TLIAW: Against the Grain

Hear me out, Alex Jones
He's a pioneer, he's an explorer, he's a human, and he's coming. He's animated, he's alive, his heart's big; it's got hot blood goin' through it fast. He likes to fight too. He likes to EAT! He likes to have children! He's here! He's got a life force: This is a human, this is what we look like; this is what we act like, this is what everyone was like before us, this is what he is, he's a throwback. He's here! He's got the fire of human liberty! He's settin' fires everywhere, and humans are turning on everywhere!

Also, he doesn't like them putting chemicals in the water that TURN THE FREAKIN' FROGS GAY!
40. Tom Kahn (D-MD), 1989-1993
40. Tom Kahn (D-MD)
January 20th, 1989 - January 20th, 1993


Like his predecessor, Tom Kahn was born in New York, though this is where the similarities end. Born Thomas John Marcel, the future president was adopted by Adele and David Kahn, two Jewish left-wing union leaders. While attending Brooklyn College, Kahn moved past his father's secret adherence to the CPUSA party line after hearing a lecture about the successes of Zhou Enlai in China and Palmiro Togliatti in Italy.

Kahn wasn't alone in taking this position, and his mentors (such as Michael Harrington) quickly put him in contact with Bayard Rustin. The two had a close working and romantic relationship, though the latter ended after Kahn went to Howard University, an HBCU. Throughout the 1960s, Kahn served as a right-hand man for Rustin in his struggles against radical leaders Harry Belafonte and Malcolm X. At this point, Kahn saw himself as a firm anti-communist and instead identified as a Rooseveltian social democrat.

After the election of President D'Alesandro, Kahn became a presidential advisor and speechwriter. He maintained key contacts with different aspects of the Democratic base, from the Civil Rights Movement, to the AFL-CIO, and the new activist left. After the split of the Citizens' Party, Kahn stayed put in the DNC to prevent further bleeding to the New Left. Recent documents have revealed Kahn's role in writing homophobic speeches for George Meany, seen by biographers as a sign of his self-hatred for being gay.

1982 was a perfect moment for Kahn's ascendence. In the same wave that brought Hosea Williams to the Speakership, Kahn became Senator for Maryland, defeating one-term incumbent Lawrence Hogan. Despite his leftist past, he privately supported Ed Koch's primary campaign in 1984, though he played a key role in mediating between Hayden and Old Labor.

However, when it came to 1988, the Hayden wing of the party had all but surrendered, as their leader became the archetype of a Hollywood leftist. By nature of not being a member of the Democratic Study Group, Kahn coasted to the nomination with a broad tent of support. Furthermore, Kahn received the nomination of the Citizens' Party, which sought to cling to any reputation they had left after 1984. Officially, though, Kahn refused the Citizens' Party's endorsement, and their ballot line remained blank.

The general election campaign was not much of an occasion, with Conservative (though he practically called himself a Republican) nominee Bob Packwood trailing by as much as 17% after the convention. The eventual margin ended up being much closer, with Packwood establishing himself as independent from President Liddy. Nevertheless, it was not enough, and the Democrats held on to Congress. Independent "Freedom and Heritage" candidate John G. Crommelin received 1.8% of the vote. After the election, The Washington Post reported allegations of sexual abuse and assault against Packwood from 10 campaign staffers of his. While Packwood remained in the Senate, he took a backseat in the political scene.


In the first months of Kahn's presidency, legendary Florida Senator (1936 - 1945, 1963 - 1989) and Secretary of State (1945 - 1949) Claude Pepper passed away at the age of 88. Pepper was remembered as the mind behind the Wallace Doctrine and a skilled political compromiser who could build friendships with politicians of all stripes. At his funeral, former Florida Governor Elliott Roosevelt recounted a story at the 1944 DNC. Pepper, realizing Wallace's re-nomination was certain if a vote was held before any bosses could plot against him, ran to the podium to nominate the VP. Right as Mayor of Chicago Edward Joseph Kelly prepared to declare the pro-Wallace crowd a fire hazard, the old mayor tripped and dropped his glasses, losing precious time in his battle to stop Pepper. The rest was history.

Kahn invested his political capital into the nationalization of the oil industry during his first year in office. Working in cooperation with Speaker Hosea Williams and Majority Leader Edmund Muskie, the administration quickly moved to ensure American energy security and keep energy prices fair. The bill passed through a filibuster from Southern Democrats and Conservatives due to support from several ex-Republicans, who embraced the bill from a paternalistic conservative viewpoint. A new federal corporation was created to drill and produce oil while investing in solar energy (a provision added at the urging of Senator Jimmy Carter). The bill also mandated government involvement in offshore drilling and price controls on the petroleum industry.

