45. Harold Ford, Jr, D-TN (2013-2021)
Harold Ford Jr., D-TN
January 20, 2013 - January 20, 2021


Working-class voters hated Bachmann, who felt that she had done nothing to alleviate their circumstances. Black and brown voters hated Bachmann, who saw no real change despite her talk about healing and tepid calls to remedy injustice. Catholics hated Bachmann, as her pro-life politics rang hollow when so many of her actions ran counter to Pope Marius II’s internet-heavy messaging on injustice and poverty. Liberals hated Bachmann, continuing to view her as everything wrong with America. Even middle-class suburbanites - long the base of a party touched by Nixon and Clements - had tired of Bachmann, if for no reason other than the high gas prices and constant unrest. All across America, unity was found on one topic: sheer disgust towards their commander-in-chief.

To that end, it seemed inevitable that there would be a historic blowout. Hardly any Republicans even wanted to run when they had a dominating incumbent resting at an 11% approval rating, yet eventually the party scraped together a doomed candidacy. Senator Dan Quayle was more Clementsian than his party currently stood, yet religious enough to pass to the Bachmannites. He stood the best chance of any Republican - which is to say, next to none - and even then his selection of Attorney General Samuel Alito as a running mate as an olive branch won him precious few votes.

Meanwhile, the Democrats had no shortage of candidates looking to capitalize on the situation. At this point a big tent of anti-Bachmann fury, with old-school liberals, newer progressives, and dissatisfied conservatives all counting themselves among their ranks, a historically large field came together. Everyone knew a Democrat would win, but it was a question of which faction would be in charge. Amidst all of this, one name stood out above the crowd. Senator Harold Ford Jr. had no ties to past administrations, having been a low-level congressman for much of it and first emerging on the national stage in 2006. Despite the cracks in the Red Wall, Ford took the screaming in Bachmann’s midterm and rode a wave of economic anxiety to a seat in the Senate. Compiling a decidedly centrist record in line with his position as a swing-state Democrat, he made more waves clearly preparing for the White House. He campaigned throughout the country in 2010, building a cadre of newcomers to Congress who owed him a debt of gratitude. He aggressively courted big-business donors who had pulled out from Bachmann, promising donors wary of Bachmann’s intense culture warring a friendly economic policy in meetings. Come 2011, he announced a campaign for the presidency, and the novelty of a “serious” black candidate for the White House - a term Jesse Jackson took issue with - attracted intense media attention, drowning out the noise of the other 15-odd serious candidates. Ford ate it up, playing on the historic nature of his candidacy with one simple word: reconciliation. In his opinion, the nation was divided like never before amidst all of the crises of “Bachmania.” The Democrats needed to be a party for everyone, “a party committed to bringing about racial justice just as much as it is to the guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.” The idea seemed appealing to the broad center of American politics if you believed the media, even if it caught some scorn from progressive Democrats for its naivete and outright derision from that 11% of Bachmann supporters. Regardless, drowning in big-ticket donations and favorable coverage, Ford practically shook every hand available in Iowa to ensure a sweeping 12-point victory. The rest of the Democratic center and right dropped out soon after that, endorsing Ford as their man and clamoring for an inevitable vice presidency. Only Bonior tried to compete, but Ford had united all other factions behind him. It had ended before it could truly begin.

Nominee Ford and his running mate were immensely popular. The Liberal Party endorsed Ford after its options largely ran out, with figures like Barbara Lee declining to contest for fear of spoiling and party leaders hoping to have the ability to bargain for positions with Ford when he won. His pledge to “talk to anybody” saw soaring attendance for any of his events as he spent more time shaking hands than he ever did talking. Republicans attempted to brand him as someone without any convictions, a candidate of optimistic rhetoric but no concrete solutions, hoping to drive a wedge in the massive tent that formed the Democratic Party. There was no such luck. Even if Ford spoke mostly in platitudes and only really pledged himself to a modest economic stimulus, resolving the Israeli-Egypt situation with a comprehensive agreement, and rebuilding the social safety net built by past administrations, that sort of talk seemed good enough to a public broadly dissatisfied with Republican rule. The American people didn’t want a policy change, because Bachmann had broadly failed to get her own agenda implemented. Other than Israel - where Bachmann had instigated a firestorm with leaked comments indicating her belief that defending Israel was necessary to start the Rapture - Americans mostly wanted an end to the recession. They wanted to feel good about themselves again, and the idea of Harold Ford the young centrist, a black man from the south willing to talk to the Confederate flag pickup truck voters in a time when those voters didn’t care who was in office so long as it wasn’t Michele Bachmann, was enough to do just that.


