Robert Kennedy isn't assassinated

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Jape, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    This is a bare-bone starter for an alt-history I hope to write. Simple POD, Shiran Shiran fails to assassinate Robert F Kennedy on June 5th 1968 shortly after his victory speech following the defeat of Eugene McCarthy in the California Primary.

    I was extremly disappointed by a book published on a similar POD which is frankly Demowank, as such I want a more realitistic Alt-History.

    Most informed sources and the simply the US Political Machine suggests RFK had little chance of winning the 1968 Democratic Nomination due to Humphrey's control of party bosses.

    However what effect will RFK have on the nomination? The Antiwar vote was split at the Convention due to animosity between former Kennedy and McCarthy supporters, could RFK have pulled off a deal? Leading to a closer race? Would this have calmed tempers that led to the famous Chicago riots or only enflamed them more at a close defeat? If the riots did still take place, Party democratisation would have taken place as in OTL, pretty much guaranteeing RFK the 1972 nomination (the only nomination were the party machine was completly surbordonate to grass root voting).

    Such reform was led by George McGovern, and if McCarthy was unwilling to make friends with RFK I can see him as a running mate as a solid Middle-American.

    What then? Any thoughts?
     
  2. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    Nobody?

    What his effect on Cuba would be?

    Watergate butterflied?

    Nixon losing to another Kennedy?

    Populist effect on Big Labour?

    No Nixon-China talks?

    Republicans move to the right earlier?
     
  3. Nicomacheus Member, Sociedad Thrasybulo

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    Well, going with the theory that RFK and McCarthy split the open primary votes and that Mayor Daley doesn't desert Humphrey, then it does look like HHH has the nomination. And there's still ample reason that McCarthy doesn't get the VP slot.

    However, you avoid a huge moral killer by avoiding the assassination of RFK (fewer riots for a start). The question is then, what does the DNC in Chicago look like? Is it the riot-fest, both inside and out, that it was OTL? Might Humphrey have agreed to some kind of vague anti-war promise (that would neutralize Nixon's equally vague promise)? I could see RFK speaking to the rioters and calming them. By the end of the day, it's clear that RFK has a ton of political capital, but the delegates inside have handed the nomination to Humphrey. Quite a bind. Does RFK endorse HHH?

    In anycase, the outcome of the election was extremely close OTL. It was also very interesting in that the electoral vote was so lopsided in Nixon's favor while the popular count was not (500,000 vote margin). It triggered the Birch-Bayh amendment in 1970 which came as close as anything to abolishing the electoral college (failed in the Senate). I would still tend to bet on a Nixon victory, though. And the Democrats definitely move to a more open primary.

    With RFK openly planning to run against Nixon, though, he might get more paranoid sooner, but he also might try to finish the war sooner. I don't think he can, though. Nixon still probably goes to China, but nothing guarantees it leads to a full detente with an election in the offing.

    Having the '72 election pit Nixon against RFK is doubly interesting. RFK probably has way more popular appeal, and that only increases Nixon's paranoia. Certainly, RFK will tackle Nixon on not ending the war, though Nixon can still claim peace is at hand. Overall, I think RFK's organization during the '72 primaires (assuming something like the McGovern commisison occurs) is key. OTL the chaos of that fight left the Democrats divided and McGovern low on funds for the general election. TTL it might the chance for RFK to put together a huge grass roots campaign effort.

    Say RFK is elected in a tight contest. He will then have to actually make peace with Vietnam and figure out what to do with China. And the economy won't be any better and it'll be pretty easy to blame him for it. And along comes Ronald Reagan in 1976. Hard candidate to beat. Maybe RFK can beat him on expereince, but "Are you better off?" is a catchy slogan. Though in 1980 there's no guarantee Reagan's done a decent job of handling matters. Maybe RFK pulls a Grover Cleveland. Maybe Scoop Jackson wins in 1980 (kind of like that idea).

    Anyway, where's Electric Monk? He'll have some good ideas.
     
  4. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    Interesting ideas, indeed a relatively left-leaning RFK Presidency could suffer badly as the world shifts from Bretton Woods to Hard Market economics.

    Was Reagen a particularly strong, viable candidate in '76? I'll look it up. I know Ford doesn't have much chance, but without the Carter years I can see Reagan's electoral impact being dented somewhat (at least given my view of RFK as a militant liberal over Carter's 'softer' approach)

    What impact would an anti-war Democrat withdrawl from Vietnam have on America? It would be seen more in light as a victory than Nixon's reluctant, nessecary move. Would this be better for the national pysche? Would soldiers and hawks develop a "stabbed in the back" theory? Now doubt the fall of Saigon would be painted by the GOP as short-sighted retreat on RFK's part, having rushed out without propping up the Southern government.
     