However, the establishment of Millenium Energy (the name referring to Kahn's goal of total energy independence by the year 2000) sparked an immense backlash in Texas. Corporate interests spent millions promoting anti-nationalization ads, featuring astronaut George W. Bush. While the commercials puzzled viewers due to Bush speaking to an empty chair about how "the human being and fish can coexist peacefully," the anti-Kahn momentum sustained into the 1990 midterms, where the Democrats lost several seats, including that of Congressman Charlie Wilson.

Before these defeats, Kahn oversaw the overturning of the Fairness Doctrine, deemed irrelevant by the rise of the internet. Kahn oversaw deregulation of television, allowing for his political ally and actor Warren Beatty to create Common Sense, a cable news platform expressing explicitly progressive views. This "Beatty Decree" opened the floodgates for the rise of partisan cable news, a move denounced by moderate Conservatives (who were simultaneously trying to get in the game). Other reforms included Bill Bradley's National Education Program, which trained 60,000 new teachers every year (with a quota of 10% coming from HBCUs) and invested heavily in after-school programs.

Kahn also hosted the first annual Presidential Questions, where he and his cabinet were subject to inquests from members of Congress. For the 1990 State of the Union, calls were also taken from members of the public. This was not repeated in subsequent years due to the failures of call screenings. For each President's Question, the largest opposition party had a member represent the role of the "leader of the opposition." The lawyer Ben Stein, a Republican lawmaker from Maryland, took the role, bringing him to instant stardom.

Even after the Democratic losses in the 1990 midterms, investigations into abuses of the Liddy administration continued. Chief among them was the exposure of the Citizens' Party inflitration by EPIC. The party, limping after its poor performance in the midterms, was suddenly seen as a group of informants. Michael Parenti, the party's vice presidential nominee in 1984, quickly took leadership of the party for himself due to most "realists" joining the Democrats. The party was renamed Proletarian Democracy and quickly adopted a Marxist platform. While more radical than any previous major third party, Parenti's group earned legitimacy after affiliating with the Congo Veterans’ Association.

After all, parts of the country seemed to be in a radical mood after Jesse Gray's election as Mayor of New York City and Danny K. Davis' election as Mayor of Chicago. Gray's victory sparked unrest from the predominantly white officers in the NYPD, who feared what the former head of the OOAU would do when given the Gracie Mansion. While the incidents were expected to spark riots from black nationalists, a rare intervention from Malcolm X (who devoted most of his time to religious studies in the Islamic world) kept the peace without weakening Gray's political reforms.

While most high-ranking Liddy officials avoided prosecution, the Conservative establishment concluded it was time to move past its controversial past. Led by the aforementioned Ben Stein, the Conservative Party once again transformed into the New Republican Party. While a small faction of ex-National members reconstructed into the Patriot Party, the new party quickly agreed to become a sister member of the NRP. Unfortunately, Stein's political stature declined after plagiarizing a speech from British politician and artist Bryan Ferry.

The major parties reconstructed, but much attention was given to the rise of a new political force centered around the internet. Musician Frank Zappa had already attracted attention for his increasingly political spoken word tours, but the internet allowed his supporters to put together mass rallies. These informal meetings transformed into the Constitutional Volunteers movement, which quickly sought to organize itself as a political party under a civil libertarian and digital utopian platform. While Zappa polled strongly as a potential third-party presidential candidate, health issues led him to pass the torch to another figure ahead of the 1992 presidential election.

Kahn's last major impact as president was the formal affiliation of the AFL-CIO to the Democratic Party, transforming it into a European-style social democratic organization. However, his grip over the party appeared to be at a low point, with Speaker Hosea Williams (holding on to a razor-thin Democratic majority) refusing to say whether he'd support Kahn for reelection, though it was unclear if Williams thought Kahn was too left or right-wing. Secretary of Labor Adolph Reed Jr. (whose father was a prominent Wallace advisor) followed with a blistering resignation speech, condemning the president's "vacuous-to-repressive" politics. Nevertheless, some, such as political scientist Peter Buttigieg, have deemed Kahn the "founder of the modern Democratic Party."

One especially contentious issue was Kahn's continuation of the Cold War, leading to increased defense budgets and heightened tensions with the Soviet Union. His first foreign policy steps set out his agenda, with the establishment of the Department for Democratic Affairs. The DDA openly financed projects to promote democratic and constitutional ideals, though many saw it as fighting for American interests above all. Under Director Lane Kirkland, the organization (with the united assistance of the Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO) sought to defeat the Soviet Union in a grand battle of ideas rather than the covert action of the CIG.

