Bayh mantle of “electable liberal.” Politically, this positioned him perfectly between McKeithen and McGovern. Nixon viewed the Maine Senator as a far greater threat than his 1968 rival Humphrey (who continued to decline in polling while he waited on the sidelines), and the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) was active on the ground in New Hampshire as part of their efforts to scuttle Muskie's candidacy. Here, using stolen campaign stationary, Donald Segretti, a Nixon staffer with a penchant for “dirty tricks” pushed the “Canuck Letter.” The letter, purported to be an internal memo from the Maine Senator to his campaign staff, was reported to use a derogatory term to refer to the state’s Quebecois descended population. Similarly, rumors were planted that Muskie’s wife struggled with alcoholism, which earned the Senator’s ire. Speaking before the New Hampshire Union Leader’s office in a blizzard, Muskie bitterly attacked the paper for printing such rumors in an appearance that dramatically backfired. The melting snow on his face taking the appearance of tears, Muskie’s effort to be bold before the cameras only made him appear emotional and weak.

As New Hampshire’s primary neared, Nixon took a more proactive effort through CREEP to meddle in the Democratic primaries. To do so, the Attorney General John Mitchell resigned his post at the Justice Department to take on the role as campaign chairman. To replace Mitchell as Attorney General, the President named his Deputy Richard Kleindeist to the post, while Texas lawyer Joseph Sneed III took on the role once occupied by his new superior. A close ally of Nixon, Mitchell’s leadership at CREEP would prove to have unpredictable consequences.

All of this played out quietly in the background as the eyes of the world followed President Nixon on his state visit to China, where he meets directly with Mao Zedong in an unprecedented and historic visit. The China trip follows the announcement by the President that North Vietnam had agreed to peace talks in Paris, which were scheduled to commence in the not so distant future. Yet the prospect of peace, however hopeful, did not bring the war in Vietnam to any sort of standstill. In fact, just days later, American planes bombed Hanoi in one of the most destructive and largescale air raids of the entire war. The bombings reportedly killed over a thousand people across the country and destroyed hundreds of military installations and an innumerable amount of bridges, railroad lines, power plants, and other infrastructure. Anti-war protests break out across the globe in response, yet Nixon remains certain that the strategy will pay off.

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President Richard Nixon meets with Chairman Mao, the totalitarian ruler of China.

Yet Nixon’s return from China was met with scandal. Columnist Jack Anderson had published a memo from the International Telephone and Telegraph Company written by a Mrs. Dita Beard, in which the company has appeared to have offered the Republican Party of California nearly $400,000 to fund the 1972 Republican National Convention in San Diego in exchange for the settlement of an anti-trust case being pursued against the company by the Justice Department. Anderson, who did not disclose how he came into possession of the memo, also claimed that Attorney General designee Richard Kleindienst was pressured by the President into dropping the anti-trust case in order to allow for the convention to proceed as planned. Kleindienst flatly denied the allegations, claiming that the President never ordered him to scuttle the case nor that he would have ever followed such an order. Despite this, the report immediately results in Senate Democrats crying foul, with Senate Judiciary Chairman Edward Kennedy calling for President Nixon to rescind the nomination. White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler responded, questioning whether the Attorney General to-be could receive a fair hearing. Ziegler noted that the report comes just one day after Nixon’s return to China, which the administration attributes to media bias, and Spiro Agnew was quick to parrot this claim further.

1972 New Hampshire Democratic Primary: 86,174 Votes, 20 Delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 37.22%-32,073 votes, 11 delegates.
George McGovern: 34.33%-29,583 votes, 9 delegates.
Sam Yorty: 6.66%-5,739 votes.
Uncommitted: 5.47%-4,713 votes.
John Lindsay: 5.29%-4,558 votes.
Wilbur Mills: 4.55%-3,446 votes.
Henry Jackson: 1.36%-1,172 votes.
John McKeithen: 1.25%-1,077 votes.
Edward Kennedy: 1.18%-1,017 votes.
Hubert Humphrey: 0.90%-776 votes.
George Wallace: 0.67%-577 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 0.51%-439 votes.
Eugene McCarthy: 0.43%-371 votes.
Ken Helcher: 0.18%-155 votes.
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Democratic Delegate Count
Edmund Muskie: 38 delegates.
George McGovern: 28 delegates.
John McKeithen: 18 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

After the New Hampshire primary, the race turns south as the Florida primary nears. Their resources exhausted, the Ashbrook and McCloskey campaigns end as Nixon’s lock on the southernmost state was simply too strong. The Democratic primary in Florida meanwhile is more active. With a growing base of support, the McKeithen campaign begins to erode Wallace’s lead in the Sunshine State. With Scoop Jackson dominating in Miami with the backing of anti-communist Cuban refugees and a large community of Jewish retirees, frontrunner Ed Muskie finds himself locked out of the delegate laden state. He attempts to remedy this by traveling up the east coast via train for a whistle-stop tour, but the hijinks of a certain Hunter S. Thompson ensure the train tour turns into a disaster. Giving a drunken, stoned hippie his press credentials, Thompson’s decision results in the interloper spiking the punch with LSD, groping a train attendant, and twice interrupting two speeches by Muskie at stops along the way. He is ultimately forced off the train in Vero Beach, and Thompson is banned from the campaign’s press pool as a result. Thompson responds to this development by claiming the Senator is secretly addicted to ibogaine, further disrupting his efforts.

While McKeithen is able to keep Wallace on his toes in central Florida and the suburbs of cities such as Orlando and Tampa, the Alabama Governor manages to keep his firm hold on North Florida intact as the primary looms. The heated nature of the Florida primary is enough to buy Nixon time, and he uses this period to quietly sign an executive order banning the use of “busing” to racially integrate schools. This is hailed by conservatives and moderates in both parties, and even some liberals are privately glad that the very divisive and controversial matter had been at last settled.

1972 Florida Democratic Primary: 1,264,554 Votes, 81 Delegates.
John McKeithen: 27.89%-352,684 votes, 31 delegates.
George Wallace: 27.11%-342,820 votes, 29 delegates.
Henry Jackson: 17.44%-220,538 votes, 21 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 12.80%-161,862 votes.
Edmund Muskie: 6.50%-82,196 votes.
John Lindsay: 2.79%-35,281 votes.
George McGovern: 1.95%- 24,659 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 1.85%-23,394 votes.
Ken Helcher: 0.58%-7,334 votes.
Sam Yorty: 0.49%-6,196 votes.
Wilbur Mills: 0.38%-4,805 votes.
Eugene McCarthy: 0.22%-2,782 votes.

After Florida, the candidacies of Sam Yorty and Ken Helcher end as their already miniscule fundraising dries up. Illinois is the next major contest, but the party establishment in the state have aligned themselves to Muskie as the strongest potential nominee. Only Eugene McCarthy seriously challenges Muskie in the state, where he hopes a strong performance can jumpstart his flailing candidacy. Having significantly underperformed in the early contests in comparison to his 1968 campaign, the former Minnesota Senator would ultimately see his dreams dashed.

