Playing with Mirrors

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Expat, May 9, 2017.

  1. Threadmarks: Prologue

    Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia

    August, 1965

    “Doc, you’ve got that look on your face.”

    “Ron...I’m afraid it’s not good news. The results came back; we found a malignancy.”

    The next few minutes pass in a blur of technicalities, but he finds his eyes and attention glued to the x-ray projection of his throat on the back-lit wall. “Non-fatal” is a phrase that cuts through, and he immediately thinks of Nancy and the relief that will grant her, not thinking of himself at all. A moment’s pride accompanies the realization. But he knows this cancer. He knows what’s coming. He pops back into focus when he hears the word:


    “...You’re gonna take my voice, doc.”

    “I’m...I’m so sorry, Ron. But with the surgery you can live a long and full life.

    The doctor’s words fade away as he turns inward, folding into himself. And this time he doesn’t really come back again. Not really. Not ever.

    October, 1966

    George Christopher Makes a Decision

    He’s getting sick of it. Another deployment of one of his favorite lines from his stump speech, the one that ends in, “renewing the promise of the Party of Lincoln,” another round of tepid applause from the room stuffed wall-to-wall with county-level officials of the California Republican Party.

    It’s so frustrating! He’s on track to win the governor’s mansion- by at least nine points if the polls are to be believed- and perhaps even swing the legislature back to the GOP as well. And here are club conservatives looking at him like he’s suggesting he give their daughters the clap. All because he embraces civil rights, an issue that shouldn’t even be an issue in California!

    “They’ll have to go,” he says to himself.

    March, 1967

    Tricia works for the governor as a community liaison. In this capacity, she’s giving a formal dinner to a County Republican Club in central California.

    It was like a eureka moment, like the sun was emerging from behind the clouds. She could see the realization dawning on the room. They’d been dominated by “conventional wisdom” for years now, and were just realizing how much control they had over what conventional wisdom was going to be.

    Trish had planned the event well in advance. Done her research. There were really only three die-hard conservative “American Enterprise” types in this particular county club. Unfortunately, they were the President, the Secretary, and one of the biggest donors. Any first-year anthropology student could’ve explained how the entire county fell in line behind a few men of will and means. It took more subtle means to dismantle that power.

    First, Trish had waited until the donor was out of town on business. She then made sure the president would have a place on a blue ribbon panel in Sacramento formed by the governor to promote agricultural best practices (blue ribbon panels were a fantastic, meaningless tool for removing pompous obstacles from her path). She decided to risk the wrath of the secretary, who seemed like the weakest link anyway.

    Next, Trish organized the dinner, booked the speakers, hired the caterer, and put herself in hostess mode. The rest took care of itself. Diverse speakers. History lessons. Celebrations of Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and the great California progressives of the 20s and 30s. Introductions to potential candidates running for state legislature and county supervisor. Facilitating plans for fundraising dinners. And throughout, talk of adopting environmental and civil rights language into the club’s statement of beliefs.

    It was usually that easy. Most people didn’t hew to their beliefs as steadfastly as they thought they did. Most people examined familiar patterns for familiar conclusions. All you needed to do to shake things up was show them more exciting interpretations of those familiar patterns.

    Republicans often fought against civil rights because people told them they were already wicked for not supporting civil rights, which only caused them to grow even more iron-bound in their assertion that their present beliefs were completely reasonable, and that if continuing the argument meant not supporting civil rights, well then that’s what they’d do! The trick was not convincing Republicans to support a given position. It was to convince them they were already supporting a given position, to assert that every true Republican already believed a thing to be true, and since they were true Republicans obviously they’d been on the right side of things all along. Most people would accept this as praise without any degree of self-examination to determine if it was true. A pat on the back was infinitely more pleasing than a painful mental audit.

    And it certainly helped that Governor Christopher had won the election, and (narrowly) brought the state house in on his coattails, too! Nothing succeeds like success. The Reaganites were on the ropes, the moderates were advancing.

    People left the dinner happy. They left inspired. They left with a change in local leadership in mind. They left as Christopherites.

    December, 1967

    Of course this was still politics. Some persuasions were less admirable than others.



    “You asked what it would take, I’m telling you.”

    “Okay, but you’re gonna have to give me more than that, Jimmy.”

    “You know my development off Garden Avenue, near the 5?”

    “Do I need to know it?”

    “...Well, look, I got this development, see? Seven houses off Garden Avenue, near the 5.”


    “Look, smart-ass, I can always walk over to Schlafly’s goon if you’re not interested-”

    “Okay, okay, sorry, okay. Okay. So you’ve got these houses, what about them?”

    “Well when I say ‘off Garden Avenue’ I guess what I should really say is that they’re about a half mile from Garden Avenue on this beautiful hill, see? Beautiful views all the way down. But the county won’t pay for a public connection road on anything over a quarter mile. Now how is that fair? So I gotta shell out for a half mile of road? I mean, unless I can shift that cost onto the home buyers, but who’s gonna accept that in this market?”

    “Jimmy, that’s a cryin’ shame. I mean an upstanding businessman like you? Stymied like that. Just a shame. I mean, it would be a shame, except here’s what’s going to happen, Jimmy. Your friend the governor, see? He likes his public works. We’ve got a road safety measure working its way through the state house right now, plenty of provisions for improved highway connection dollars meant to ease the access of public interstates, like the 5, and which funds are available to any project within five miles of said interstates. I don’t see your problem lasting much longer, Jimmy.”

    “Well that’s amazing, sounds like a great bill. And I’ll tell ya, if that were to happen, I’m sure I can convince my friends in the Rotary to back your man for county supervisor.”

    “Your man, Jimmy. I want you to start thinking of him as your man.”

    November, 1968

    California. Early November, before the election. Tricia’s having dinner with Nick. Nicky doesn’t work in politics like Trish; he’s in pictures.