With the Cold War in action, regime changes that America would once welcome were now treated with skepticism. Saudi Arabia saw an end to its Salafist rule with the rise of Abdulaziz al-Tuwaijri, who created the Republic of Arabia as a pan-Arab nationalist state. Many speculate that the establishment of Millenium Energy was triggered by potential shocks to the international oil markets. Declassified files show fears that the Tuwaijri government would affiliate with ComPENC.

The American-friendly governments of Egypt and Libya faced unrest inspired by Tuwaijri, forcing each nation's monarchy to take a backseat to their parliaments. While Libya had a consistent monarchist majority (boosted by their support from the USA and Italy), the Egyptian parliament saw the rise of Hamdeen Sabahi's al-Karama movement, which opposed American foreign policy and sought to replicate Arabia's economic nationalism.

The Italian Communist Party, in government since 1944, now found itself in opposition. Leading a coalition of Socialists, Liberals, and Radicals, celebrity art historian Vittorio Sgarbi ousted Prime Minister Pio La Torre of the PCI. While the Americans welcomed the ascension of a non-Communist, so did the Costa Nostra. After his election in 1992, Sgarbi, known for his constant outbursts (such as becoming the first person to curse on Italian television), proved to be unbossable, as shown by his elaborate victory rally, which included fireworks displays and crooner Silvio Berlusconi performing with a symphony orchestra.

Despite Sgarbi's rise, Italy remained part of the united European project. Joining them was Yugoslavia, whose communist regime began democratizing after the vocal protests of a group of academics at the University of Ljubljana. One of those academics, philosopher Slavoj Zizek, was elected as a member of the League of Communist central committee.

In Africa, the Kahn administration quietly dropped America's informal support for the Igbo Christian revolt against the Nigerian government. In the neighboring Republic of West Africa, Marxist President Thomas Sankara lost reelection in favor of Abdoulaye Wade, who ran on a labor-centered platform influenced by his belief in Islamic democracy. Wade's upset was likely motivated by the last-minute defection of Prime Minister Blaise Compaoré to Wade's African Democracy Party.

While Wade maintained close relations with France, he began planting the seeds for a future pan-African project with his African Renaissance Monument. While criticized for being constructed by Romanian laborers, the monument remains a major tourist attraction in Dakar, and its ceremony was attended by American civil rights figures such as Speaker Hosea Williams.

In India, the brief government of Jagjivan Ram brought much-needed stability to the subcontinent, but his successors were widely seen as soulless bureaucrats. In an upset, a populist party led by Muthuvel Karunanidhi (India's most prominent author on the international stage) won the most seats and formed a government with several smaller Islamic democratic parties. Despite this, Karunanidhi struggled to get international support for the Punjabi peace process, especially once India grew closer to the Soviet Union under his tenure.

After the 1988 elections, Tony Benn, having served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1968, 1971 to 1976, and 1978 to 1983, was back in office with a Labour-Common Wealth-Ecology coalition. While Benn's fourth government may be his most unremarkable, it quickly achieved new significance after Benn's 1990 diagnosis of cancer. Under the impression that he had a year or two to live, Benn moved past the technocratic nationalism of his prior governments in order to outline a new brand of international socialism. His lasting legacy remains his meditation in the South African peace process, allowing Tokyo Sexwale to become the first black leader of South Africa (taking over from the martyred Chris Hani). Benn's diagnosis later proved to be faulty, and his 1991 retirement as Prime Minister was certainly not his last move in the political scene.

While his foreign policy continues to divide those left of center, Kahn's economic policy helped keep America's GDP high and its inflation low, the former dispelling doomsday predictions of China overtaking the US by 1992. Tom Kahn's decision not to run for reelection puzzled much of the public, as polls showed him defeating most potential challengers. While much is centered on speculation, the increasingly prying eyes of the media may have motivated a closet gay man to leave the political scene. Indeed, outside of his continued influence on the Agency for Democratic Affairs, Kahn withdrew from public life after his presidency; yet this fits the pattern of quiet retirements started by Winant and Meyer. Despite viewing gay pride as an "avant-garde middle-class movement," Kahn's legacy has been viewed more positively by queer historians, though his identity remained a secret until after his death in 2008.

Deleted member 81475

Maryland eating well in this timeline.

It feels like there's still a chance of another Democratic victory, with Stein having broken the Conservative coalition, but it also feels like there's room for an uglier, messier election as a result. We'll see who everyone nominates and if the Patriots, Proletarian Democrats, and Constitutional Volunteers make the infobox.

