Excellent update as always. The amount of research put into this, as well as the effort made to capture everyone's voices, shocks me every time.
[9] What I love about research is how many bizarre moments you find in history — it almost begs people like us to write stories like these. The Q&A session from the Dayton, Ohio town hall actually happened. The questions are pulled from OTL, as are Carter’s responses — even the question about the Curse of Tippecanoe. The strange part is, while I can’t claim to know what another human being was thinking, of course, we do know that John Hinckley, Jr — yes, that John Hinckley, Jr — was in the crowd and presumably heard this question and Carter’s answer. It was too surreal to not include in the story, and, of course, every good author does what they can to weave a bit of foreshadowing.
This, in particular, is an amazing thing to find and include.

[5] The original text of this chapter included Carter’s memorable gaffe (See below if you don’t know what I’m referring to at about 2:48), but the gaffe was a combination of Carter’s fatigue (his speech was delayed well into the night because of circumstances that would not be replicated here, and the teleprompter malfunctioned that night).
"Hubert Horatio Hornblower" is such an obvious and easy thing to butterfly that I'm honestly heartened you considered including it. IMO it's one of the funniest moments in politics. I just can't get over how Carter says it with such conviction — his voice doesn't waver as he realizes he's fucked up, he firmly believes he has it right — and then awkwardly follows up with "…Humphrey!"
 
"Hubert Horatio Hornblower" is such an obvious and easy thing to butterfly that I'm honestly heartened you considered including it. IMO it's one of the funniest moments in politics. I just can't get over how Carter says it with such conviction — his voice doesn't waver as he realizes he's fucked up, he firmly believes he has it right — and then awkwardly follows up with "…Humphrey!"
And the audience is cheering him on, too. They probably didn't notice until he self-corrects either.
 
“There’s no reason anymore in this country after the great work that Congress has done in the last three-and-a-half years for any young person to be deprived oa. College education because of economic circumstances. So, we’ve done that, it’s a great achievement, and I think we’ll build on it.” Carter moved on to the next question, but his staff wasn’t sure that he’d earned a vote yet.
Should this read “deprived of a college education”?

In any case, this TL is just magnificent. The shit-fight at the RNC was a highlight for me personally, but this latest chapter was heart warming. The optimism from the Carter campaign is justified without straying into anything that resembles wish fulfilment.
 
A viewer of the 1980 Democratic National Convention would not have the sense that this was a party that — one year ago to the day — was prepared to toss out their incumbent president in favor of a challenger by a margin of nearly 50%. There was no indication that the Party had just come through four years of bitter internal squabbling. In fact, there was little mention made of either of Carter’s two primary challengers. Jerry Brown didn’t speak at all, and Ted Kennedy gave an early evening address on the opening day of the Convention. It was a clear rebuff of the Massachusetts senator, but Kennedy had neither the delegates or the will to make the moment into anything more. He gave a terse speech focused on the need to continue a fight for Democratic values. It wasn’t clear if that meant supporting Jimmy Carter against Ronald Reagan.
I think this may be one of the neatest little details of this entire incredible chapter. It's brushed over so quick that you might miss it; if you don't know the era well you might not have even taken notice of it. Not only have you elevated Carter and his reception, you've scrubbed perhaps one of the most important speeches in the history of the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party (not to say Carter wasn't plenty progressive, as this chapter points out time and time again--just too eccentric to really fit in any wing without ruffling all the feathers) from the tapestry of history. Downgraded the greatest huzzah of the Lion of the Senate's entire career, the loudest roar that echoed in the valleys and shattered the eardrums into a passing message, into a trivia point. It's beautiful how artfully it's done.
 
Last edited:
Look, I really hate that the LGBT community and support for them is getting used as a cudgel here. It is not meant as a dig towards you, the author, I fully acknowledge that this is not some idealized version of the seventies we're reading here. If this happened in OTL, it would go down as such and with the Republican party being as it is, it makes perfect sense to go down this route. It's pretty disgusting that Falwell is going to basically force the campaign to walk back the somewhat decent stance Kemp took in that last sentence, a decent stance for the time I should add.

But that being said, if I were watching this from the outside and had a vested interest in watching the Republicans fail?
“Let me say this once and once only,” Kemp started. Behind him, a squeamish Bush tried to nudge himself out of the shot, lest he appear to be standing behind Kemp in any recording while the nominee said whatever it was he was about to say. Wirthlin, too far away to interrupt, looked on in horror. “I am not a homosexual, and I have never — not once — engaged in homosexual conduct of any sort. These are lies spread about my character, and I am not going to stand for them.