    “I’m telling you, we’re building a new coalition here.”

    “And I’m building up an appetite. Where’s our food?”

    “It’s only been a few minutes, give them a break.”

    “I just find it galling to have to wait for health food. Let’s get it over with already.”

    “Nick, you said you’d give this a try. The doctor says your gut’s a ticking time bomb.”

    “I’m about to show this waiter a ticking time bomb if we don’t get some food soon. What did you order for us, again? I wasn’t listening.”

    “Do you ever listen?”

    “Sure! I was listening to your work...thing, about the...the...coalition?”

    “It’s a new coalition for the 1970s, Nicky, and it’s going to secure Republican fortunes right through the goddamn millennium.”

    “You know how often people say that in politics? You know what usually happens to your ‘new coalitions’ nine times outta ten?”

    “I’ll take those odds. I swear to you, just watch. Next Tuesday, Nicky.”

    “So what do you think would be a good night for you?”

    “Well, I know what, this is going to sound like a weasel answer, but-”

    “Not too late to not give it!”

    “No, I think it’s important to look beyond number of seats for a second. Do I think we’re going to win some seats? Yes, I think the California GOP is going to win some new seats, maybe five seats if we’re lucky. But you know how we’re going to win them? You know how the Christopher faction won all those primaries earlier this year?”

    “You got more votes than the other guy?”

    “But those votes, Nick! What votes! Such votes! 35% of the Afro-American vote in the primaries, you have any idea the last time Republicans scored 35% of the Afro-American vote in a goddamn primary?”

    “I do not. But I doubt we were calling them ‘Afro-Americans’ at the time.”

    “You’d be right. And women! We’ve been losing women slowly since about 1956, but now we’re back like gangbusters. Since Christopher backed the call for the Equal Rights Amendment the demographic trends have flipped on us!”

    “Don’t let’s get started with your demographic trends, Trish, I won’t be able to control myself.”

    “That’s the future, Nicky: we temper the Chamber of Commerce types, we bring in minorities and women, and we get the national conservative types to take a hike with their backwards social agenda and antebellum fantasies. And next Tuesday is when it all begins.”

    “Thank god, the food!”

    A waiter deposits two plates, asks if there will be anything else, and departs.

    “I don’t half hope you’re not wrong, Trish. But California’s California. The rest of the country already thinks we’re out of step.”

    “Oh you’re paying even less attention than I thought if you think this is just California, buster. Governor Christopher’s been talking to people all over the West, building connections. We’ve got a few candidates this go-round, but even more for local elections in the pipeline. We’ve got a progressive running in the Nevada district, though he’s not going to win. And we successfully primaried that lunatic Steiger in Arizona. Our man might have a chance there.”

    “Goldwater country?”

    “Surest way to take the wind out of the conservatives' sails is to bring up that failure of a man.”

    “Speaking of failure...Trish, what the hell am I eating?”

    “It’s called seitan.”

    “...It’s what? Satan?”


    “You’re making me eat something called Satan? I mean it’s apt.”

    “Nick, the doctor said-”

    “Doctor? I need a priest.”

    Nick crosses his knife and fork in front of his chest.

    “Seitan, I rebuke thee!”

    “Are you going to play with your food or-

    “Get thee behind me, Seitan!”

    Trish starts laughing. Pretty soon they leave and go grab a burger.

    August, 1974

    A thousand Republican political operatives watching Nixon make his announcement on a thousand television sets exhale as one:

    “Well. Shit.”

    (Then most of them grab a scotch.)

    November, 1975

    “This is absurd. This is absolutely god damned absurd.”

    “I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, Mr. Vice President.”

    “Who are they choosing? No, don’t tell me: Dole.”

    “That’s...Senator Dole is a strong possibility, sir, yes.”

    “You’re afraid Ted Kennedy will be the challenger and you’re already trying to push to the right, is that is? I’m not fascist enough for those pricks in the John Birch Society, so you’re bringing in a Quisling they can nod at without putting off the housewives?”

    “I’m authorized to assure you, sir, that there will be a place for you in the next adm-”

    “Oh save your breath, Dick, just tell me the West Wing isn’t seriously considering this cockamamey idea. It’s pandering! It’s pandering and it’’s...such inside baseball, the voters are going to hate it. You’re talking about changing horses mid-stream, Dick, acknowledging the incumbent made a bad decision, and what’s more, you’re gonna make me the sin-eater. I’ll have to take responsibility for all the crap that’s gone wrong here over the last two years. How is that remotely fair, Dick? How is that remotely fair?”

    “It’s a done deal, Mr. Vice President. I really am sorry.”

    “Mr. Vice President,” he repeats it, venom dripping from every syllable. “Mr. Vice President. You know how much god damned water I’ve carried for the Republican Party? I was clean, Dick, I was untainted, Watergate didn’t touch me. But Nixon comes to me, he says, ‘George, the party needs you.’ So I waded in, I god damned waded in up to my god damned eyeballs and held the party together! Party Chairman in 1973, when the god damned roof was off the barn, Dick! And I did my job! Then this sorry appointment. Vice President. Tell me, Dick, what was the point of giving me the job in the first place if you bastards were just gonna kick me off the ticket again in two years?”

    “Sir, you were told at the time that this was a possibil-”

    “Tell me, dammit! Because right now it feels like the whole thing was an exercise in wasting my time.”

    “That’s not true, sir. George, you know that’s not true. There’ll be something. I can’t promise State, but maybe State. Something. Just stay the course and the president will take care of you.”

    “Bullshit. Bullshit, Dick! This is it for me. I’m done. The people know it, the ones that matter anyway. Passed over for renomination to a sinking ship? I won’t be able to get elected dog-catcher after this. No, I’m done, this is the last straw. I’ll finish out my term- and they should be god damned grateful I’m man enough to do that, by the way- and then I’m done. You won’t get me back in this town if you appoint me emperor.”