Millenium Energy as a development is huge. And fitting for a disciple of Scoop Jackson. I also like the Presidential Questions and the pick of Kahn overall. Can't help but worry about where y'all will take progressive Fox, but it'll take a few cycles to get an idea of the response and influence.


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Corporate interests spent millions promoting anti-nationalization ads, featuring astronaut George W. Bush. While the commercials puzzled viewers due to Bush speaking to an empty chair about how "the human being and fish can coexist peacefully,"
I haven't been commenting a lot but I'm loving this TL, and big kudos to all four of you for keeping this interesting and fun!

And yes, for those unaware, the quote about the human being and the fish, while in a completely different context, is actually per OTL:
Vittorio Sgarbi as PM? Oh fuck. :p


So the PCI ended up as a left wing DC, governing uninterrupted for decades - I hope this doesn't mean they became as much of a corrupt political machine as the real life DC. Even though, the Mafia rejoicing because of the election of a certain goat connoisseur, seems to point at the PCI being tough on corruption and organized crime. What kind of policies did they implement during their time in office?
Presidential review time.

I am a social democrat myself, so I think his views are similar to mine. I will say that I only hate the guy for writing homophobic speeches (YMMV on his doing it due to his self-hatred for being gay); I may be straight, but I support the LGBTQ+ community all the same.

It's nice slowly seeing worldwide communism ITTL defrost slowly into becoming more progressive and social democratic.
Absolutely adore all the writing and world-building done by the authors!

Where on earth are you guys finding all these extremely obscure figures though?! 😭
Fascinating chapter with some potentially transformative changes happening at home and abroad. The Dems are now officially a social-democratic party and the country is on its way to a greener, more independent future in terms of energy. Kahn seems like a deeply complex figure.

Thanks for setting out the tenures of Prime Minister Benn, he indeed pulled a Wilson and then some!
One piece of good news was the 1978 launch of Olympus, the first permanently-occupied space station.
Honestly I'm surprised that NASA was able to claim the title of first 'permanently occupied' space station, since the Soviets already had a moon rocket capable of launching a space station into orbit since 1970...

In 1985, NASA was finally prepared to make good on that promise and launch their masterpiece, the fourth spacecraft in the Nike Project. Nike-4, a three-man mission meant to break ground on the first American moon base. While apprehension ran high due to the Nike-3 explosion, Nike-4’s launch was nothing short of a total success.
Well the Nike rocket seems to be quite big and advanced rocket.

Although I'm certain that the Soviets have enough of a lead to assemble their Moon base into lunar orbit first and land it.
41. Luci Baines Johnson-Kennedy (D-TX), 1993-1997
41. Luci Baines Johnson-Kennedy (D-TX)
January 20, 1993 - January 20, 1997


Senator Joe Kennedy, Jr. suffered a stroke and died on January 24, 1993, just days after his daughter-in-law became the nation’s 41st President of the United States, fulfilling a dream he had long harbored for himself. It was the end of an era. In 1960, he’d been the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee. By 1968, he was deemed too conservative and the presidential nomination was wrested by Thomas D’Alesandro. Then, he pawned off his presidential ambition onto his son, Joe Kennedy, III, just as his own father had transferred his ambition to the Massachusetts Senator.

Joe Kennedy III was no stranger to the Beltway spotlight. In 1971, his marriage to Luci Baines Johsnon attracted headlines and the wedding was a must-attend Washington event. The son of a prominent New England Democratic Senator was marrying the daughter of a prominent Southern Democratic Senator. It was the wedding of two families and two wings of the Democratic primary.

Though his father remained in the Senate, Joe Kennedy III did not waste time trying to make a name for himself. His father had gone into military service; Kennedy decided to pursue aeronautics, aiming to be the first American to walk on the moon. He saw it as a leap forward in his pursuit of the White House. It was not to be. In 1975, he died when a training capsule for the Olympus launch burst into flames. He was trapped inside, unable to get out of the aircraft.

At just 28 years old, Luci Baines Johnson-Kennedy was a widow. A Kennedy and a Johnson, she had vast wealth to draw upon. She needn’t have worked a day in her life, but she decided to make a foray into the family business herself, returning to her native Texas. Her late husband had invested some of their fortune in Yahoo, surpassing the wealth that even earlier Kennedys had known. From her Austin estate, the young LBJK established an education nonprofit aimed at turning around Texas’ schools.

She was a prominent fundraiser for Democratic candidates, and in 1982, she was elected Texas State Treasurer. She was just 35 years old and seen as a rising star in the Democratic party. She invited some controversy when, the next year, she married her campaign manager from that race, Billy Blythe, but that fodder soon disappeared. In 1988, she was heavily recruited by the Texas Democratic Party to run for the United States Senate. The seat had been held, since 1965, by Republican George H.W. Bush, father of the man who fulfilled her late-husband’s ambition of being the first American on the moon. She was skeptical that Bush could be beat, but with her vast resources, she decided to give it a go.