“Yes, there were homosexuals on the staff — two of them, in fact — and Governor Reagan — he was the governor at the time — moved swiftly to take care of the issue. I owned a cabin with these men, but I never went to it, and I was never a part of their … activities.” Kemp began to turn away, but then worried that maybe he’d gone too far. He didn’t want to give the impression that he lacked compassion for gay people, but rather he just wanted to set the record straight on his own sexuality.

Leaning back towards the cameras, Kemp continued, “Of course, I believe in civil liberties for homosexuals. I just am not one. I don’t behave in that way,” and then he went into the restaurant. George Bush couldn’t help but feel that if Reagan had just sucked it up and chosen him, this whole campaign would be going a lot smoother. He dutifully followed the Kemp entourage into the restaurant.
This is literally jaw dropping to read. And I mean that in the best way possible.

I'm sure he managed to play it cool.
“Teaching,” he said matter-of-factly. “I would draw the line there. I would not let them teach in schools. I think a school board should have the right to choose what type of example we have for our children in public schools.”
Ah. That's the sound of a man nestling the gun further into his foot. I mean it would only be worse if he managed to complete a hat-trick.
A reporter from the Post followed up with the only logical question: “Congressman, you’re a parent. If the school board in your hometown were considering a measure about this, what would you ask them to do?” In reality, Kemp had already given his answer the day before, hadn’t he? But repeating it would solidify the difference between him and his running mate.

“My opinion doesn’t matter,” he answered, and then he was whisked away by staff into the next event, leaving reporters dumbfounded.
Oh for god's sake, what the fuck is Jack even DOING at this point?
“Well, that’s not exactly true, Congressman. In the course of our reporting, we spoke with a local reporter out of Phoenix, Bill Best. Best alleges that Seals spoke to him years ago about the incident and that he himself was propositioned — sexually — by a member of the Reagan inner circle.”

At Rancho del Cielo, Hannaford couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was the man who’d propositioned Best. He stood up from the couch and began pacing the room, sweating profusely. Reagan paid it little attention. He was sick to his stomach.
I think you ought to know that there have been no alternate history stories that have made my jaw fall open THIS much. I salute you sir, this is amazing to read.

I'm trying to work out if there is an OTL counterpart to this....self immolation of the hopes and dreams of the Republican party. H W's 'No New Taxes' required an actual term in which Bush had to have the chance to raise those taxes. Eisenhower's "If you give me a week I might of something" could qualify but seems a little too mild Goldwater going against the grain on the Civil Rights Act had a lot more benefit for the Republicans in the long run than in the short term. "No Jack Kennedy" killed Quayle as a serious contender to the office itself but he still got to serve as vice-president (I'm of the opinion that a Quayle 96 run would have been prime material for a Buchanan take-over). The closest thing I can think of is maybe the revelation of Senator 'Porno-Gramm's'....interesting choice of investment in the 1996 primaries? I don't know, I'm drawing a blank. It's perfect Streisand effect in action, even if there is nothing going on now people will think there is. I'm impressed that you managed to make Kemp dig a grave even deeper than what I could imagine. The idea of Bush wanting the ground to swallow him up and all that being captured on camera is....look, it is very funny to read even if it is very depressing to be reminded of the official position of the Republicans back then.

You'd think that knowing Carter gets a second term would ruin the excitement of it. Certainly a better handling of the hostage crisis seems like a no brainer to get you to that point. And yet here it is, the news that Jimmy's got some groove back! Even Billy manages to fall under the radar, which you know, fair play on playing that. Honestly, Carter going as far as he did seems like a gaffe, it makes sense as a gaffe....and at the same time I was absolutely cheering him on for saying so! I'm absolutely a partisan hack in this manner, to be clear, but I'd have to hope that your average voter would see the difference between the two campaigns at this point.....But the downballot races are going to be really interesting to read.

And you are right, history is fucking weird. And Hinckley being there is....well that's ominous. Very ominous indeed.
 
I like how Carter's big dramatic Liberal Lion anti-racism speech is also the reason why he starts getting less of an easy time in the polls. Makes this TL seem much less wish-fulfilly.

In the audience, a different man was struck by what he’d just heard. Jimmy Carter wasn’t afraid of death. [9]
uh oh
 

Vidal

Donor
I like how Carter's big dramatic Liberal Lion anti-racism speech is also the reason why he starts getting less of an easy time in the polls. Makes this TL seem much less wish-fulfilly.