Illinois Democratic Primary: 1,225,290 Votes, 153 Delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 47.63%-583,605 votes, 76 delegates.
Uncommitted: 25.90%-317,350 votes, 43 delegates.
Eugene McCarthy: 22.37%-274,097 votes, 37 delegates.
Edward Kennedy: 4.10%-50,236 votes.

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Democratic Delegate Count
Edmund Muskie: 114 delegates.
John McKeithen: 49 delegates.
Uncommitted: 43 delegates.
Eugene McCarthy: 37 delegates.
George Wallace: 29 delegates.
George McGovern: 28 delegates.
Henry Jackson: 21 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

As March nears its end, the Senate votes overwhelmingly by an 88-12 margin to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment is sent to the states for ratification, with a sunset clause requiring the proposed 28th amendment to be adopted before 1979 in order to take effect. This victory for the growing feminist movement was followed by a supreme court ruling which prohibited states from banning the sale of contraception to unmarried people. These distractions took a backseat to the issue of Vietnam however, when the NVA and Viet Cong launched a major offensive in South Vietnam on Easter. With the offensive reminding an increasingly desensitized public of the carnage of the conflict, anti-war voices like George McGovern grew louder.

  • Italics on a candidate with no color attached indicates the votes are write-ins or a draft effort (like Ted Kennedy in NH/IL).
  • The early stages of the timeline will be in blocks of three months at a time; upon the start of 1973, each update will cover a month so I can include as much detail from Drew's original work as I can. These more concentrated updates will also explore other PODs that did not exist in the real FLaG timeline. Most of these will be related to avoiding Rumsfeldia, which is a fantastic work and is worth reading as well. What you can expect out of this timeline is an equally dystopic world, the reasons of which I will not spoil.
  • During this period in OTL, primary candidates often skipped certain contests without even putting their name on the ballot. Hence why Lindsay didn't get a single vote in Iowa but performed strongly in Arizona.
  • Hex codes for future updates: Muskie (#D17FD5), Chisholm (#D5AD7F)
  • The Hunter Thompson incident is completely true and happened in OTL, believe it or not.
 
Chapter VI: April - June, 1972
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April - June, 1972.
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Senator George McGovern's candidacy picked up speed in the later primaries.
The spring of 1972 sees the primary field’s top candidates truly take shape; amongst them are Wallace (who, despite not winning any contests is still a lock on the south’s delegates), McKeithen, Muskie, and McGovern. All the while, Hubert Humphrey waits in the wings, knowing the likeliest path to the nomination was through a contested convention. The next major test for the top tier candidates came in Wisconsin, where McGovern and Wallace found themselves locked in a battle for blue collar voters. Both believing that McKeithen’s growing appeal was purely a southern phenomenon, McKeithen went unnoticed as he worked quietly in the background. He found himself a much more palatable candidate for rural voters than either McGovern and Wallace. The state’s union voters overwhelmingly preferred Humphrey, whose name had been placed on the ballot as part of a draft effort. This ensured a four way contest for the bounty of Wisconsin's delegates, and was also indicative of how the race was breaking down. The odd man out in the end was Senator Muskie, who placed a distant fifth. This had a serious impact on his already besieged candidacy, weakening his credibility as a potential unifier of the party. Downtown in Milwaukee, the mood at McKeithen headquarters was jubilant. Triumphantly declaring “we got ‘dat big mo!” in his victory speech, McKeithen proved that he can compete and win on northern soil, giving him newfound credibility as a leading candidate.

1972 Wisconsin Democratic Primary: 1,129,095 Votes, 67 Delegates.
John McKeithen: 23.51%-265,450 votes, 17 delegates.
George McGovern: 22.35%-252,352 votes, 17 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 21.90%-247,271 votes, 17 delegates.
George Wallace: 20.41%-230,448 votes, 16 delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 7.95%-89,763 votes.
John Lindsay: 1.44%-16,258 votes.
Henry Jackson: 0.89%-10,048 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 0.68%-7,677 votes.
Eugene McCarthy: 0.52%-5,871 votes.
Wilbur Mills: 0.35%-3,951 votes.

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Democratic Delegate Count
Edmund Muskie: 114 delegates.
John McKeithen: 66 delegates.
George McGovern: 46 delegates.
Uncommitted: 43 delegates.
Eugene McCarthy: 37 delegates.
George Wallace: 29 delegates.
Henry Jackson: 21 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 17 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

In April, the presidential campaign took a backseat to one of the most important political battles of the decade. The War Powers Act, which severely handicapped a president’s capacity to use the military in his role as Commander-in-Chief without congressional oversight, was pushed through Congress. The bill, which cleared the Democratic controlled House of Representatives with ease, was expediently passed by the Senate by a vote of 65-19. Expectedly, the President vetoed the legislation, which subsequently resulted in the Congress overturning his veto. The act became law in spite of Nixon's efforts, and as a result the ability of the president to send troops into combat for missions lasting longer than 90 days was legally negated. Sensing a chance to humiliate Nixon and demonstrating an ability to throw the peace talks into chaos, the North Vietnamese crossed the DMV and occupied South Vietnam’s border province of Quang Tri. In April, Operation Pocket Money was launched as a retaliation for the offensive. The Navy and Air Force bombarded the coastal roads and mined the critical port of Haiphong. To make matters worse for North Vietnam, the Pentagon announced that “Operation Linebacker” – the continuous aerial bombardment of Vietnam – would continue indefinitely.

With peace talks in Paris breaking down due to the NVA’s aggressive Easter offensive, the resumption of large-scale bombing over North Vietnam results in hellfire raining from the sloes over Hanoi. Having famously declared in his inaugural address that the “greatest title” one could have was that of “peacemaker,” an enraged and humiliated Nixon drunkenly rambled in late night calls to Kissinger. In one such call, he first demanded the Air Force bomb dikes, which would cause largescale flooding and high numbers of civilian casualties. When a terrified Kissinger warned against this, Nixon then angrily ordered “the big one” be used. Kissinger did not pass along Nixon’s orders to the chain of command at the Pentagon, and rumors spread about the President's increasing reliance on liquor.

Though Nixon’s increasing drinking was cause for alarm in Washington’s elite circles, the public was kept in the dark as the war escalated yet again. Regardless, the primary season was enough to distract a public that was still weary and whiplashed from the chaos that defined the 1960s. Two small contests, Idaho and Vermont, were won by McKeithen and McGovern respectively, while in the reliably liberal state of Massachusetts, McGovern easily secured a massive victory over his only true challenger in the state, Ed Muskie. The defeat in Massachusetts is enough to force Muskie to suspend his campaign, and he returns to his duties in the Senate after vowing to endorse the eventual nominee. Muskie’s departure from the race is a major boon to McGovern, who now has only Shirley Chisholm to deal with on his left flank.