    “This is raw, sir, I know. I think it’s best if we just table this for now and come back to it once perspective sets in. This doesn’t have to be the end of anything, George, but that’s for you to decide; you and Barbara. I’ll just say one more thing before I go: we need you to announce this soon, within the month. We don’t want it coming out during campaign season, it can’t look like a political move.”

    He sighs and it’s enough to return his composure. His father always insisted on composure, and even at 51 his filial training never abandons him for long.

    “Go on, Dick, you’re just the bagman, I know. Get out of here and let me think.”

    He rises to shake the aid’s hand.

    “Thank you, Mr. Vice President.”

    His thoughts are a red hurricane whipping around cyclically from one point to another, eventually back to the beginning, picking up speed with each rotation. The face remains placid, unmoving, though the color slowly deepens.

    What will he do? Go along to get along? No. Surely not again. Every man has his pride, his breaking point. He is about to be publicly embarrassed in front of the whole country. And for what? So that Ford can score a half a percent in five key battleground states; so that his inevitable defeat is marginally less of a landslide. It makes him a little less mad to think about it, to think that he isn’t the only sacrificial lamb. That’s all Ford ever was, after all. God damn Dick Nixon. He’d ruined this party for a generation.

    The hurricane passes but the sky remains dark and low. Big sky. He wants- needs- big sky now. Texas has big sky. There’s the oil business, always an option. And Rice had left an open invitation for...whatever job he wants, really. That could be a good change of pace.

    He can tell he’ll never get over the disappointment. In some other world he knows he could’ve been president. Just not this world. Not anymore.

    “God dammit.”

    Early January, 1976

    Dateline: Iowa

    “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.”

    - President Gerald Ford

    Late January, 1976

    DC. Two mid-level drudges from the RNC, sharing a newspaper at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove over a much-needed afternoon drink:

    “Well how the hell did that happen?”

    “I still can’t believe it.”

    “Those are the numbers? They’re verified?”

    “Verified. Certified. All of it. He beat the pants off us.”

    “Phil Crane. Sonofabitch. Against a sitting president.”

    “We didn’t take him seriously. I mean. It’s Iowa.”

    “It’s Iowa!”

    “Fucking Iowa.”

    Fucking, fucking Iowa.”

    The two men pause and drink.

    “What’s New Hampshire look like?”

    “I mean...I thought I knew what Iowa looked like, so how much do I really know what New Hampshire looks like? I thought it was looking good.”

    “But come on, Iowa’s one thing, New Hampshire’s...well...he can’t win New Hampshire, right? Against a sitting president?”

    “It’d be unheard of, right? When’s the last time a party rejected a sitting president? They’d have been wearing powdered wigs or something.”

    “As long as they were wearing wigs in...I dunno, New Jersey or Georgia. And not fucking New Hampshire, that’s all I have to say.”

    The bartender speaks up: “Pierce.”


    “Pierce. Franklin Pierce in 1856. He was the last time a party rejected a sitting president.”



    “Yep.” The bartender goes back to his polishing.

    “Jesus. The bartenders in this town, am I right?”

    “It ain’t normal.”

    Early November, 1976

    As usual, millions turn their dials to CBS to hear the evening news. Walter Cronkite looks fresh tonight, despite having covered the general election the night before. And why shouldn’t he? It was an early night.

    “Good evening. Yesterday, shortly before 9 pm, before the polls had even closed in the west, Jimmy Carter reached the end of his improbable 2-year, half-million mile political quest...and won the presidency. Later in the evening, Congressman Crane conceded Carter’s victory. Bob Schieffer has the story.”

    Christmas Day, 1979

    A Jewish-owned deli in a protestant part of town. Three men pass the day in peace, without customers to interrupt their usual discourse.

    “It has to be Anderson.”

    “You don’t think it’ll be Dole?”

    “God, no.”

    “What’s wrong with Dole? I mean, I know what’s wrong with him, but what makes him unelectable?”

    “A failed vice presidential candidate? When’s the last time one of them amounted to anything? FDR? And Dole is no FDR.”

    “Dole is too conservative! The Republicans are growing wise about nominating conservatives, finally. ‘Fool me six times, shame on you, fool me a seventh, shame on me.’”

    “They’ve never won.”

    “Not once. Not since the Depression.”

    “And yet they keep nominating them!”

    “But not anymore, this is my point.”

    “Crane lost bigger than Goldwater. Lost his home state, even. Embarrassing.”

    “You see if it stops them, you just wait and we’ll see. I say it’s Dole.”

    “Howard Baker is running.”

    “Howard Baker!” say two of them together. Then one elaborates: “Howard Baker isn’t running for anything but the vice presidency.”

    “He’d make a good one.”

    “They say everybody likes him, even the Democrats. Even the president.”

    “But Anderson’s too liberal.”

    “He’s not that liberal.”

    “He’s no Rockefeller.”

    “He’s liberal enough. The party’s in the middle of an identity crisis. You’ve got the moderates regaining ground in the west and the east, meanwhile the conservatives are going strong in the Midwest. Then there’s the south. The Republicans were just starting to win over some of those old Dixiecrats and now, what, they’re going back to the Eisenhower days? Those good ol’ boys won’t hear of it.”

    “That’s what Howard Baker’s for.”

    “To keep them in line.”

    “Yeah, right, see? Baker keeps ‘em happy.”

    “But you miss my point. What if there are enough of those, as you say, good ol’ boys, in the party now? We’ve got these primaries everywhere now, so what if, between the Cranes in the north, the Goldwaters in the west, and the Dixiecrats in the south they can push through for Baker? Or Dole?”

    “You bring up another problem, though, don’t you see? There’s only one liberal and two conservatives.”

    “Three conservatives, don’t forget about Connally.”