  5. Fearless Leader Donor

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    RFK was rumoured to have had an affair with Marilyn Monroe...I honestly wouldn't put it past Nixon to dredge it up during the '72 election to tarnish RFK's image. Though I don't see it having a massive effect, documents/proof supporting RFK's affair might be just barely enough to push the '72 election Nixon's way...

    That is, if said rumours are true...
     
  6. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    We've done the RFK threads many many many times (and I disagree with you to a limited extent on the book: much of the early stuff was well done, aside from the USSR's peaceful collapse and too idealistic Viet Nam… but the later stuff was batshit insane, to be sure.)

    Institutional Memory (just a couple, of many):
    Would Robert F. Kennedy have become President?
    RFK survives


    Anyway, McCarthy is screwed. He does have an outside chance at winning New York, but probably RFK will crush him. Furthermore as much as he hates RFK, his delegates are anti-war…*not so much pro-McCarthy (and, of course, by this point his own campaign doesn't think he should be elected President).

    So RFK wins California, wins New York, and the head-to-heads show RFK ahead of Humphrey (as Rockefeller, on the Republican side, was relying on for their convention). Meanwhile Humphrey hasn't won a primary contest, McCarthy stalled at 200ish delegates, and only RFK is making headway—the press spin it as a horse race.

    RFK & McCarthy can prevent Humphrey from a first ballot victory, at which point the convention becomes nuts. Mayor Daley will almost certainly back RFK, simply because he can't have LBJ and doesn't believe Humphrey measures up.

    Whether or not RFK wins is pretty much up in the air. I'd say 50/50, or perhaps less, and your "informed sources" are in reality bitterly divided: all kinds of people say he'd win, all kinds of people say he'd lose.

    Interestingly if RFK survives, Reagan receives a large boost at the GOP convention: lots of people were quite certain that Nixon would lose to a Kennedy for the second time. It might well be enough to prevent Nixon from a first ballot victory as well—in which case Reagan will win.


    Now if RFK loses, the 1972 nomination is his…*if he wants it. RFK's movement, his political coalition (the "everybody currently screwed in America" coalition of poor, lower middle class, minorities, and so forth—similar to Wallace's appeal actually…*at least on the white side of things) was basically unique and probably won't last past a theoretical RFK lives and fights the 1968 general election.



    Honestly? 1972 is too late. RFK might go for it anyway, but his potential impact on America is rather limited. Nixon has broken the Democratic Party, conservatives are in charge and although Nixon doesn't have coattails I doubt RFK in '72 would have them either (unless he was elected in '68).

    He could probably get the Nixon offered stuff through like national health insurance and a guaranteed annual income (negative income tax) if he wanted, and one would hope the withdrawal from Viet Nam wouldn't be quite as messy as OTL but….

    1968 is the last point before, well, now, when one could see an American liberal government truly do things. The conservatives took over Congress in 1966, Nixon broke the Democratic Party after his election, and that was it for the Democrats.

    (Note, of course, the two Democrats that did manage to get elected, Southern governors both: Carter crashed and burned; Clinton never got through much of his agenda besides budgets, welfare, and so forth).

    It's clearly possible that RFK's political coalition could get through meaningful social democratic reform (and, of course, he might have failed) but it's unlikely any other Democrat and even a 1972 RFK could do so.


    Hard Market economics? I assume you mean the 1980s shift into neoliberal economics because of stagflation (and in the USA it was mostly deregulation by Carter/Reagan and the eventual Reagan tax cuts, the government wasn't actually reduced).

    Anyway, one could easily come up with a raft of ways to apply social democratic thinking in a free market framework; one could even come up with quite a lot of social democratic projects that would help business (healthcare, for instance) that would still be big government ideas.

     
  7. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    Thank you :) Quite alot of food for thouht there, cheers

    EDIT: My POD was for RFK to survive the assassination (ie Shiran misses). What effect would this on, beyond sympathy. Would Kennedy remain as open in public? Become paranoid, more fatalistic?

    Would his nomination become far more popular outstripping McCarthy's support?
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2008
  8. Nicomacheus Member, Sociedad Thrasybulo

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    If RFK has survived an assassination, I would imagine it would only make his supporters more die-hard. This might mean that riots still break-out--say the next day in Watts--but RFK then has the chance to appear very statesman-like and quiet them in person. All told, it probably helps his candidacy, but it's really all about the convention politics.

    EM, thanks for pointing out those other threads. I must say I'm over the moon about the prospects for a Kennedy-Yarborough ticket: first, it has such huge prospects for interesting change and second, it's almost like resurrecting JFK-LBJ's campaign in 1960...except RFK and RY are well...better versions of JFK and LBJ.

    To some extent, I think Jape will need to have RFK win the 1968 election, or I really don't see things being too different from OTL (on a big picture level). Then the whole thing rests on Reagan. Say he loses on the traditional balance the budget approach in 1976. Would the Supply Side Magic work in 1980 after 8 years of RFK's reforms? Perhaps if they aren't entirely successful.
     