The campaign was grueling, but Luci employed a folksy persona, campaigning in jeans and a flannel with rolled up sleeves. She wore sunglasses and often donned a baseball cap, and she refused to be outworked. She gripped and grinned at county fairs while a complacent Bush maneuvered (unsuccessfully) for the Republican presidential nomination. Her upset victory in November propelled her to national stardom.

It was just one moment in an exponential rise. Soon, a president from her own Party would draw her into even further prominence.

President Tom Kahn moved quickly to nationalize the oil industry through Millennium Energy. He had not campaigned on the issue in any meaningful way and its centerpiece in his first year came as a surprise to Texas’ new senator who had to choose between the interests of her Party and her constituency. She decided to have it both ways – or at least try to. She would give Kahn what he wanted but at a significant benefit for Texas.

Some Southern Democrats led an absolutist filibuster effort, but Johnson-Kennedy was not one of them. She met behind the scenes with the White House to extract concessions. In a manner that would have made her father proud, she secured a guarantee of profits for her state. She was bringing home the pork, as they said in Beltwayspeak. Tens of millions for Texas schools, a guarantee that no state would produce more oil than Texas, ensuring that jobs remained in-state (the unexpected death of Alaska Congressman and Energy and Commerce Chairman Nick Begich made this possible), and a significant infrastructure package that not only built and refurbished roads and bridges but also upgraded the water and sewer lines and broadband access in rural Texas. With the pork in place, Johnson-Kennedy came out in favor of the bill, helping give cover to more moderate Conservatives who had been waiting for someone to hide behind. Her vote helped break the filibuster and secured the passage of the bill.

Her decision immediately angered her Texas base. At town hall meetings, she was heckled incessantly. Her Congressional website and email were hacked. The FBI even foiled a plot to kidnap her son, Joe Kennedy IV, who was away at school at Choate. The vitriol was intense. All the while, Johnson-Kennedy kept her head down, ensuring that the legislation would ultimately yield better results for Texas.

Her decision to stand up to a powerful industry in her own home state won her accolades as well. Overnight she became a darling on Common Sense. She was a frequent guest of “Reverend Al in the Morning” and the primetime ratings juggernaut “Hunting the Truth” with Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. In both shows, the hosts ignored her more centrist views on some issues in favor of her tough persona. They played clips of her refusing to back down to hecklers.

The nationalization of the oil industry also fueled the political rise of George W. Bush. Journalists and historians still debate the intricacies of the Johnson-Kennedy/Bush rivalry. Some attribute it to Bush’s seeming fulfillment of the career path Johnson-Kennedy’s late husband envisioned for himself. Others point to the Bush family coda of loyalty and the fact that the young liberal woman had defeated the elder Bush statesman. Either way, Bush’s landslide victory in the 1990 Texas gubernatorial election set them on a collision course.

With Kahn’s decision not to seek another term, Johnson-Kennedy decided to announce a presidential bid. She knew that she faced long odds of winning reelection in Texas in 1994 and believed her only way to stay relevant in the political world was by moving up. Meanwhile, Bush believed that the White House was his for the taking, and so when a “Draft W” campaign sprung up, Bush announced he was “compelled” to enter the race for the New Republican nomination. He was no shoe-in, however. New York Governor Judith Sheindlin fought Bush until the very last primary contest before she finally conceded and Bush emerged the nominee of the New Republicans.

Meanwhile, a combination of Kahn fatigue, her personal wealth, and her national reputation enabled Johnson-Kennedy to quickly sew up the nomination over Vice President Bert Lance and Labor Secretary Adolph Reid, Jr.

Bush and Johnson-Kennedy were not to have the election to themselves, however. Frank Zappa of the Constitutional Volunteers had been expected to run as an independent candidate, but his health precluded him from doing so. Instead, he passed the torch to Tech Billionaire John McAfee who shared his libertarian/digital utopia ideology. McAfee preached a gospel of “rugged individualism in the digital age” and ironically called on the government to abandon its space exploration and focus on Planet Earth.

There was also Illinois Congressman Bill Ayers, who represented the new Proletarian Democracy Party on the presidential debate stage. Though he trailed far behind the other three candidates. The League of Women Voters included him in the debates nonetheless.