1972 Massachusetts Democratic Primary: 618,479 Votes, 102 Delegates.
George McGovern: 51.21%-316,723 votes, 53 delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 26.50%-163,896 votes, 28 delegates.
John McKeithen: 18.77%-116,088 votes, 21 delegates.
George Wallace: 8.20%-50,715 votes.
Hubert Humphrey: 7.30%-45,148 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 3.66%-22,636 votes.
John Lindsay: 1.75%-10,823 votes.
Eugene McCarthy: 0.93%-5,752 votes.
Henry Jackson: 0.45%-2,783 votes.

1972 Pennsylvania Democratic Primary: 1,374,263 Votes, 137 Delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 32.16%-441,962 votes, 58 delegates.
John McKeithen: 22.90%-314,706 votes, 45 delegates.
George McGovern: 15.08%-207,238 votes, 34 delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 14.34%-197,069 votes.
George Wallace: 11.00%-151,168 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 3.27%-44,938 votes.
Henry Jackson: 1.25%-17,178 votes.

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Democratic Delegate Count
George McGovern: 151 delegates.
John McKeithen: 142 delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 142 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 75 delegates.
Uncommitted: 43 delegates.
Eugene McCarthy: 37 delegates.
George Wallace: 29 delegates.
Henry Jackson: 21 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

The victory of the draft Humphrey movement in Pennsylvania again showed that the Senator and former Vice President remained a more acceptable, establishment brand of liberalism that distinguished itself from McGovern’s radical flair. The McGovern campaign was hurt further when Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) labeled him the candidate of “amnesty, abortion, and acid” after endorsing the draft Humphrey effort. Not long after, Humphrey again carried Indiana and places a not so distant second to McKeithen in Ohio. Shirley Chisholm meanwhile wins her first contest when she carries the District of Columbia, where black voters are the overwhelming majority of primary voters. Chisholm is the first black woman ever to win delegates to a national political party’s convention.

1972 North Carolina Democratic Primary: 821,410 Votes, 64 Delegates.
George Wallace: 53.21%-429,679 votes, 64 delegates.
John McKeithen: 38.62%-317,228 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 8.17%-67,109 votes.

1972 Tennessee Democratic Primary: 492,721 Votes, 49 Delegates.
John McKeithen: 47.36%- 233,352 votes, 26 delegates.
George Wallace: 40.50%-199,552 votes, 23 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 6.68%-32,913 votes.
George McGovern: 3.90%-19,216 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 1.56%-7,686 votes.

After the North Carolina and Tennessee primaries, the next contests were in Nebraska and West Virginia. For Humphrey, a major victory in West Virginia could propel him to the nomination. It was in this very state in 1960 in which he was bested by Kennedy, who proved once and for all that a Roman Catholic was electable. A victory in West Virginia in many ways to Humphrey was just as much a personal milestone as a political milestone, and aides and advisers close to the Senator were in direct contact with ground organizers in the buildup to the primary. Whereas McGovern was too radical, and McKeithen was known to be a union buster of sorts, Humphrey offered the intersection of pragmatic progressivism and electability, which played well with Democratic primary voters in the Midwest.

1972 Nebraska Democratic Primary: 192,137 Votes, 22 Delegates.
John McKeithen: 54.90%-105,483 votes, 22 delegates.
George McGovern: 23.86%-45,843 votes.
Hubert Humphrey: 14.20%-27,283 votes.
George Wallace: 7.04%-13,526 votes.

1972 West Virginia Democratic Primary: 368,464 Votes, 35 Delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 69.88%-257,482 votes, 35 delegates.
George Wallace: 16.44%-60,575 votes.
John McKeithen: 13.68%-50,405 votes.

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Democratic Delegate Count
John McKeithen: 287 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 209 delegates.
George McGovern: 151 delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 142 delegates.
George Wallace: 136 delegates.
Uncommitted: 43 delegates.
Eugene McCarthy: 37 delegates.
Henry Jackson: 21 delegates.
Shirley Chisholm: 15 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

As April turned to May, the primaries began to look increasingly unlikely to produce a nominee before the convention. Humphrey became more vocally critical of McKeithen, referring to him as “Gumbo Wallace” and criticized his record on labor relations. Yet the Humphrey-McKeithen feud was barely remembered by the end of the week it transpired in. While campaigning at a shopping mall in Laurel, Maryland, Governor George Wallace was shot multiple times while shaking hands with supporters after a speech. The gunman, a young man by the name of Arthur Bremmer, had previously stalked President Nixon and was preoccupied by the act of assassination. Four bullets penetrated critical organs while the fifth lodged itself in his spine. Losing over a pint of blood, and with his organs failing, it was initially thought that the Alabama Governor would lose his life as he was rushed to the hospital. Yet in spite of his severe injuries, the Governor was determined to live. Against all odds, he clung to life and awoke the next day in a hospital bed only to discover he was paralyzed from the waste down. Though his assassination attempt took him off the campaign trail for the remainder of the primaries, it also earned him a massive wave of sympathy from voters in Maryland and Michigan which propelled to his candidacy to victory in both states. The attempt on his life initially appeared to be the act of a radical leftist, which sparked a wave of law and order sentiment in the weeks that followed. Ultimately, the investigation into the shooting would conclude that the shooting was not politically motivated.

Whereas Nixon’s visit to China had overshadowed everything else in the news cycle, the excitement around the Democratic primaries by mid-1972 was enough to overshadow his second major state visit behind the Iron Curtain when he travelled to Moscow. As the first American President to travel to the Soviet capital, his direct summit with General Secretary Brezhnev saw an agreement to launch a joint space exploration program and finally the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) at a Kremlin ceremony. The President was hailed by his party for his triumphant trips to Peking and Moscow, and his surrogates derided the Democratic frontrunners John McKeithen and George McGovern as simply being too radical and dangerous to have a place on the international stage. For a while, this strategy worked. The incumbent busied himself with the rigors of Washington life, content to watch the Democrats tear one another apart in the background.

A wave of final primaries neared in early June; in California, McGovern bested McKeithen by the thinnest of margins in one of the most critical primary contests. As a result, McGovern nabbed 271 delegates, dramatically strengthening the South Dakotan Senator’s position as the convention in Miami neared. It was also a humiliating blow to Sam Yorty, who reentered the race as a favorite son candidate after he initially dropped out after the New Hampshire primary. Across the country in the largely uncontested and nonbinding New Jersey primary, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm defeated McKeithen by a healthy margin with the support of local McGovern supporters.

1972 California Democratic Primary: 3,564,518 Votes, 271 Delegates.
George McGovern: 35.27%-1,257,205 votes, 271 delegates.
John McKeithen: 34.08%-1,214,787 votes.
Hubert Humphrey: 12.36%-440,574 votes.
Sam Yorty: 9.87%-351,817 votes.
Shirley Chisholm: 5.61%-199,969 votes.
George Wallace: 2.78%-99,093 votes.