    “Connally!” say two of them together. Then one elaborates: “I think John Connally forgot about John Connally. A turncoat? And a Nixon ally? He won’t get one single vote outside of the south. Outside of Texas!”

    “He just splits the conservative vote even more, if anything.”

    “And let’s not forget, none of these men is a strong campaigner.”

    “They’re all pretty weak on the stump, compared to Crane. Or Goldwater.”

    “These men are no Phil Cranes, no Barry Goldwaters, no Robert Tafts. Not one more of those left in the Republican Party.”

    “The conservatives just don’t have any more lions to rally around. They’ve run out.”

    “They’ve just plain run out.”

    “So it’s Anderson, then.”

    “It has to be Anderson.”

    “It has to be.”

    There’s silence for a moment in the deli.

    “And nobody thinks Carter has a chance?”

    “Carter!” say two of them together. There is no need to elaborate.
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  2. Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia
    So I've been on the board for...damn, ten years almost? And I've never attempted a real timeline. I've been privileged to help other people with their work, including a very gratifying stint handling US politics and whatnot in Rast's impressive A Shift in Priorities. But I've always been reticent to start my own work.

    I don't know what happened over the last week or so, but something told me to just dive in. What's the worst that can happen? I don't follow through and disappoint readers? I don't gain any readers to begin with? Well...I think I can survive that.

    So I've posted this prologue here, to see if anyone's interested in more. As you can see I'm not overly concerned with the butterfly effect. (If it really bugs you, consider a limited butterfly net in place prior to the 1980 elections affecting everything not specifically mentioned in the text.) I don't know if I'll continue this very loose dialogue style or explore other styles. Probably the latter.

    But we'll see! What do people think? Should I keep going?

    Edit: I feel I should also point out that the Ford quote is really Ford and not of my own writing, and the Cronkite quote is based on an edited transcript of his actual evening news broadcast from the day after the 1976 election.
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  3. Wolfram Fair to middlin'

    Dec 5, 2010
    University of Houston, Houston, Texas
    I am intrigued.
    gap80 likes this.
  4. RightTosser Used Citra-Frost Salesman

    Nov 29, 2014
    Houston, TX
    This is really good. We're only really looking at one thing right now, but it's clear that this 'Christopherism' is about to break out into the political mainstream in a big way.

    I'm anxious to see where this goes.
    gap80 likes this.
  5. President Eternal Liberal American

    May 4, 2017
    Roosevelt Island, New York
    Hmm, interesting start here. The 80s without Reagan... I look forward to seeing where you go with this.
    gap80 likes this.
  6. RightTosser Used Citra-Frost Salesman

    Nov 29, 2014
    Houston, TX
    Question: Does Reagan die or go into a coma or?

    The wording at the end seemed to suggest that...
    gap80 likes this.
  7. President Eternal Liberal American

    May 4, 2017
    Roosevelt Island, New York
    I think it just meant he goes into shock because of finding out he's going to be rendered permanently mute, and never recovers mentally/emotionally.

    At least, that was my interpretation.
  8. RanulfC Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2014
    Don't you dare stop and I'm not usually into political timelines mind you :)

    Expat and gap80 like this.
  9. Landmass Wave Well-Known Member

    Feb 1, 2017
    Landmass between New Orleans and Mobile
    Two minor points of information:

    1) The Iowa caucuses were irrelevant back then. Carter's surprise win in 1976 put them on the map.

    2) The bartender was wrong. Chester Arthur was defeated for renomination in 1884.
    gap80 likes this.
  10. Landmass Wave Well-Known Member

    Feb 1, 2017
    Landmass between New Orleans and Mobile
    Expat and gap80 like this.
  11. gap80 gap80

    Jan 16, 2016
    good ol' glorious New Jersey
    Very interesting!

    I like how natural the rolling conversations are, they give information in an organic way, not in the expositional way often found in bad movies now and again. Great writing!

    Also, any map(s) for the 1976 election? (And who were Crane and Carter's respective running mates?)

    Really looking forward to seeing where this goes!
    Landmass Wave likes this.
  12. President Eternal Liberal American

    May 4, 2017
    Roosevelt Island, New York
    Unless there's been any significant butterflies on that front, I would assume Carter's running mate would be Walter Mondale as per OTL.

    Can't even guess with Crane.
    gap80 likes this.
  13. Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia
    Thanks for the interest, folks! I've got quite a bit of content in outline form, but I find plans don't long survive contact with the enemy, so we'll see how long it takes me to shake out another post. I promise I'll do my best for you!

    Thanks! "Christopherism" probably won't catch on as a term (mainly because it's not very catchy!) Just something to use within the governor's administration or at most within state politics at that particular time. I'm thinking "the Rockefeller Resurgence" has more of a ring to it. It's also not going to be the only political strain in the party, even within California. I'm thinking liberal Republicans will represent some kind of majority in California and by the 1980s maybe Washington and Oregon, too. They'll have a smaller plurality in Colorado, and be an important minority faction in the rest of the Mountain West and Southwest. In the East liberal Republicans will cease to die out, but by 1980 it remains unclear if they're going to be ascendant or just a major factor in regional politics. The greater Midwest, as stated, is a big battleground with the conservatives holding the edge. The South is weird. That might need its own post- or a series of posts- to sort out.

    Yep, this is what I was going for.

    I suppose in the exact wording of the question you might be correct, though even then I'm not so sure. If we're talking about people who seriously ran for the nomination, you can't really include Arthur. If we're talking about people who were sitting presidents not granted renomination, sure, you can consider Arthur. But in that case, you can also consider every president (who didn't die in office or gain the nomination) up to and including Truman as having not been given their party's nomination. One might even include Johnson in this. Pedant-off mike drop! :winkytongue:

    My understanding was that 1976 (the year we're discussing) was the first complete and meaningful primary season. It certainly would've been if Ford started blundering and losing them to Phil Crane. In any case, the posts are intended to represent the loss of momentum, starting with Ford's unenthusiastic dropping of Bush from the ticket, continuing through his (re-timed) gaff at a debate, and reaching its first true stumbling block in Iowa. My intention was to represent a downward trajectory here, where he continues to lose "news cycles" as such, as well as delegates, and begins to wain in the polls.