In a close election, any number of incidents can be pointed to as the “decisive moment” of the campaign, but no doubt the final debate of the 1992 election deserves its spot in American political lore. Near the end of the televised and web-streamed event, Bush went on the attack against Johnson-Kennedy, saying that she had “failed to deliver” during her time in the Senate, but he pointed to his own experience as a governor who “got things done.” Specifically, he touted the fact that Texas schools were in the best shape they’d ever been in, saying, “We have been able to take a budget surplus and invest in our schools, our roads, our bridges. We’ve funded development to ensure no part of rural Texas is blocked off from the interweb.”

An irate Johnson-Kennedy interrupted. “I got you that money, Mr. Bush! While you were filming nonsensical ads for companies that never gave a dime back to the people of Texas, I was in Washington getting us the money for our schools, the money for those bridges, the money to build those towers and bring broadband to rural Texas. I have stood up here for four debates now, listening to you take credit for the provisions I secured for our state, but I won’t do it any longer.” Bush was dumbstruck as she continued: “The way I see it, America has a choice in this election between Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Fred over there will do an adequate job, sure, but Ginger is ready to do it twice as well – and she’ll do it backwards and in high heels!”

A week later, Johnson-Kennedy secured victory, becoming the 41st President and the second woman to hold the position. Some argue that the most deciding factor in her victory had little to do with her and more of the fact that John McAfee had siphoned off a sizable 20% of the electorate, mostly from likely Bush voters. In fact, Bush would forever blame his loss in the ‘92 race on McAfee. But recent historical studies have shown that McAfee was hard to pigeonhole ideologically and likely drew from Johnson-Kennedy almost as much as he did from Bush.


One of Johnson-Kennedy’s first goals in office was to finalize the Nike Project. There was a pervasive sense that the Soviets were falling behind in the Space Race. Domestic economic considerations had led the Soviets to decrease their space funding, and though Johnson-Kennedy had mostly captured the votes of those fatigued by the constant spending of money on NASA, she personally favored fulfilling D’Alesandro’s goal of the US establishing the first permanent lunar base.

In 1993, some eight years after the successful Nike-4 launch, the United States completed construction of the Thomas D’Alesandro Lunar Station, edging out the Soviets by some eight-and-a-half months. The completion of the station marked a high-water point for the Johnson-Kennedy administration. The new president’s approval ratings climbed towards 80%.

The summer of 1993 also brought about a sea change in the way of America’s social policy. In Rangeley v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down sodomy laws – a major victory for the gay rights movement. Senator Harvey Milk praised the Court’s decision and soon announced that the Movement would continue until same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the land. San Francisco, CA and Burlington, VT soon announced they would be accepting marriage licenses from same-sex couple applicants, sparking an intense backlash from some on the right who argued it was all “too much too fast.”

The president did not directly weigh in on the issue, referring to it as a “state-by-state matter,” but she promised to veto any attempt to codify federal marriage protections as between one man and one woman, as some in the New Republican Party had proposed. Some in the NRP thought that an embrace of Liddian conservatism was exactly what the Party needed to regain power. Bush’s wishy-washy “above politics” approach had proved fatal to them in the 1992 election, and instead they wanted a Party willing to go the distance on red meat issues for the far-right base.

Virginia Lamp, a Nebraska Congresswoman, helped lead the Liddy Caucus in Congress, comprising about 40% of the NRP’s House membership and some 8-12 Senators at various points. Many assumed that the Caucus would keep its presence along the fringes, but that was not to be the case. During the 1993 Presidential Questions, which occurred just weeks after the ruling in Rangeley, Lamp was chosen as the leader of opposition. Many believed that it was to keep the Patriot Party from breaking off and fielding its own candidates. Lamp’s presence did help keep the two parties together, but it also may have driven less-socially conservative members of the Party towards McAfee’s newly founded Utopian Party which sought to capitalize on the success of his independent candidacy.

She probed Johnson-Kennedy and the cabinet on various issues relating to the gay rights movement, including an insinuation that they had been “infiltrating classrooms” as teachers to poison the minds of young students. The issue was escalated by Secretary of Education Daniel Akaka, the former Hawaii governor. Akaka had been an outspoken proponent of gay rights, campaigning against anti-gay teacher proposals in various states throughout the 1980s. He blasted Lamp as “full of hate.” In one memorable exchange, he said, “I cannot help that the dogma lives deep within you, but I can promise you that our Constitution is immune to its vile.” The remark was seen as deeply offensive to Christians, but Akaka refused to resign and Johnson-Kennedy refused to request it.