For the massive landslide that brought Harold Ford to the White House, it’s hard to talk about policy achievements made by the Ford administration. True to his word, Ford quickly launched a summit with Israeli and Egyptian leadership, hammering out an agreement for trilateral military withdrawal in exchange for assurances of Israeli sovereignty and aid to Egypt. Reassurances to NATO leadership were harder, who liked what Ford told them but were wary of the Israel hawks in his administration and the possibility of another Bachmann arising in the future. Even so, Ford managed to temporarily smooth things over with Europe, especially once the prospect of increasing military aid to its pre-Bachmann levels became reality. Despite the good press from this, this was less concrete policy and more cleaning up Bachmann’s messes.

Domestic policy was far more difficult. Ford was wary of dividing his party, seeing such a public fight as anathema to his chances at re-election and his image as a great uniter. As such, major plans for federal housing reform were scrapped, as were continuing environmental policies. A moderate stimulus bill passed Congress, irritating progressive Democrats for its half-measures and conservative Democrats for its wasteful spending, but ultimately getting voted through without much public opposition. The focus on infrastructure and increasing funding to government benefits was broadly popular and made it easy to get individual buy-in with projects in sticklers’ constituencies. An amendment designed to abolish the electoral college passed Congress as well, with the majority wishing to see an end to the system that made Bachmann possible. Even so, much of the circumstances were out of Ford’s control. The recession had hit its nadir around 2006, and the slow climb out of the hole in East Asia meant that the American economy was well on its way to recovery by 2013. By the time Americans went to the polls in 2014, a boom had been cut loose to rival the 1920s, and the electoral rewards for the Ford administration were basically status quo on the federal level. After all, why would he need to do anything if times were good?

It was the state level where things were more interesting. The Republicans, fearing the total death of their party, had decided to informally cede the national stage for the time being and focus their efforts on rebuilding on the state level instead of an effectively coordinated national campaign. State parties and their individual politicians were far more popular than the national branch, and Ford seemed untouchable at the moment. Resistance to the electoral college amendment was a no-brainer, as its abolition would make it that much harder for their victory in the future using any variation of the Bachmann coalition. Broader campaigns in areas hit hard by the prolonged recession were more fruitful. The jobs went away in 2004 and simply hadn’t come back, and plenty of people’s anxieties felt unresolved by Ford. Republicans swept in to offer them messaging about the decline of their communities, how they would rebuild a nostalgic vision of an America past. Despite the national victories for the Democrats, frenzied campaigns for state legislatures often ignored by the overextended Democrats saw outsized gains for the staunchly right-wing Republicans attempting to experiment in local municipalities where they couldn’t nationally implement their vision.

Even though no fundamental change had come and progressive detractors pointed to Ford’s coziness with Wall Street, there was no real reason for most Americans to complain - or even pay attention. The president was uncontroversial, the economy was good, and the Cold War was over. Though there was lasting pain, it was concentrated, and the vast majority could simply get on with their lives. This is not to say that there were no detractors. On the left, dismay about growing greed and gluttony in the internet age skyrocketed - to them, this was a nation where more than anyone ever needed was available at our fingertips while people worked minimum wage to build the shiny new technology and deliver it to our doorsteps. On the right, the fretting was about the culture - that same connectivity had removed any ability to control the flow of information and previously-invisible groups like GLBT people to be seen, especially with the legalization of civil unions and a series of smaller rulings against discriminatory policies towards them. Comparisons to the Roaring Twenties were frequent, citing either the entanglement of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue or the result of the gradual secularization of American political life.