    Thanks, I'll try my best to keep the conversational style going. Though there's a beastly Exposition Demon inside of me that is definitely going to win out sometimes!

    Mondale and Dole were the running mates. Ford's choice of Dole was an open secret before he lost. Crane jumped at the chance to look like he was being conciliatory while still gaining a running mate who was (mostly) ideologically compatible with him.
  14. Threadmarks: Story Post I: 1980 Election

    Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia

    September, 2013

    University of Illinois at Chicago, just after breakfast. Poly Sci 215: Modern American Political History is just getting under way:

    “To understand what caused the events around and following the 1980 election, I think you have to look at how the Rockefeller Resurgence affected the South. It seems absurd to think about now, but there was a time, from the 1960s through the 1970s, when the South started to grow more and more Republican. It was an incremental change. Culturally, ties to the Democratic Party were strong, and antipathy for the party of Lincoln ran deep. But it was clear as early as at least the days of Robert Taft that some Republicans didn’t give a damn about so-called ‘northern social virtues’.

    “In many ways, the Republicans of the mid-20th century were at least organized as a party of business. As long as the politicians supported business, the vested interests were willing to put up with just about any extraneous policy you could think of. Their own ties to the original Republican message of the 1860s were much weaker than those of southern Democrats to their traditional message; as you study history, you'll sometimes find that indifference can be an unfortunate side effect of victory.

    “As the Democratic Party’s winning coalition began its second decade of near-total congressional dominance in the late 1950s, business interests began to jettison their liberal principles as it became clear that Southern Democrats were feeling left out in the cold by their own party. Suddenly even racism wasn’t a block to an alliance; northern business interests were willing to embrace anything as long as Dixiecrats joined them in their crusade against taxes.

    “The alliance began to show some promise. Republicans won much of the South in the 1964 and 1968 elections. A few prominent Democrats switched parties. More new conservative southern Republicans were elected, often for the first time in their district or state since Reconstruction.

    “Then in 1968, at what many historians consider to be the new alliance’s fragile tipping point, the Rockefeller Resurgence began to make itself felt. A dozen new liberal Republicans won in the west. The slippage liberal Republicans had been experiencing for a decade in the northeast abruptly stopped. 1970 was even better for the moderates and liberals, with almost a quarter of conservative Republicans facing primary challenges, and half of those contests resulting in a shift to the left.

    “Things grew worse for conservatives as the decade progressed. In 1976, the selection of Jimmy Carter- a southern liberal- as the Democratic nominee threatened to undermine the core constituency of the Dixiecrats. Furthermore, one last attempt at retaking the Republican Party failed when presidential nominee Phil Crane led the party to yet another landslide defeat with a conservative at the helm.

    “The promised land was turning out to be infertile, indeed. The new alliance was in tatters. And the conservative movement, at least for the moment, had no idea of what to do. They began grasping at straws. They became desperate.”

    April, 1980

    The land of Cotton. Two United States Congressmen are sharing a late-night drink.

    “We have been down this road before, Robert.”

    “I know. I know we have.”

    “Fifteen times, it feels like.”

    “You’re right, I know.”

    “Strom in ‘48. Andrews in ‘56. Byrd in ‘60. Wallace in ‘68.”

    “This is different.”

    “Doesn’t feel any different.”

    “We’re a national movement now. This isn’t just the south.”

    “It feels like it’s just the south.”

    “Look, we’ve got the American Enterprise folks. We’ve got Jimmy Dobson’s people. We’ve got Republicans and Democrats ready to protest this hijacked political system.”

    “System’s been hijacked for 130 years, Bobbie.”

    “That’s right! And now’s our chance to break it!”

    “Now’s our chance to become irrelevant, you mean.”

    “And how relevant are we gonna be if we just sit there? Half the boys are still trying to be loyal to a Democratic party that has left them long behind. Half the boys thought they could join the Republicans, before they started talking like Yankee aggressors again. Everyone’s confused. We ain’t got a home, Billy.”

    “This country’s political system cannot sustain a protest party for any length of time. Protesting looks too much like losing to folks. They don’t have the patience for that. They’ll turn to something else.”

    “We’ll take that risk. Honestly at this point what is the worst that could happen? We are in the dark of night, here. Anderson’s got his nomination all but sewn up. Threatening to move the Republicans back to Reconstruction, practically. Carter is basically a hippie. And if you look back no Democrat has treated us as anything but a burden since Wilson. They use us to gain power then do all they can to destroy us.”

    It all sounds so true. You can see it on William’s face. He sighs deeply and pours another drink.

    “So what is it, exactly, that you’d call the best case scenario from this little rebellion?”

    “We break the system. We sign on enough conservatives to hold the balance of power in Congress. We make it so that neither party can hold a majority, neither can elect a Speaker or a Majority Leader. With luck, we take enough electoral votes in the presidential election to hang the damn thing, send it to a Congress that can’t give them a majority, either. We show them what happens when they try to govern without listening to our concerns.”

    There’s silence for a minute.

    “Damn, me.”

    William gets up, grabs the bottle, pours them each another drink.

    “Sounds risky.”

    “It will be.”

    More silence. More drinking. A smile curls William’s mouth.

    “Sounds like fun.”

    “It will be.”

    July, 1980

    And the headlines read:

    John Connally Joins Presidential Race as Independent

    September, 1980

    The Weekly Hallelujah is a religious newspaper published in Marion, Indiana every Saturday (to give readers a chance to discuss it on Sundays when they’ll assumedly be meeting at church). The following unsigned editorial is featured in the right-hand column on the first page (of four total pages) on the third Saturday of September.