After the Questions, First Gentleman Billy Blythe encouraged his wife to moderate her stance on gay issues and move closer to the Liddy Cacuus’ demands. Johnson-Kennedy faced an important decision: try and win back moderates in the middle or fully embrace the socially liberal aspects of her base. She decided to go with the former, noting that the Proletarian Democracy Party was not really centered on social issues, she did not believe there were more votes to be won there. She was, perhaps, correct, but she underestimated the new Utopian Party.

When Johnson-Kennedy announced she was not changing the current military policy which prohibited gay servicemembers, Utopian Party Founder John McAfee condemned the decision and announced that his party believed that gay members should be able to serve openly. The decision led Harvey Milk, a longtime Democrat, to leave the Party and join the Utopians. He had always been more fiscally conservative anyway and so the seeming abandonment of the gay rights movement compelled him to join with an unlikely partner, McAfee.

Johnson-Kennedy refused to compromise on social issues pertaining to women, however. The advent of a new medication that prevented fertilization had been a huge boon for the feminist movement and the sexual liberation movement, but the Kahn administration failed to press that it become over-the-counter. Instead, women were often calling their doctors in hope of getting a quick prescription to try and get it in time. Johnson-Kennedy moved immediately to get the drug over-the-counter for those 18 years or older. Her efforts to eliminate the age requirement proved unsuccessful.

The prevalence of these social issues produced a weird outcome during the 1994 midterm elections. Patriot-aligned candidates won many NRP primaries, shifting the Party back towards the Liddians and emboldening the new Evangelical strain. The Utopian Party seemed to represent the middle, capturing liberals on social issues who weren’t as concerned about government programs for the poor and a number of moderate NRP voters who felt the Party had lost focus on being a capitalistic alternative to the Democratic Party. Proletarian Democracy candidates struggled across the board.

The result was an almost perfect split in the House: 147 NRP, 145 Democrats, 138 Utopians, and 11 PD. Given the national mood’s intense focus on cultural issues, the Utopians and the Democrats agreed to form a coalition, electing former Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro III, son of the ex-President, to serve as Speaker of the House.

In early 1995, as the race for president was beginning to take shape, tragedy struck. News came that during an expedition on the lunar surface, a vehicle carrying astronauts far from the base had stopped responding. The four astronauts on the mission were missing. For four days, Common Sense TV provided around-the-clock coverage. A vigil took shape outside of NASA and the White House. It seemed the entire nation was glued to the screen, wondering if the astronauts would make it back alive.

A rescue mission was launched and eventually recovered the bodies of two astronauts. The vehicle had suffered a mechanical failure. The two astronauts who stayed in the vehicle were weakened but alive, but the two who had gone back to try and find help were found dead some miles away from the vehicle. Their bodies were flown back to Earth.

Throughout the crisis, President Johnson-Kennedy had been a stabilizing presence. She had brought the families of the missing astronauts to stay with her in Washington, at Blair House, and kept them constantly in the loop. Her two national addresses during the event had left the nation inspired by her compassion and clarity of mission, and she refused to allow anti-Space politicians to derail the continued NASA mission. Meanwhile, the NRP moved into a more blatantly anti-Space platform, again giving the Democrats and the Utopians an issue around which to find a common purpose.

Her third year in office also brought about challenges in foreign policy. A new Soviet leader, Vladimir Kryuchkov, had come to power, and he was intent on making a direct military challenge on Earth to inspire his people and make up for the USSR’s defeat in Space. Kryuchkov moved nuclear weapons into Cuba, which was seen as a direct threat to the United States and prompted the Nancy’s Peak Accords.

As the missiles made their way to Cuba, Johnson-Kennedy invited her Soviet counterpart to join her at Nancy’s Peak in Maryland, the Presidential retreat, to discuss world affairs. Kryuchkov agreed but refused to take the missiles off course. During the meeting, Kryuchkov listed a number of American policies that he felt had ramped up to tensions between the two world superpowers. Kryuchkov argued that the Liddy Administration’s Turkey policy had been a flagrant violation of long-standing principles between the two nations.

The president was faced with the question of trying to reinstate the Wallace Doctrine, which Liddy had effectively torn-up. In the fourteen years since, America’s geopolitical realities had dramatically changed, but she recognized it was only natural for the Soviets to feel as though the Wallace Doctrine had allowed American expansion into their sphere of influence while they had failed to grow their presence in the West. At the same time, she did not believe it was possible to bring the Wallace Doctrine back into force entirely given how much time had passed.

In exchange for the removal of the missiles from Cuba and a return to the Wallace Doctrine, Johnson-Kennedy agreed to grant CentCOM additional trading powers into the Western hemisphere. As part of the return to the Wallace Doctrine, existing alliances were honored, meaning that America could still consider Turkey an ally. NRP and Utopian politicians blasted the Accords as a loss for the United States. Though they were not formally ratified, Johnson-Kennedy’s adherence to them temporarily quelled tensions.