Though Americans may have hardly cared beyond their own shores in the relative peace and prosperity, there was hardly any peace around the world. The Cold War may have ended and the USSR collapsed under Bachmann, in its place was a new system struggling to be born. The negotiations to create a new union - the Confederation of Independent Republics, as it was - fell apart quickly once the Russian Republic defined its new government. Aleksandr Dugin’s railing against the west and arguments for a new, strong Russia captivated a new generation of Russians who had never seen their nation as a genuine world power, just one struggling to keep up with the west in its slow decline. His election as president of the new Russian Republic spooked many of the other republics, which quickly elected to secede while there was still time. It did not help that Ford quickly made clear his opposition to the revanchist authoritarians in Moscow - while it was morally right, it gave significant ammunition to the idea that the west was trying to keep Russia down. By 2014, a staged coup attempt against Dugin by Soviet loyalists collapsed, and in response he quickly established a new constitution enshrining his powers. Russia was on the move again.

Despite this, the nation was still in a broadly isolationist mood. Bachmann had made a mess that the United States had no business being involved in, and the public was tired of such situations. Ford, having the chance to promote the first post-Cold War foreign policy doctrine, decided to placate this mentality. Ford’s address to the UN cited a “slow march towards freedom” with the victory of liberal democracy, citing that the United States was now best fit to help bring new nations into the free world instead of resisting the Soviets. The enemies of freedom would be opposed, but the United States need not bother with increasingly large interventions in global affairs. To that end, Ford’s administration - staffed more by internationalist wonks like Francis Fukuyama than the anti-communist hawks that defined the Cold War - focused primarily on international aid. MDC-style humanitarian aid to developing nations flourished to a level described as “Marshall Plan 2.0” by Secretary of State Joe Biden, while military aid to democratic forces in conflicts was similarly large-scale. Though Dugin’s wars in Central Asia against the mujahideen were more or less left alone by a United States wary of restarting the Cold War, the Ford administration helped to practically bankroll the German-led European Federation anti-genocide interventions against Vojislav Seselj in the rapidly-dissolving Yugoslavia.

All of this was in the face of re-election, which seemed all but assured. The Ford administration was broadly looked upon favorably by the public, the economy booming and the president still the young civil servant who focused his efforts on listening first and foremost. The national media environment remained broadly pro-Ford as well, undoubtedly an asset in maintaining his position. The Republicans, still reeling, broadly saw a primary fight between Oklahoma Senator Steve Largent, an unabashed Bachmannite, and Oregon Governor Gordon Smith. Smith described himself as “half Clements and half Weicker,” a liberal-conservative through and through. Tit for tat the Republican primaries went, until eventually Smith seized the upper hand through an upset in Texas. It seemed that 2016 would be another “election about nothing,” a battle between a marginally left of center administration and a marginally right of center governor.

The race was quickly turned upside-down by Bob Conley. Conley, a Democrat who had served as South Carolina’s junior senator, was relatively unique. Sitting on the far right of his party and the political spectrum at large, Conley described himself as an “America First Democrat,” and he meant it. He frequently cited “Jeffersonian ideals,” citing an America of small towns and good Christian values and not wanton foreign aid like the Ford administration promoted. The idea that the two candidates for president were both centrist liberals infuriated Conley, and many of Conley’s voters - fans of Bachmann and their local Democrats alike - were wary of Gordon Smith’s Mormonism as well. So Conley, hoping to oppose the new system, launched his campaign on the American Freedom line, hoping to provide a true conservative voice. Quickly, it seemed that the grand coalition was in jeopardy. Ford’s LDP-style dominance of the political system seemed hardly shaken, but Conley had a unique sort of appeal to conservative southern Democrats and Bachmann voters alike. Smith was terrified of a similarly large loss to Quayle, just looking to shore up his support out west. Conley’s selection of Missouri’s Todd Akin, a Republican with similar sympathies, as his running mate seemingly helped him, and it looked as if Conley would be able to shatter the political system.