Thank you! This is pretty much per OTL. At that point we were still at the point when calling out racism seemed like a violation of the norms around partisan campaigning and the reaction was swift.
 
I honestly feel bad for bush here, he was far from perfect but I’ve always considered him one of the last vestiges of when the Republican Party was reasonable. I can’t imagine being him and seeing the party ur in fall to such low levels that fucking Jerry Falwell is influencing your presidential candidates. At least IRL he got a presidency out of following the new Republican line but here it seems like he’s going to get nothing.
 
The audible “Oh no!” I, a gay man born in 1998, let out at the start of the Kemp debacle was capped off by the gasp I let out at the Seals interview.

Great writing.
 
Last edited:
I appreciate the way the tension builds here - you have Reagan and Kemp fucking up, but there's also the sense that they're making the best of a bad situation, and meanwhile Carter has his own stuff to deal with. I mean, obviously we know how this election ends from the title, but here it feels earned.
I think this may be one of the neatest little details of this entire incredible chapter. It's brushed over so quick that you might miss it; if you don't know the era well you might not have even taken notice of it. Not only have you elevated Carter and his reception, you've scrubbed perhaps one of the most important speeches in the history of the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party (not to say Carter wasn't plenty progressive, as this chapter points out time and time again--just too eccentric to really fit in any wing without ruffling all the feathers) from the tapestry of history. Downgraded the greatest huzzah of the Lion of the Senate's entire career, the loudest roar that echoed in the valleys and shattered the eardrums into a passing message, into a trivia point. It's beautiful how artfully it's done.
It really goes to show some of the tragedies of Carter winning, because in order to do so, he not only has to passively overcome Kennedy but actively push him and his wing of the party aside.
 

Vidal

Donor
Excellent update as always. The amount of research put into this, as well as the effort made to capture everyone's voices, shocks me every time.

Thank you!!

"Hubert Horatio Hornblower" is such an obvious and easy thing to butterfly that I'm honestly heartened you considered including it. IMO it's one of the funniest moments in politics. I just can't get over how Carter says it with such conviction — his voice doesn't waver as he realizes he's fucked up, he firmly believes he has it right — and then awkwardly follows up with "…Humphrey!"

HAHA. This is so true! It's actually an incredible gaffe in that it's not a "Fool me once shame on... can't get fooled again" stumble over words. He is so confident haha -- great point.

Should this read “deprived of a college education”?

Yes, fixing!

In any case, this TL is just magnificent. The shit-fight at the RNC was a highlight for me personally, but this latest chapter was heart warming. The optimism from the Carter campaign is justified without straying into anything that resembles wish fulfilment.

Thank you! It's an important balance to strike.

Look, I really hate that the LGBT community and support for them is getting used as a cudgel here. It is not meant as a dig towards you, the author, I fully acknowledge that this is not some idealized version of the seventies we're reading here. If this happened in OTL, it would go down as such and with the Republican party being as it is, it makes perfect sense to go down this route. It's pretty disgusting that Falwell is going to basically force the campaign to walk back the somewhat decent stance Kemp took in that last sentence, a decent stance for the time I should add.

It's not fun, that's for sure. But there will be some silver linings in the next few years. I think the reality is that gay men were a great scapegoat throughout the Seventies as part of the response to the left's progress. Women won a number of rights, but gay men?! Too far!

As some know, the original version of the timeline included a Reagan & Lugar ticket. I knew that 1) Bush wouldn't be on the ticket after a more protracted and bitter primary; 2) This provided an opportunity for a running mate who could cause headaches for Reagan. Lugar was seen as in over his head and a gaffe machine early in his career. So, the plan was to go that route, but then I figured the gay rumors could provide a bigger hit on Reagan than some foot-in-the-mouth statements.

It was fate that Secret City came out in time to really enhance the rumors and give additional context on the rumors so that I could more fully incorporate them.

I think you ought to know that there have been no alternate history stories that have made my jaw fall open THIS much. I salute you sir, this is amazing to read.

Thank you :) I appreciate that!

You'd think that knowing Carter gets a second term would ruin the excitement of it. Certainly a better handling of the hostage crisis seems like a no brainer to get you to that point. And yet here it is, the news that Jimmy's got some groove back! Even Billy manages to fall under the radar, which you know, fair play on playing that.

I promise we haven't seen the last of Billy.