1972 New Jersey Democratic Primary: 76,834 Votes (Non-binding).
Shirley Chisholm: 55.17%-42,389 votes.
John McKeithen: 44.83%-34,444 votes.

1972 New Mexico Democratic Primary: 153,293 Votes, 18 Delegates.
George McGovern: 26.63%-40,821 votes, 5 delegates.
John McKeithen: 26.54%-40,683 votes, 5 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 23.88%-36,606 votes, 4 delegates.
George Wallace: 22.95%-35,180 votes, 4 delegates.

1972 South Dakota Democratic Primary: 28,017 Votes, 17 Delegates.
George McGovern: 100.00%-28,017 votes, 17 delegates.

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Democratic Delegate Count
George McGovern: 486 delegates.
George Wallace: 325 delegates.
John McKeithen: 306 delegates.
Hubert Humphrey: 213 delegates.
Edmund Muskie: 142 delegates.
Uncommitted: 43 delegates.
Eugene McCarthy: 37 delegates.
Henry Jackson: 21 delegates.
Shirley Chisholm: 15 delegates.
John Lindsay: 7 delegates.

The primaries were over, but the long national nightmare had just begun.

On the night of Friday, June 16th, a team of burglars, (James McCord, Bernard Baker, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, and Virgillio Gonzalez) were discovered inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel at 2:30 AM by security guard Frank Willis, and were quickly apprehended by Washington police. The story from the start seemed suspicious, and the Washington Post’s iconic duo of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward set out in search of the truth. It was quickly revealed that the burglars had set out to tap the phones of DNC Chairman Larry O’Brien, skills the men had mastered during their time in CIA. It was the connection to the CIA which startled Americans the most, and signed check in McCord’s pocket connected them to Howard Hunt, an operative working on the Committee to Reelect the President.

The President sprung into action, effecting a coverup that would haunt him for years to come. First, White House Counsel John Dean was sent to meet privately with Herbert Kalmbach, who represented the Watergate burglars in court, to deliver a briefcase full of cash that had been donated by businessman Howard Hughes. This was to cover their legal fees under the radar, as well as to keep them silent. G. Gordon Liddy, who was the overall leader of the burglary team, was dispatched to Washington’s Burning Tree Country club, where he privately confronted and attempted to threaten Attorney General Kleindeist in order to intimidate him into dropping the investigation.

  • Sorry this update was fairly boring; I wanted to run through the primary cycle to better explore the rise of John McKeithen. There is definitely more ahead, I've got this written all the way up through October of 1975.
 
Chapter VII: July - September, 1972
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July - September, 1972.

The Democratic Convention gave the Nixon administration one last final reprieve from the scandal that would soon engulf the White House. The convention opened in Miami, where hundreds of newly elected grassroots delegates took their positions in preparation for the upcoming presidential nomination process. The sweltering summer heat isn't the reason why many delegates were sweating, however. As tensions between the supporters of the various candidates quickly arose to the surface, many in the press hurriedly scattered among the convention floor in order to get a sense of what was to come. It was a question that had no answer, however. The common thread that united delegates was the collective uncertainty. The convention opened on a sour note, with immediate challenges from the three remaining major candidates towards McGovern after his win in California. Claiming California's "winner-takes-all" allocation system is against the rules, the Humphrey, McKeithen, and Wallace campaigns sought to redistribute the Californian delegates proportionally. The McGovern campaign argued successfully that changing the rules at the convention would be improper, and the rules committee sided with the McGovern campaign in a critical blow to Hubert Humphrey's efforts.

Also troublesome for the party was the insecurity over the labor movement's role in the process; though George Meany and Leonard Woodcock had been weary of George McGovern, they also hadn’t warmed up to his nearest rival John McKeithen. A majority of the labor backed delegates were being steered towards Humphrey, but his failure to seize a large chunk of the California delegation effectively rendered his path to the nomination useless. Their decision to support either McGovern or McKeithen would ultimately decide the nomination, and each campaign has lobbied the top party grandees in the hope of locking up the nomination once and for all ahead of the first ballot.

1972 DNC Ballot 1.png

The first ballot was, as expected, inconclusive. McGovern held a thin lead over McKeithen, with Wallace and Humphrey trailing far behind. Shirley Chisholm and her 86 delegates lingered in the background, with some of the most liberal voices at the convention even suggesting her name be put forward as the running mate of Senator McGovern should he win the nomination. Her keynote speech on the opening night of the convention, another historic first for a historic candidacy, electrified delegates and earned high praise from the press. Yet Chisholm, like Henry Jackson, Hubert Humphrey, and Ed Muskie, was forced to end her campaign on the first ballot.

The interim between the first and second ballots saw jockeying between the two main candidates as they attempted to rally delegates under their banner. With Humphrey having ended his campaign, the major labor leaders found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Though McKeithen had a less than pleasant history with the labor movement, McGovern was simply seen as being too radical for the American electorate. On the convention floor, tensions were running high as delegates argued among themselves and in some cases even clashed violently with their counterparts. A heavy police presence on hand ensured that these conflicts did not boil over into the full scale rioting which was seen after the 1968 convention in Chicago, and it was clear that the divide in the party would surely outlast the convention and continue well into the general election. As the second ballot drew near, it seemed that the hopes of victory in November were fading.

1972 DNC Ballot 2.png

With the race now thinning out to just McKeithen and McGovern, the party elites realized they had no other alternative. A last-minute attempt to lure Ted Kennedy into the race (on a ticket with Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina) was even weighed briefly by Chairman O’Brien, but there was simply no more appetite for additional balloting. With the help of pro-labor State Senator Benjamin “Sixty” Rayburn and the congressional Democratic leadership, Meany and Woodcock were finally agreeable to endorsing the former Louisiana Governor in order to stop McGovern.

1972 DNC Ballot 3.png

The convention hall erupted in prolonged cheers, applause, and boos as the party truly fractured. The former Governor and unexpected nominee took to the stage to announce the selection of Senator Birch Bayh as his running mate. Yet the nomination of Bayh, a liberal Senator with strong progressive credentials did little to appease the McGovern supporters present. The Senator himself had initially declined the nominee’s offer, but decided to join the ticket at the urging of his cancer-stricken wife. And so as McKeithen struggled through his acceptance speech, which was delayed until just past 3:00 AM due to the balloting, being interrupted repeatedly by hecklers backing McGovern as well. From the White House, the President watched the proceedings with delight. A vote to nominate Bayh by acclamation was held, and the nays were audibly louder than the yays. But an exhausted Chairman O’Brien banged the gable in favor of the Indiana Senator anyway, officially sending the McKeithen/Bayh ticket out of the convention and into the general election.