    One of the most unexpected stumbling blocks to John Connally’s righteous conservative insurgency campaign is a perceived lack of coordination from the religious right. The culprit? Most in the movement are blaming a lack of leadership from Jerry Falwell. Why isn’t the nationally-known televangelist stepping into the role he practically built for himself? Why, he’s too busy talking to John Anderson, that’s why.

    It seems Falwell contacted Anderson back at the start of the campaign season, offering spiritual guidance to the liberal congressman from Illinois. The offer, we believe, was a genuine attempt to turn Anderson back to God and His will. But now many are wondering if Reverend Falwell might not have been hoisted by his own petard.

    Congressman- or perhaps he’d prefer “Congressperson”- Anderson has a reputation as a tenacious debater. One thing friend and foe alike agree on is that he welcomes a meeting of the minds. By all accounts he and the Reverend share a running written correspondence, as well as at least one phone call a week.

    And while there is scant evidence in Anderson’s godless vitriol that Falwell is leaving any mark on the Republican seems certain that Anderson’s insidious vision of the world is leaving its mark on Falwell.

    Not only has the Reverend refused to enter the fray on behalf of Connally- endorsing the Governor, but not campaigning for him- we have just this week learned that Falwell has been preaching against the teachings of the Lord.

    Our sources tell us that this Sunday-last, Falwell gave a sermon entitled, “Stewardship and Faith,” wherein he expounded upon the so-called “Biblical Virtue” of environmental preservation. We are told that he warped the text of many different verses to suit his bizarre needs, including several contextless excerpts from Genesis, as well as Psalms 24:1 and Leviticus 25:23. One needs only the barest understanding of True Biblical Scholarship to realize what is wrong with these arguments.

    Truly, we have reached a sad day, my friends. We all know the lure of corruption is strong. But to see one of our brightest stars blinking out in front of our eyes is a reminder to us all: may faith and prayer be your sword and shield.

    October, 1980

    Timothy Kraft, campaign manager to Jimmy Carter, is ushered through the door and into the Oval Office.

    “Timothy! Do we have a meeting?”

    “I’ve got news, Mr. President. They’re going to let John Connally participate in the televised debates.”

    “Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me!”

    “No, sir.”

    “I thought you said this would be easy to settle.”

    “Apologies, Mr. President. But with the latest poll numbers, it’s hard to ignore him. 15% and...they can’t keep him out at 15%, sir.”

    “Well...dammit, Tim.”

    October, 1980

    William Milliken, chief campaign advisor to John Anderson, knocks on the candidate’s hotel room door.

    “What’s up, Will?”

    “They’re letting Connally in the debate.”

    Anderson smiles, claps his hands.

    “Fantastic! Let’s get to work!”

    November, 1980

    Election Results:


    Purple = Anderson (368)
    Green = Carter (144)
    Beige = Connally (26)
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  15. President Eternal Liberal American

    May 4, 2017
    Roosevelt Island, New York
    Interesting how Anderson became the Republican candidate and Connally became the independent.

    Anyway, liking how this is this going - is Connally's campaign going to be the foundation of the birth of a third major party, or will it be like that one guy said and burn out? And if nothing else, I want to see how their attempts at Congress worked, given that their plan to deadlock the electoral college obviously didn't work.

    Also, it's funny, but Carter actually did better here than he did in OTL.
    gap80 and arjav like this.
  16. Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia
    Yeah, if 1980 could support a "liberal Republican" third party run IOTL, it can certainly support a conservative third party run ITTL.

    Carter did do better here! Though maybe not in terms of raw votes. If you look at the OTL state-by-state percentages there were a remarkable number of close races, especially across the South. Even IOTL a slight swing could've resulted in a closer race, thanks to the electoral college. As for TTL, I'll probably get into a bit of election analysis with the next update, though it's hard to make that interesting. I will endeavour to slog through!:p
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  17. Threadmarks: Story Post II: Immediate Political Consequences of 1980

    Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia

    Early January, 1981

    Two United States Representatives (we’ve met them before). One is practically pushing the other into an unused chamber off the cloakroom, whispering emphatically.

    “You little weasel!”

    “Don’t act-”

    “We had a deal!”

    “What deal?”

    “We had a pact!”

    “We- you had an idea, that’s all!”

    “You’re gonna let them win, is that it? We just roll over?”

    “Listen, I serve my constit-”

    “Oh don’t serve me that bullshit. Who do you think I am, the press? There are eighty-four good men and millions of Americans counting on you to be a man of conscience.”

    “Uh-huh. And last month it was a hundred and twenty good men. What happened to the rest of them, Bobbie?”

    “I guess you would know more about how they think than I do, you tell me.”

    “It’s not worth it, Bobbie! We’ll be shut out! No power, no say. They’ll band together and roll out whatever agenda they want, and you’d better believe they’ll be spiteful about it.”

    “Good! That’s what we want! Let them try to legislate tolerance, raise taxes, kowtow to the Soviets, and then let them reap that whirlwind! One activist session of congress and we’ll have a national movement on our hands.”

    William just looks at Robert, shaking his head.

    “What, you think I’m joking?”

    “No, I really do believe that you really do believe it.”

    “Alright, asshole, I’ll listen, what’s your alternate vision of the future? Socialism? You gonna let your daughter date a n-”

    A page knocks on the door, delivers a note to William and leaves.

    “The whip wants to see me.”

    “Dammit Billy, you still have a chance to do the right thing here.”

    William sighs.