  9. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    okay giving a basic skeleton, RFK wins the nomination in '68, buoyed by sympathy following the assassination attempt, McCarthy skrinking support base, winning the New York primary by a landslide, and several follow up states, giving Kennedy a increasingly decent number of delegates for the Convention. Mayor Daley backs him, and begins to bring Big Labour support over. HHH's support from the party bosses is looking increasingly thin at this stage particularly as his monopoly on it is skrinking and RFK's Other America campaigning is moving from strength to strength.

    Finally McCarthy drops out of the race (behind closed doors extremly bitter) giving a further boost to RFK. Kennedy looks to Yarborough (TX) for a Southern anchor. HHH is narrowly defeated.

    (I'll cont. this later)
     
  10. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    Yeah, a Kennedy-Yarborough ticket really is an inspired choice. You carry Texas, you appease the conservatives in Texas (since they'll almost certainly get a pretty conservative Texas Democrat to fill Yarborough's seat), you get a "prairie populist" who is really good at reaching the same kinds of folks RFK is—but in Yarborough's case specifically the Southern whites who might otherwise be wary of RFK.

    If RFK wins in 1968 he'll be facing Reagan in 1972 (with an outside chance RFK faces Reagan in 1968). RFK probably wins, too, but I imagine this (as Wallace, if he runs, is nowhere near as popular as was in '68) signals the shifting of the South into the Republican column (minus Texas, and maybe a couple border states) which as with OTL makes for tough electoral math.

    However if RFK is a successful President he may be able to build what didn't happen IOTL until 1996-2000—a solid base of Democratic states with equal or near-equal weight to the Republican South. (As I've mentioned elsewhere, winning as a Democrat following 1968 basically meant winning D.C., the sole Democratic state of Minnesota, and all the swing states.)


    Does Reagan run again in 1976? Republicans are more forgiving of their losers than Democrats, and the Republicans could hold the not unreasonable "nobody beats those crooked Kennedys" position. If not Reagan, than who? Ford will retire in '76 as planned. Connally? Baker? Dole? Bush? I'm not seeing a lot of big profile Republicans—Reagan just overshadowed them all in the late '70s.



    As for supply-side magic, it might just be butterflied out. It's intellectual basis, such as it was, centred on cutting the top marginal tax rates—a reasonable step, given that they were 91% in the early '60s and 70% (or so) in the '80s.

    That particular position was backed by economists, however the reach beyond (cutting taxes on the rich boosts revenue; cutting taxes is always good) is, as George Bush put it, "voodoo economics". Going from 70 to 40, probably an overall good despite some loss of revenue, going from 40 to 37 not a big deal. Nor is it a big deal to raise taxes, with hilarious consequences when every supply-sider in the early '90s predicted doom when Clinton raised taxes on the rich (31 to 33? Something small like that) and were proven quite wrong.

    Although the appeal is obvious, the amount of butterflies propelling it to the top (Kemp gets convinced, Kemp convinces Reagan) does not mean it will get there,and further the popularity of supply-side was propelled in part by the anti-tax revolt beginning in 1978—more butterflies.
     
  11. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    If RFK is gaining momentum towards the '68 Convention, with its clearly becoming a two-horse race, would Agnew still be Republican VP candidate? Would there be more pressure for a more well-known candidate? Apparently Romney was being pushed to get the spot by Party honchos but his 'brainwashing' gaff makes me think Nixon would still reject him.

    Would Reagan accept a VP spot, or wish to stay away from a Nixon ticket? Afterall he was organising a stop-Nixon campaign with Rockefeller, his ideological nemesis. Rockefeller himself? Or does Agnew remain the least distasteful candidate in Nixon's eyes?
     
  12. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    Nixon choose Agnew over a variety of other candidates (see: An American Melodrama for the whole list, but my copy is a few provinces over at the moment) because his polling data showed that no possible VP choice could help him, Nixon kinda liked Agnew, and Agnew didn't hurt him.

    Assuming Nixon still wins a first ballot victory at the convention (a reasonable, but not certain, assumption[1]) Agnew remains probable. Neither Reagan nor Rockefeller would accept the VP slot (nor, arguably, would Rockefeller be offered the position by a politician as savvy as Nixon) and that leaves people like Governor Volpe of Massachusetts on the liberal side, Governor Rhodes of Ohio for the moderate but acceptable to conservatives side, and aside from Reagan I can't remember who the conservatives were pushing for.



    [1] One of Reagan's stronger arguments was that Nixon would lose to a Kennedy. Nixon's first ballot victory IOTL was close, and if Reagan had broken any Southern state (as he came close to) Nixon would have been stopped, and Reagan almost certainly would have won on later ballots.