The Democratic ticket played it safe over the first week following the convention, campaigning in potential swing states on the same standard stump speech. As the news cameras covered the ongoing electoral process, Washington was still quietly abuzz as the Watergate caper continued to unravel. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had died earlier in the year, to be replaced by L. Patrick Gray. Angered at being passed over in favor of Gray, associate FBI Director Mark Felt took action and began leaking information to the McKeithen campaign. Campaign aides who received this information from the source (deemed “deep throat” by the nominee’s son Fox McKeithen, who was a key campaign figure) also received information from a second anonymous source named “sore throat,” but the identity of this leaker was never ascertained. Though some have speculated that CIA Director Richard Helms or National Security Adviser Al Haig, no concrete proof or evidence has ever emerged to prove if the second source even existed at all to begin with.

The Democratic Party’s objectives were further complicated by the announcement of Senator McGovern in early August that he’d seek the Presidency on a third-party ticket. The Peace & Freedom Party, which had earlier withdrew from the People’s Party coalition due to ideological disagreements with Dr. Spock (the nominee of the left-wing People's Party), and were eager to make their own mark on the American political scene. Just weeks after the Democratic Convention ended, McGovern was nominated for President by the Peace & Freedom party. Accepting their nomination, the South Dakotan Senator chose California Congressman Pete McCloskey, an anti-war primary challenger to President Nixon, to be on the bottom of a bipartisan anti-war ticket.

The Peace & Freedom party threatened the Democrats from their left flank and gave the GOP even more hope for an easy victory. But there was also trouble brewing in the south, where George Wallace had managed to have nine electors pledged to him added to the general election ballot. This ensures the fact that faithless electors would support his candidacy when the electoral college convened, even though the Democratic Party of Alabama had supported McKeithen and Bayh's nomination. The faithless electors handpicked by Wallace not only pledged to vote against the Democratic nominees, but spurred on a write-in campaign in Alabama as well as neighboring Mississippi in the hopes of giving the south greater influence over the course of the nation.

After the Democrats limped out of Miami more divided than ever, the Republicans gathered in the same hall just weeks later. Uniting around President Nixon and Vice President Agnew, the GOP convention was seemingly the polar opposite of the Democratic convention held earlier. The First Lady Pat Nixon becomes the first spouse of a president to address a convention in support of her husband, being accompanied on stage by Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) and Governor Ronald Reagan of California to the cheers of delighted delegates and the dramatic jazz music of a large brass band.

Behind the scenes, things were not quite as smooth as they seemed. Viewing Agnew as being too much of a lightweight to be a worthy successor, Nixon had instead groomed John Connally for the position of Vice President. But Agnew was popular among conservatives, and the Vice President's personality ensured that Nixon wouldn't be able to oust him from the ticket without a fight. Having attempted to lure Agnew onto the airwaves of the proposed Hughes Network without success, Nixon ultimately realized that it simply was too risky to dump his Vice President outright. Confident that Agnew and Reagan would split the conservative vote in a potential 1976 primary, Nixon looked forward to a second term, during which time he could build upon Connally’s credentials as a possible successor.

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The Republican National Convention in Miami.
But the Republican Convention (held in Miami after the ITT scandal plagued the plans to hold it in San Diego) was not free from dirty tricks. Just days before the convention opened, Nixon aide Donald Segretti – the man responsible for the “Canuck Letter” - was arrested after he propositioned a woman at a Los Angeles hotel. When police searched his room, $10,000 dollars in counterfeit money and forged Democratic National Committee stationary were found among his possessions. Segretti protested his innocence, claiming to have been the victim of a setup. A subsequent investigation into the matter by the Secret Service (no doubt tainted by Nixon’s intervention) found no wrongdoing on Segretti’s part, though the origin of the counterfeit money and stationery remained unknown.

Similarly, fliers began appearing on and under the hotel room doors of conservative delegates highlighting Nixon’s role in desegregating schools and pushing the controversial “busing” programs, while “Segreti dollars” with Nixon and Agnew’s faces upon them began circulating through the convention floor. The Nixon campaign cried foul, go so far as claiming that the McKeithen campaign was intentionally trying to sabotage the Republican convention.

While the Republican Convention’s proceedings dominated the airwaves, more dirty tricks were quietly occurring. Celebrities ranging from John Wayne to Frank Sinatra, political figures like John McKeithen, George McGovern, and George Wallace, and scores of journalists and wealthy Democratic donors began receiving phony letters from the IRS. The lion’s share however went to local Republican Party officials and convention delegates. Written on official stationery, the fake letters warned the recipient that they were being audited. Fortunately enough, only a few took the bait and it wasn’t long before the FBI was investigating the source of these letters.

With no discernable fingerprints on the letters aside from those of the recipient and the postal employers, few leads existed to aid in the investigatory efforts. Suspicion turned back to Nixon when the former IRS Commissioner Randolph Thrower noted that he had been approached by the President in 1970 to investigate unnamed individuals, a request he denied on the grounds of impropriety. All of this played out at in a world whose future seemed more uncertain than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis. The war in Vietnam still raged, and both Laos and Cambodia were threatened by the red menace as well. Itching to take on Israel once more, the Arab powers were rearming and rebuilding. The Libyan regime of Muammar Qadaffi even negotiated an agreement with Egyptian President Nasser to merge their nations into a pan-Arab state, a prospect that possibly could expand to include Iraq and Syria. The King of Morroco survived a coup sponsored by Libya in which his birthday party was strafed by fighter jets. In Africa, Uganda’s eccentric military dictator Idi Amin expelled the country’s sizable southeast Asian population. And on top of all that, terrorism again struck fear in the hearts of people around the world when Palestinian militants seized control of the Israeli Olympic team’s quarters, holding them hostage before slaughtering them during a botched rescue attempt.

But if McKeithen thought he could capitalize on the Watergate scandal, then he was sorely mistaken. Edward Partin, a former executive for the Louisiana Teamsters known for his testimony against Jimmy Hoffa, went to the press claiming he had repeatedly bribed the former Louisiana Governor during his tenure in office. McKeithen stridently denied all of the bribery allegations, but the cloud of corruption hung over both major party candidates. Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) announced he would hold Senate hearings before the Government Operations Committee to investigate the “dirty tricks” taking place. Republicans called before the committee included John Mitchell, Frank Malek, Jeb Magruder, Francis Dale, Kenneth Dahlberg, Maurice Stans, Hugh Sloan, James McCord, Gordon Liddy, Donald Segretti and Charles Colson. A handful of Democrats, including Billy Boles, Larry O’Brien, and Benjamin Rayburn were also called, but the greater number of Republican witnesses called only resulted in Ervin’s investigation being labeled a partisan witch hunt.

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Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina.

The race was still Nixon’s to lose by the end of September, in spite of the Washington Post’s report on the White House’s bugging of former Kissinger aide Mort Halperin. The White House continued to profess that it was a matter of national security, despite reports that Nixon in reality had ordered the bugging to determine if Halperin had leaked the Pentagon Papers to Daniel Ellsburg. The White House denied these reports, but considering how the Nixon connected Watergate burglars had taping equipment when they were arrested, it seemed there were fewer and fewer Americans deciding to believe the President. As the last month of the general election neared, both campaigns scrambled to destroy the other.