    “ know what our people want from us? More than anything? They want us to show them that they’re winning. They don’t really have a grip on what’s right or wrong, not the way you do if you get out of your hometown for five minutes and learn a bit about how the world works. All they want is a little confirmation that, whatever it is they’re doing? It’s okay. Half the time they don’t even know what they’re doing, but you still gotta show ‘em that they’re doing just fine. If you take that responsibility and you turn it on them? You tell them explicitly, ‘no, you are NOT doing fine,’ they’ll do one of two things: Sure, some of ‘em? Some of ‘em’ll listen to you. They’ll get mad. They’ll come to your meetings, they’ll keep on voting for you, write you a check. But most of ‘em? Most of ‘em’ll say to themselves, ‘well I can’t be the loser. He must be the loser.’ People need to feel they’re winning, Robert. And you’re taking them into a no-win situation.”

    “You know how far our people will go for a lost cause, Billy.”

    “Maybe. Maybe once. I guess you’re doing this, I guess I can’t stop you, so I guess we’ll see how far they’re willing to go for you.”

    “We still want you with us, Billy. You can still change your mind.”

    “No, Robert. This isn’t the way. I’m sorry. I’m out.”

    Late January, 1981

    Two Democratic interns in the back row of an aerobics class discuss the current political crisis. Their words are often punctuated with ragged breathing.

    “So how many did we lose?”

    “Democrats or total?”

    “How ‘bout both.”

    “ 39 Democrats, 25 Republicans, 64 total.”

    Whistles. “Well, could be worse.”

    “You better believe it could be worse, you know how many names were on the initial list? 134. That’s like 30% of the House.”

    “Why’d so many cave?”

    “Ummm, because this idea is nuts? I don’t know, lots of reasons. Some are creatures of party, some have survival instincts, some got scared off when it was clear only the most out-there loonies were doing it. But seriously, this idea is nuts. They’re all gonna lose their seats in two years.”

    “Like hell they are. You know which districts we’re talking about? Okay, some of them are gone, but most of these guys are safe until they’re cured of a pulse. If then.”

    “So what’s the plan, have you heard anything from your boss?”

    “You mean as far as Speaker goes?”


    “Eh...I’m hearing a few things. They might try for a grand compromise. There are problems though. I mean just look at the numbers, in both chambers. After the election you had 212 Republicans, 223 Democrats. Today you’ve got 187 Republicans, 184 Democrats, 64...I dunno, whatever they end up calling themselves. But the point is now the Republicans are the biggest party.”

    “But they don’t have the votes to elect a Speaker.”

    “Right. And they also need our help in the Senate. They got hit harder there than we did, and now both of us are down in the 40s, I think 45 to 42?”

    “So we back their man in the Senate, they back ours in the House?”

    “That’s the idea, we’ll see who jumps for it.”

    The instructor claps her hands in their direction.
    “Ladies! The less time you spend gossipping and the more time you spend breathing, the better you’ll do, now come on, focus!”

    They’re silent for approximately ten more half-squats.

    “I hate this.”

    “I don’t think you’re supposed to like it. I hear Jane Fonda does it.”

    “Really, Jane Fonda?”

    February, 1981

    The train is a half hour east of Baltimore. The car is half empty, it being a late-night trip on a weekday. Randall, who works for the Post, is coming back from the bar car when he spots Bob Dole talking quietly with an aid. There’s no one around them for three rows on either side.


    “Randall, are you following me?”

    “What? No, sir!”

    “Because if you are…”

    “Onto a train? Come on, Senator, I’m going to my brother’s wedding in White Plains. How about you?”

    Dole is silent for a beat. Then the senator turns to his aid. “Walt, why don’t you head to the bar car, I’ll join you there in a few minutes, alright?”

    The aid, in the way of all political aids, genuflects down the corridor and out of the car.

    “Have a seat, Randall. How’s the news business these days?”

    “It’s the one thing this country seems to never stop making, Senator. That and Columbo episodes. So where are you headed?”

    “Just to Philadelphia. Some meetings. This whole...mess, you understand. We’ll all be spending a lot more time out in the shires in the months to come. Gotta keep people happy.”

    “I don’t suppose you’d care to talk about that, sir? I mean it’s just that you’re just about the most important man that hasn’t gone on record yet. And again, I can absolutely vouch that this is not a setup, sir, I know it seems like it is, but I...probably have a receipt somewhere, I bought this ticket months ago and-”

    “Randall, it’s alright, I believe you. Um. You know what, sure, let’s talk about it.”

    Randall gets out a pad and pencil and settles down

    “So...what’s your opinion of the recent party defections?”

    “Honestly, I don’t think it was handled very well by anyone, by any faction of either- that is to say, of any party. We knew there was a split emerging in the Republican Party. Anyone paying any attention at all over the last ten years could’ve predicted this. And the Democrats have had it coming for even longer. They’ve had ideological infighting since at least FDR. But the reason this happened now, I think, is that we forgot how to talk to each other.”

    “You mean inter-party or intra-party or…?”

    “Mostly I mean within the parties. When George Christopher starting reshaping the California party in his image I think that was the end of dialogue inside the Republican Party, for sure. Or at least the point of no return. As for the Democrats I only have opinions.”

    “So it sounds like you sympathize with the defectors.”

    “I certainly understand them. I don’t know about sympathize. I don’t think I can sympathize with the way they carried this out, I mean we have evidence now that they were planning this before the election- maybe even before the convention. They had a golden opportunity to have the American people weigh in on their concerns and they didn’t give it to them. They ran as Republicans and Democrats, never once offering to make this election a referendum on the two-party system, or conservatism, or whatever else they’re concerned about.”

    “Did they contact you before the election?”

    The silence stretches as Dole starts to smile.

    “I mean, it would make sense if they did. You’re basically the leader of the conservative movement in the senate, probably even amongst all elected officials.”

    “I’ll tell you the truth, Randall: yes, I was contacted. I didn’t take it seriously at the time. I was-”

    “When was this?”