I appreciate the way the tension builds here - you have Reagan and Kemp fucking up, but there's also the sense that they're making the best of a bad situation, and meanwhile Carter has his own stuff to deal with. I mean, obviously we know how this election ends from the title, but here it feels earned.

Thank you, friend! We're doing everything we can. The nuance of getting us out of the hostage crisis required a lot of fun research and thinking through. Even up until today, I was going back and forth on whether or not I thought 1) Iraq would be motivated to invade early and 2) Whether that would help or hinder Chris's negotiations. I didn't have it included and then when I read it back before posting, it just felt like I had to add it back in.

And yes, Reagan's splitting hairs and artful dodging is a credit to our own convo awhile ago about this. I went back and re-read how exactly Reagan talked about it all in the moment, and it was clear that he was trying to leave everyone happy. As I should've expected...

It really goes to show some of the tragedies of Carter winning, because in order to do so, he not only has to passively overcome Kennedy but actively push him and his wing of the party aside.

The good news is they're still going to be there when he starts governing!
 

Vidal

Donor
Wooo! Gonna jump into this tonight. Incredible as always be the looks of it. How long did this take to write up?

It's hard to say, really. I've been writing chapters for about a year now. Some came to me in only 1-3 sittings (like the convention chapter), others got chipped away at section by section with weeks or months in between
 
Couple thoughts about the general election between President Carter and Governor Reagan.

I think Carter needs the following two things to happen for him to win.

1. Successful Democratic National Convention. Carter needs to have a better convention speech in particular. And needs to tame the Lion. And not call the late Huber Humphrey, "Hubert Horatio Hornblower." Heck, maybe Carter needs to scrub any mention of HHH, and focus on the present and future. Not what could have been. Carter needs to revisit his promise to never tell a lite to the public and how he has lived up to that promise. How times may be tough, but to ask the American people to trust in a leader that levels with them, that challenges them, that tells them what they need to hear. And not necessarily what they want to hear. He should articulate a message that under his leadership America has lived up to its greatness while acknowledging its faults. And yes, limitations.

2. Successful Debate Performance. Carter needs effective rebuttals to "There you go again," and the "Are you better off than you were four years ago." I'll be curious to see if Paul Corbin, or whomever is able to steal Carters debate prep book. Preventing that will take from Reagan a major advantage he had over Carter. Of course, if the Reagan campaign is caught trying to obtain Carter's debate prep book. It's even worse, if a Nixon guy, is found to be involved.

Three Wildcards

1. Billy.
It's never good when you are POTUS and your brother has to register as an agent of a foreign government. I'm not sure what Carter should do here.
2. John Hinckley. Originally planned to shoot Carter in October of 1980. I'm hoping that he doesn't make any attempt in this timeline.

3. The Hostages. Carter has mined the harbors rather than go with a difficult rescue attempt. If Carter can get the hostages released, before the election. That's a huge boost to his chances. And it's even better if it happens before the debate. What really hurt Carter was this cataclysm of it being one year since the hostages were taken, Billygate, and the Debate. Carter getting the hostages released, without resorting to force, would not only vindicate Carter, but help the Democrats and the New Left find some redemption on Foreign policy after the Collapse of South Vietnam.

I'm thinking the following happens:

1. The Democrats have a great convention. Though there are some precarious moments.
2. Roger Stone is caught trying to steal Carter's debate book.
3. Iran releases the Hostages after the Iran Iraq War breaks out. Carter's (and Vance's) approach is vindicated.
4. Carter performs strongly in the debate against Reagan, who is flustered several times. "There you go again," and "Are you better off?" are successfully countered.
5. President Carter wins reelection, Democrats hold the Senate.
6. President Carter, survives an attempt on his life in March of 1981 by John Hinckley. Fortunately for Carter, he isn't even hit and the new story is largely forgotten. Except on Alternate History.
Looks like Carter has addressed two wildcards I identified, the Hostages, and Billy. The Democrats also had a very successful convention. I'm not sure what's going to happen with the debate. But I think we all know what's about to happen on the Campaign Trail.

So far my first and third predictions have occurred.
 
I don’t have much to say about the update that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just note that I was listening to The Band’s Tears of Rage (good song) while reading it and it contributed to the atmosphere in some way I can’t describe. Other than that, it’s VERY gratifying to read a TL where Reagan’s campaign gets turned on its head (though the anti-LGBTQ speech and homophobia is painful to read).
 
Last edited:
Top