Gallup: 1,000 Registered Voters (Nationwide)
(R) Richard Nixon: 45%
(D) John McKeithen: 38%
(P) George McGovern: 9%
Undecided/Other: 8%
 
The Hughes Network was of course sold in OTL to Madison Square Garden Company who renamed it USA Network. This is funny because this means that in Rumsfeldia (which I will not mention again) USA Network has turned into a Fox News analogue that is basically the corporate bad guy from Mr. Robot.
 
The Hughes Network was of course sold in OTL to Madison Square Garden Company who renamed it USA Network. This is funny because this means that in Rumsfeldia (which I will not mention again) USA Network has turned into a Fox News analogue that is basically the corporate bad guy from Mr. Robot.
I didn’t know that, but that’s fascinating!
 
Chapter VIII: October - December, 1972
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October - December, 1972.
1613843875055.png

Congressmen Hale Boggs (D-LA) and Nick Begich (D-AK)
While the election dominates the news, the disappearance of Majority Leader Hale Boggs and Nick Begich over the Alaska triangle and the arguing of “Roe vs. Wade” before the Supreme Court play out quietly. Politically, October begins with George Meany of the AFL-CIO finally officially endorsing McKeithen, claiming that the Democratic nominee is more likely to defend labor rights than the incumbent. Yet his support is palpably halfhearted and the broader labor movement is still sharply divided. The Teamsters had pledged their support for the President, while the United Farm Workers would endorse the McGovern-McCloskey ticket.

Both McKeithen and Bayh immediately went on a blitz of the Midwest, barnstorming in union halls in critical states like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Nixon also began to campaign more actively for the first time, despite the difficulties presented by the Watergate scandal. While not nearly as active and as lacking in social graces as ever, the President nonetheless makes a number of appearances at rallies across the south, where he and McKeithen are locked in a tight race in several states. Also making a splash is the Peace & Freedom ticket, which thus far had attracted 10% of the vote in most polling. McGovern corralled his forces on the campuses and bussed them into the cities, where they quietly undertake an unprecedented grassroots voter registration drive. This is not initially picked up upon in the polls, as surveys tended to ignore samples that largely included inner-cities and minority populations. With the aide of Hollywood celebrities, the Peace & Freedom Party's presence in the race remains on the public's mind, though many believe the McGovern/McCloskey ticket

Senator Sam Ervin led the Senate Governmental Operation’s Committee investigation into the “funny business” going on throughout the election, but the hearings turned into a train wreck. Some witnesses like John Mitchell, the former Attorney General and head of CREEP, expressed their contempt for the hearings openly as they complained bitterly about perceived political bias. G. Gordon Libby, a suspect in the Watergate break-in, was also called to appear, where he repeatedly pleaded the fifth. John Connally, head of Democrats for Nixon, lost the trust and confidence of the President after his cooperative approach to Ervin and weak defense of the administration. Others, like James McCord, one of the burglars in the Watergate break-in, made waves when he claimed that he answered to G. Gordon Libby and John Mitchell in regard to the operation, though both men denied this.

But the real bombshell is former Assistant FBI Director William C. Sullivan, who confirms the bugging of Halperin and further reveals that the Johnson administration had known about Nixon’s alleged sabotaging of the peace talks during the 1968 campaign. This story, known as the “October Surprise,” sparks a marathon of journalistic investigatory work into the President’s activities. The President angrily denies the allegations, while Vice President Agnew rallies the Republican Party’s increasingly conservative base around the claim that the Democrats are leading a witch-hunt against Nixon. Defenders of the President begin raising recriminations about the circumstances of the 1960 election, the Kennedy administration’s rumored mob ties, and allegations of corruption against Governor McKeithen as a defense; the strategy seems to pay off, and Nixon remains competitive as a result. But it comes at the cost of the public's faith in government, as citizens already jaded by Watergate begin to throw up their hands in cynical frustration with the two major candidates.

Yet more and more revelations kept coming out. Sullivan’s story was corroborated by Clark Clifford, who was LBJ’s Secretary of Defense in 1968. The leaking of Operation Menu, the secret 1969 bombing campaign of neutral Cambodia, also pointed to a broader cover-up culture that seemed to permeate the White House. McKeithen doubled down, claiming that the President’s conspiratorial arguments were a sign that he was “cracking up.” Remembering Nixon’s debate debacle against Kennedy in 1960, the Democratic nominee went further, challenging the President to debate him on live television. Nixon declined, and McKeithen responded by asking “what is he afraid of?” The folksy former Louisiana Governor had a natural charm to him that the infamously awkward President simply could not replicate, which became a factor on the campaign trail. This time, the withdrawn Nixon simply seemed too suspicious for the public to swallow. This showed in the polls by mid-October, with McKeithen winning over the lions share of undecided voters while the President’s numbers remained stagnant.

Gallup: 1,000 Registered Voters (Nationwide)
(D) John McKeithen: 45%
(R) Richard Nixon: 44%
(P) George McGovern: 9%
Undecided/Other: 2%

While this all played out nationally, a different situation was occurring in Alabama. Though George Wallace remained on the sidelines, still recovering from the assassination attempt that left him paralyzed, he remained an active player in the game. The American Independence Party, which was founded by Wallace in ’68, had nominated hard-right California Congressman John Schmitz for President and activist Thomas Anderson for Vice President, but Wallace knew that a favorite son candidacy in his native Alabama would surely be successful. With the help of his underlings, Wallace quietly convinced the Alabama chapter of the AIP to instead place Wallace on the ballot with Lester Maddox as his running mate. The measure worked; though Wallace couldn’t campaign actively statewide, much less nationally, his popularity and sympathy gained by the failed assassination attempt was enough to keep him competitive with the other three candidates. A write-in movement was also spurred by Wallace’s henchmen in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, but these efforts were abandoned mid-October when it became clear they were generating little tangible support outside of Alabama.

On election day, the race remained a statistical tie. The President and Governor McKeithen continued actively campaigning throughout October, and both were physically and mentally exhausted as the final judgement of the voters loomed.

  • Up next is the election results, which I'll have up in due time by the end of the weekend.
 
Chapter IX: The 1972 Election
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The 1972 Elections.
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Former Governor John McKeithen (D-LA)/Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN): 266 Electoral Votes, 45.8% of the popular vote.
President Richard Nixon (R-CA)/Vice President Spiro Agnew (R-MD): 259 Electoral Votes, 45.7% of the popular vote.
Senator George McGovern (PF-SD)/Congressman Pete McCloskey (PF-CA): 3 Electoral Votes, 6.4% of the popular vote.
Governor George Wallace (I-AL)/Former Governor Lester Maddox (I-GA): 9 Electoral Votes, 0.7% of the popular vote.
Professor John Hospers (L-NY)/Activist Theodora Nathan (L-OR): 1 Electoral vote, 0.1% of the popular vote.
Other (American Independence, People's, Socialist Workers): 1.3% of the popular vote.