    “This was late, relatively late. Late August some time. I think their concern was, well, they had made a pact with Connally, you see. And Connally didn’t want me interfering with his run. I guess there was some concern I might take over, if I came in too early. But I didn’t take it seriously at the time. You know how it is, we’ve had Dixiecrats run outsider campaigns several times over the last 30-odd years, and it never resulted in a new political party. The way they phrased it to me was as nothing more than a protest walk-out, not a defection. I guess if I’d said yes, they would’ve told me more. But I wasn’t even interested in that.”

    “Did they offer you any kind of leadership role or…?”

    “It really didn’t get that far. I told them straight away that, no, I wasn’t going to do it, you know? I’m a Republican. I am a proud member of the Republican Party. One of the things I’ve always loved about the party, and one of the things that was true going back, right back to the earliest days, is that we are a party of grand ideas. Republicans are the big tent party, a coalition of all different types of people with all different types of ideas. And we are linked by a few bedrock principles. To me the GOP is the recognition that...yes, we need political parties, we need them. We don’t like them, the Founders hated them, but we need them. It’s the system we have found that works best. But you don’t have to make a party about...about ideology, about special interests. It can be just this notion that everyone has a place. As long as we keep talking to each other, everyone can have a place in this country.”

    “All due respect, senator, but that doesn’t sound like the nation’s leading conservativ-”

    “See, Randall, I don’t know why you say that, because I feel like- and I’ll tell you what has been driving me nuts these last two months since the ACP emerged. Everyone keeps using this word, ‘conservative’ in a way that sets my teeth on edge. I resent the ACP stealing the moniker of American conservatism. Unreasonableness is not conservative, to me. Treating in bad faith is not conservative. Refusing to negotiate is not conservative. Threatening national security and making the government look weak is certainly not conservative. For every congressman- well, let me stick to what I know: for every Republican congressman that crossed the aisle that day, another true conservative stayed. I still consider myself, and proudly so, a leader of conservatism, and I don’t feel I’ve lost any ally of significance to the ACP.”

    “Wow, strong words.”

    “Right, now, okay now that I’m done on my high horse, let’s bring it back down to Earth again. I hope I’m wrong. I hope the ACP rejoins the conversation. I hope they bring bold new ideas to the forefront, and maybe bring us some opinions we haven’t heard enough of in Washington in recent years. If they stick around for the midterms and the American people decide they need a new voice to represent their interests, that can only be for the good. That’s what government should be about, representing the people.”

    “Speaking of the midterms, how do you-”

    At this point Dole’s aid returns. The train is getting ready to pull into Philadelphia.

    “I think that’s a good place to stop, don’t you, Randall?”

    “Yes sir, thank you for taking the time, Senator.”

    “My pleasure. And please give my best to your brother and his wife on their wedding day.”

    The senator gets up, pats the reporter on the shoulder, and heads down the corridor.

    September, 2013

    The UIC lecture continues...

    “In the short term, the congressional defection that birthed the American Conservative Party failed to achieve much more than survival- though the creation of a viable third party in American politics was nothing to sneeze at. The defections angered both the Republicans and Democrats to a degree unheard of in the modern history of the congress, which was easy inducement for the two main parties to cooperate for the time being.

    “A compromise on leadership was easily agreed upon- Democrat Tip O’Neill retained the Speakership and Republican Ted Stevens became Senate Majority Leader. Further negotiations for promotion of the president-elect’s agenda got immediately under way. This spirit of compromise and cooperation would remain largely intact for the rest of the session. The Conservatives were largely ignored.

    “But beyond the corridors of power in Washington, the conservative movement was consolidating. Hundreds of state legislators joined the party, as well as four governors. The ACP would pick up a fifth governorship in November, when Howard Phillips was elected in a tight, 3-way race in Virginia; he won with barely 36% of the vote. Rallies of support for the new movement were held across the country, and on television the party was represented by some of the savviest media representatives of the day.

    “While the pundits readily pontificated about what would happen in the 1982 midterms, few were entirely confident in their answers. The party in power usually took a hit, that was true. But couldn’t the presence of more complicated, 3-way races lead to unexpected results? Mightn’t the destabilizing influence of the conservatives drastically alter voting patterns? November ‘82 would answer all questions.”
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  18. Knightmare Well-Known Member

    Apr 5, 2012
    That's always a ominious thing to say.
    gap80 likes this.
  19. President Eternal Liberal American

    May 4, 2017
    Roosevelt Island, New York
    The birth of a proper third party. Yeah, I guess I saw that coming, and I can't wait to see what the after effects of it are.

    Also, I figure that Dole is the "Robert" from the backroom scenes, but who's "William"?
    gap80 likes this.
  20. Expat Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    The San Francisco of Appalachia
    Oh, actually no, that's not Bob Dole. Those guys are in the House of Reps. I should've picked a different name, but I didn't write the Bob Dole piece until last. Sorry for the confusion.o_O

    Also, yes, we're going to have a third party. The conservative movement was the great political hot potato(e) of the 20th century. While people argue about when the shift from the Democrats to the Republicans started, I think it's pretty clear the election of Reagan was the crucial tipping point. You can see it in the ideological scores of congress. The Republicans were very gradually creeping towards moderation as late as 1978, then there was a dramatic turn about in the 1980 elections. (I can dig up a graph or two if you'd like to see.)

    By halting the merger of conservative interests with the Republican mainstream, the conservatives no longer have a home. It's too late to go back to the Democrats. So where would they go?

    One argument is that they would diminish and remain a minor appendage to both parties, awaiting the next demographic crisis to take advantage and make another attempt at dominance. all honesty, is probably the right answer. But politics also has a place for moment and significance. The conservatives had rebelled at the presidential level but stayed loyal to their party many times before. It's reasonable to see this time being a bridge too far.
    Last edited: May 12, 2017
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