The uneven international situation was also soon met by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and some on the right even pinned the Accords as a contributing factor to the economic hardship.

A Witch’s brew of economic turmoil had long been brewing, however. Liddy’s tax cuts and deregulation had brought about a significant disparity in wealth between the haves and have-nots. His embrace of laissez faire capitalism had also meant that some New Deal protections against Wall Street and the banking industry fell by the wayside. There was also a significant decline in construction. D’Alesandro’s housing policy followed by Liddy’s scaling back of the national housing program meant that first the government and then the private sector consistently funded construction and development. By the early-1990s, that had begun to slow. Combined with the global response to the Millennium Corporation (which meant a significant decline in the economies of oil-producing nations and a global hike in tariffs to try and compensate for the disrupted trading market), the United States was facing dark days ahead.

The Stock Market’s crash in April 1995 did more than tank the economy. Disagreements about how to handle the crisis also led to the fracturing of the Democratic-Utopian alliance in Congress. A vote of no confidence left Tom D’Alesandro out of the Speakership, replaced instead by Jim Sensenbrenner, an NRP member, as Speaker, who won over Utopian votes as the national attention shifted towards economic policies where the NRP and Utopians were more aligned.

Together, the new House majority blocked many of Johnson-Kennedy’s efforts to stave off the crisis, compelling her to act as much as possible through Executive Order, but given Congress’ control over the purse, her options were limited. The NRP-Utopian majority resisted her efforts to provide Americans with direct economic relief in the form of stimulus checks. Her efforts to hike tariffs to protect American manufacturing was met with resistance by Congress and ultimately failed, leaving the United States in an especially vulnerable position given the global hikes in tariffs.

The rising unemployment also produced a housing crisis. In the 1980s, many Americans had purchased single-family homes, including a number of families who had maintained residence in the city in the widely available affordable housing. Loss of unemployment (and fear of losing unemployment) sent many of these individuals and families back into the Cities towards these affordable housing units. The run on apartment-style housing meant that home values plummeted. A meager relief bill for banks owning these mortgages did make its way through Congress.

Johnson-Kennedy hoped that she would be able to win reelection by campaigning against the Do-Nothing Congress, and at first that seemed to work. Polls showed her running even with likely NRP and Utopian candidates, even slightly ahead, but a scandal soon engulfed her administration and prevented her from being able to secure reelection.

In early 1996, an online tabloid known as Whisperer broke a damning story. First Gentleman Billy Blythe had been conducting a months-long affair with Hollywood actress Ariella Kennedy, the daughter of media titan John F. Kennedy and the cousin of Johnson-Kennedy’s late husband. The scandal was shocking on many levels. First was the national attention on a president’s marriage, but the almost incestuous nature of the affair within the Kennedy clan and the age gap between Blythe and Ariella (almost 18 years) added more discomfort to the situation.

At first, the White House sought to ignore the issue, insisting that it was a private matter, but as the 1996 election raced towards its conclusion, the president was eventually compelled to address it. When photographs of a topless Kennedy lying on a chaise next to the First Gentleman were published online, the President released a statement announcing her separation from Blythe and her intention to file for divorce. It was the first time an incumbent president was divorcing their spouse, and it came in the midst of a hotly-contested presidential election.

While feminists cheered Johnson-Kennedy, her decision was harshly criticized by more religious Americans and even some agnostic people who feared the entire episode was staining the presidency and an unwanted distraction in the midst of economic turmoil. It did not help that the divorce kept the personal finances of the president and her spouse front-and-center, reminding the American public that despite her social democratic policies, Johnson-Kennedy was a multimillionaire.

Blythe even sued to maintain Secret Service protection, insisting that as long as they were legally married his personal safety was a national security matter. He eventually won before the Supreme Court, which decided that separated spouses were still entitled to Secret Service protection.

Johnson-Kennedy ultimately lost the messy 1996 Presidential election, though she vowed she was not done with politics. Her divorce from Blythe was finalized in 1997, though he and Ariella Kennedy announced the end of their relationship later that same year.
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Presidential review time.

Good with the whole progressive anti-sodomy thing, and I find it interesting to see a JackKay-Clinton mashup ITTL.

Also seems to be quite a nice lady, by the looks of it.
The authors have only said that this TL isn't as grim as All Along The Watchtower. I don't know where you got the idea that it's supposed to be a utopia.
There had been some discussion about having the follow-up to All Along the Watchtower be a utopia, so when this started up it was initially assumed that that’s what it was supposed to be