1972 Congressional Elections
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Freshman Senators: Orval Faubus (ID-AR), Floyd Haskell (D-CO), Joe Biden (D-DE), Sam Nunn (D-GA), James McClure (R-ID), Bennett Johnston (D-LA), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Ed Edmondson (D-OK), James Abourezk (D-SD), William Scott (R-VA)

List of Senators (as of January, 1973)
Alabama: John Sparkman (D), James Allen (D)
Alaska: Ted Stevens (R), Mike Gravel (D)
Arizona: Paul Fannin (R), Barry Goldwater (R)
Arkansas: William Fulbright (D), Orval Faubus (I)
California: Alan Cranston (D), John Tunney (D)
Colorado: Pete Dominick (R), Floyd Haskell (D)
Connecticut: Abe Ribecoff (D), Lowell Weicker (R)
Delaware: William Roth (R), Joseph Biden (D)
Florida: Edward Gurney (R), Lawton Chiles (D)
Georgia: Herman Talmadge (D), Sam Nunn (D)
Hawaii: Hiram Fong (R), Daniel Inouye (D)
Idaho: Frank Church (D), James McClure (R)
Illinois: Charles Percy (R), Adlai Stevenson III (D)
Indiana: Vance Hartke (D), Birch Bayh (D)
Iowa: Dick Clark (R), Harold Hughes (D)
Kentucky: Marlow Cook (R), Louie Nunn (R)
Louisiana: Russell Long (D), Bennet Johnston (D)
Maine: Margaret Chase Smith (R), Ed Muskie (D)
Maryland: Charles Mathias (R), John Glenn Beall (R)
Massachusetts: Ted Kennedy (D), Ed Brooke (R)
Michigan: Phillip Hart (D), Robert Griffin (R)
Minnesota: Walter Mondale (D), Hubert Humphrey (D)
Mississippi: James Eastland (D), John Stennis (D)
Missouri: Stuart Symington (D), Thomas Eagleton (D)
Montana: Mike Mansfield (D), Lee Metcalf (D)
Nebraska: Roman Hruska (R), Carl Curtis (R)
Nevada: Alan Bible (D), Howard Cannon (D)
New Hampshire: Norris Cotton (R), Thomas McIntyre (D)
New Jersey: Clifford Case (R), Harrison Williams (D)
New Mexico: Joseph Montoya (D), Pete Domenici (R)
New York: Jacob Javits (R), James Buckley (C)
North Carolina: Sam Ervin (D), Jesse Helms (R)
North Dakota: Milton Young (R), Quentin Burdick (D)
Ohio: William Saxbe (R), Robert Taft (R)
Oklahoma: Henry Bellmon (R), Ed Edmondson (D)
Oregon: Mark Hatfield (R), Robert Packwood (R)
Pennsylvania: Hugh Scott (R), Richard Schweiker (R)
Rhode Island: John Pastore (D), Claiborne Pell (D)
South Carolina: Strom Thurmond (R), Ernest Hollings (D)
South Dakota: George McGovern (D), James Abourezk (D)
Tennessee: Howard Baker (R), Bill Brock (R)
Texas: John Tower (R), Lloyd Bentsen (D)
Utah: Wallace Bennett (R), Ted Moss (D)
Vermont: George Aiken (R), Robert Stafford (R)
Virginia: Harry Byrd Jr. (I), William Scott (R)
West Virginia: Jennings Randolph (D), Robert Byrd (D)
Wisconsin: William Proxmire (D), Gaylord Nelson (D)
Wyoming: Gale McGee (D), Clifford Hansen (R)

1972 House of Representatives Elections.
Democratic: 227 seats (-28)
Republican: 205 seats (+25)
Independent: 1 seat (+1)
Vacant: 2 seats (-)

Congressional Leadership.
Speaker of the House: Carl Albert (D-OK)
House Majority Leader: Tip O'Neill (D-MA)
House Minority Leader: Gerald Ford (R-MI)
President Pro-Tempore of the Senate: James Eastland (D-AL)
Senate Majority Leader: Mike Mansfield (D-MT)
Senate Minority Leader: Hugh Scott (R-PA)

Post Election Events
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President Nixon delivers his remarks from the White House in the early morning hours after election night.

America awoke on Wednesday morning unsure of the fate of the Presidency; it appeared, by the thinnest of margins, that McKeithen had carried the popular vote. Yet even that fact remained clouded in uncertainty as the last returns slowly trickled in. Many states remained close and rumors of recounts circulated from sources both campaigns. In fact, the only thing that seemed certain was that an immediate winner would not be declared. The close result – the tightest margin since 1960 – kept millions of viewers glued to their television well into the early hours of the morning. At 3:30 on Wednesday morning, McKeithen broke the stalemate and finally addressed his supporters at an election night event in New Orleans. He did not outright declare victory but did note that he carried six more electoral votes than his rival. Most notable was his prediction that the election would be thrown to Congress, an increasingly likely possibility floated by television commentators as the night wore on. At 4:15 AM, Nixon finally addressed his supporters. His remarks were similarly somber in tone, encouraging supporters to “have faith in the process” and advising them to go home and rest.

The Louisiana Governor had clearly unraveled the famed “solid south” which the Republicans had so painfully worked to craft, but Nixon was still able to hold on to the upper south by carrying Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. McKeithen fared well in the Midwest, where support from labor unions and traditional Democratic machines in northern cities ensured that Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania fell into his column. Nixon however was able to carry Illinois and all of New England due to the presence of McGovern on the ballot, who attracted liberal voters to his banner in these traditionally Democratic heartlands. Though Wallace’s “favorite son” candidacy carried more electoral votes (and thus would be considered during the potential contingency election), it was the Peace & Freedom candidacy of McGovern that had the most impact on the election. Carrying Washington DC’s three electoral votes and six percent of the popular vote, the South Dakotan Senator demonstrated to the Democratic Party (which he was technically still a member of) the power of the party’s progressive wing. McGovern, who was the only candidate to campaign on the promise of statehood for the district earned the support of the local Democratic Party machine which steered a considerable amount of otherwise skeptical African American voters towards the Peace & Freedom ticket.

The public’s dissatisfaction with the uncertain result was shared by Wall Street; the Wednesday after the election, the Dow Jones fell 125 points as investors panicked and began selling shares. Precious metals were in hot demand as fears of inflation and an economic slowdown suddenly seemed even more realistic. Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns warned of capital flight, which could further erode at the already weakened state of the economy.

Around the world, the lack of a clear winner threw foreign governments into confusion. In Moscow, the leadership of the Soviet Union was divided as to how to move forward. Pravda, the official propaganda outlet of the USSR, used the election to propagate the claim that the election result was, somehow, a sign that the American proletariat were on the verge of an anti-capitalist revolution. The reaction in Peking was more muted, with People’s Daily giving the story only a single sentence of coverage as Mao played the waiting game. The Chinese were more in tune with the reality of the situation; while the Chairman waited behind the walls of the Hidden City, Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet leadership in the Kremlin watched in awe, believing their own propaganda about the American oligarchy led by Nixon was in reality setting a purge in motion. With only the backroom machinations of the Kremlin as a frame of reference, Brezhnev feared that Nixon was in reality strengthening his hand.

But it was in Hanoi where the election generated the most interest. Following the revelation of the “October Surprise” and Nixon’s employment of Ana Chenault as an intermediary and the President’s subsequent collapse in the polls, North Vietnam temporarily halted the peace talks until the fate of the administration was known. The fact that no candidate obtained a majority in the election only ensured that this brief pause was anything but temporary. Both Nixon and McKeithen used this as an argument in favor of resolving the election in their favor, and the President went so far as to privately call the former Governor a traitor after he spoke out against corruption in Saigon, which North Vietnam interpreted as a sign that he might offer a better peace deal.
 
Chapter X: November - December, 1972
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November - December, 1972.
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George Wallace, who fancied himself kingmaker.
A bargain was in the works in America. The President had sent two emissaries to discreetly meet with Governor Wallace in the hopes of convincing him to not contest the upcoming contingency election. But the Alabama Governor, still recovering from his assassination attempt, demanded a seat on the Supreme Court in response, knowing his position as kingmaker could ensure such an appointment. This demand infuriated Nixon, who withdrew his offer, and instead ordered his underlings to whip the Republican congressional caucus into shape ahead of the contingency balloting. Wallace made the same demand of Governor McKeithen during their own face to face meeting, and like Nixon, McKeithen ultimately concluded that playing games with Wallace would do little to advance his ambitions. He was too close to leave any room for error anyway.

Nixon had other tricks up his sleeve. Days after McKeithen’s summit with Wallace, Attorney General Richard Kleindienst announces an investigation into alleged organized crime connections to the Louisiana state government involving price fixing for contractor bids. Governor McKeithen claimed the investigation was a political stunt, and offered his full cooperation because, as he slyly noted in an interview with CBS, “I ain’t got ‘nothing to hide.” This story was drowned out by the undecided electoral outcome, the continuing conflict in Indochina, the stalling economy, and the growing cloud of Watergate. The story quickly went under the radar, but the investigation continued quietly in the background.

The planned contingency election was set to consume the incoming Congress should the electoral college fail to select a president, but the death and state funeral of former President Truman put a pause to the plotting, pushing, wheeling, dealing, wining and dining that was going on in both parties as the nation lingered into a second month without a clear winner of the election.

Complicating the matter is the fact that McKeithen and Nixon both have filed lawsuits demanding recounts in twenty states. There was talk of an Arbitration Committee being formed by Congress, using the disputed 1876 election as a precedent for this. Fortunately for the President, the bulk of the Republicans in the House remained behind him, at least for the short term. Though the ongoing Watergate controversy and the lingering possibility that Nixon himself could be implicated in the break-in weighed on all members of Congress, the word “impeachment” remained far from the minds of most members of either chamber. This factor kept moderate and liberal Republicans from fleeing the fold, and Nixon’s campaign was sure to nip Watergate in the bud before any more shattering revelations make their way into the papers.

But this quickly proved to be challenging; the Washington Post’s team of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had discovered the existence of a secret slush fund financed by the Shah of Iran after following a paper trail to a Mexican bank. The revelation that Nixon’s campaign had this money secretively in a foreign bank account led to speculation that the campaign was laundering funds used to silence or support the President’s “plumbers unit.” The story continued to get more bizarre; in Chicago, United Airlines Flight 553 crashes as it tries to land at Chicago O’Hare airport. Onboard are two notable passengers – Congressman George Collins (D-IL) and Dorothy Hunt, the wife of Watergate ensnared Nixon operative Howard Hunt. Recovered from Hunts luggage is $10,000 dollars, the origin of which remained unaccounted for.

As Christmas neared, some aspects of the election became clearer. A number of recounts in several states were completed, their results proving to be insufficient to change the outcome. California’s young Secretary of State Jerry Brown (who had backed the Peace & Freedom ticket of McGovern/McCloskey during the campaign) announced he was throwing out 5,040 votes in the conservative Orange County due to a technicality involving the punch ballots. This would swing the state, and thus the election, into McKeithen’s column. Brown’s cabinet counterpart, the Republican Attorney General Evelle Younger, filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the certification of a Democratic slate of electors. After a lengthy legal battle that lasted right up until the days before Christmas, the Supreme Court ruled a stay on naming any electors until the matter could be resolved, which meant that on December 18th, the state lacked an official slate of electors to represent California on the day the electoral college was to formally vote in state capitals across the country.

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Heber Ladner, Mississippi Secretary of State.​

A similar situation played out in Mississippi, where the state’s long serving Secretary of State Heber Austin Ladner came under fire for using frivolous technicalities to throw out votes from African-Americans as well as write-in votes for George Wallace (the two segregationists didn’t care for one another, to put it mildly), which saw the Supreme Court intervene and issue a moratorium on the certification of Mississippi’s electoral votes until a proper recount could be conducted. When the electoral college’s electors gathered in the capital buildings of their home states to cast their votes, both California and Mississippi simply did not cast votes. The result was now official – the election was going to Congress.

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John McKeithen: 251 electoral votes.
Richard Nixon: 222 electoral votes.
George Wallace: 9 electoral votes.
George McGovern: 2 electoral votes.
John Hospers: 1 electoral vote.

The incoming contingency election began to take a toll on the beleaguered Nixon, who was increasingly reliant on Dilantin and liquor. In one angry, drunken late night call to the Secretary of Defense, a drunk and rambling Nixon demanded nuclear strikes against North Vietnam and China, much to Melvin Laird’s horror. Laird did not pass along the order by the President, who likely didn’t even remember the phone call in any event. The incident disturbed the Secretary of Defense to such a considerable degree that he decided to stand down as quickly as possible as he scrambled to find a low key corporate executive job. The order by Nixon was not entirely new - he had previously ordered Kissinger to bomb the dikes in North Vietnam during a similarly drunken rage. Laird's decision to stand down sparks rumors across Washington about the full extent of the President's alleged drinking problem.

On New Year's Eve, as decision day neared, there was one final bit of bad news to end the year of 1972. A B-2 bomber damaged by anti-aircraft fire over Hanoi was forced into Chinese airspace, where the plane was reportedly abandoned by the airmen on board who parachuted out. Their status was unknown, and their fate would remain a mystery for some time.

  • More coming tomorrow. To answer @TheBalkanizer's question, this timeline will be a mix of good and bad. Not necessarily dystopian, but a lot crazier than OTL none the less.
 
All right! Biden still wins the Senate seat in your version. In @Drew's version, he loses the bid twice, becomes Governor of Delaware, and I haven't heard anything about him since.
 
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