So the Democrats and Republicans alike focused their fire on the intruder. Attacks against his statements praising Aleksandr Dugin’s Christianization program and arguing that the United States should leave the Eastern European situation alone were routinely mocked as dangerous. Conley was treated as a dangerous radical, a strange blustering opportunist who’d destroy freedom around the world and be another Bachmann. Nonetheless, Conley criss-crossed the nation, raising hell about the broad consensus and the elite establishment. Though few national figures wanted to touch him and he was broadly disliked by his colleagues, right-leaning talk radio hosts and dissident internet talking heads alike flocked to him, bringing their small yet devoted follower bases with them. In the end, though, Todd Akin’s comments about how abortion should be banned in all cases because “legitimate rape” never causes pregnancy were blasted across the national news, leading to attacks by both candidates. Smith flexed his personally pro-life yet staunchly anti-criminalization beliefs as a way to reassure wavering Bachmannites and women alike, and the Conley vote - for most of the race polling in a fighting second mid-thirties - never truly recovered.


In the end, vote-splitting in the south led to a number of Ford pluralities where Conley placed second, but overall it led to an election map that looked vastly the same as 2012 sans South Carolina in the Democratic category. It seemed that the grand coalition had held, and the South Carolina firebrand had not broken American politics, even as his campaign would serve as a model for Bachmannites and other far-right politicians in the near future. Notably, though, he had drawn a sizable third place despite a litany of outright racist statements, demonstrating racism’s more complex place in American society than expected.

The second term seemed broadly to be more of the same. Ford continued to promote robust aid, slowly bringing a slew of former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO and NAFTA. Seselj’s government collapsed at last, leaving Europe to discuss how to rebuild the nations left behind by his genocidal rampage. Ford continued to channel federal funding towards infrastructure and renewable energy sources, broadly drawing the same sort of unenthusiastic support that had defined his presidency. Deregulation of finance and new tech sectors led to rampant speculation even as alarms of a crash due to this in the near future were quickly discarded. The stock market boom continued as it had for the past few years, and it seemed that life was good once again.

Then came New York City. A young black man was killed by a police officer, and mass communication via the internet saw a video of the man being choked by a stone-faced police officer quickly spread. The situation provoked deep outrage, and a wave of protests crossed the United States demanding change. For his part, Ford was torn. His nonpartisan image rested on his attempts to not govern as a black president. He had managed to assuage any potential backlash by maintaining good times and broadly speaking to people who may have been uncomfortable. His visit to a navy base in Mississippi that had flown the Confederate flag drew broad praise for his understanding and calm conversation with the soldiers, for instance. Here, though, there was no way he could duck the issue and maintain that image. Ford tried as best he could to chart a middle ground. In an address to the nation, he called for policing reform to ensure that “this perpetual problem of young black men being killed during routine stops” ends, but also conceded that “the riots across our nation in his name must end.” This seemed to be the worst of both worlds. Pro-police sorts were furious he had acknowledged a problem, while the protesters felt that the violence was spurred on by massive police reaction as opposed to their rioting. The protests continued undaunted, police departments cursed their president, and it seemed that America’s cities were burning. State governors called in their national guard to put down the protests, and protesters began to die even as order was restored.

The summer 2018 protests were a turning point for the administration. Ford had addressed the nation as a black president despite his outright avoidance of such a display, and this was costing him dearly. Conservative and moderate Democrats representing the rural south and suburban districts were thrown out of office in favor of far-right Republicans, maintaining the Democratic majority even as it was no longer a supermajority. Ford continued to try to do nothing, to maintain the good feelings, but even then it was lost. Criticisms of the complacency of the past few years had found a national stage, and populist Republicans found a receptive audience to the idea that America was losing its way, that unchecked foreign aid, that the expanded rights of GLBT people, that police reforms “undermining law and order” were all a sign of a broader moral decay. Ford’s meager attempts to pivot were too little too late. His support for modest policing reforms only angered supporters of such programs and enraged the resurgent right, even as the proposal ultimately passed in Congress. The attempts at rebuilding state-level parties had led to a number of states entirely dominated by Republicans, gerrymandered into unbreakable majorities with pliant governors who pledged total resistance to the reform bill. There was almost certainly a change brewing for the next election. All it would take was one good crisis, and 2020 would prove to be an election like no other.
Interesting stuff. Having the parties known by their OTL colors (e.g. the GOP's "Red Wall") while they're swapped in the electoral maps is kind of throwing me.
It seems fitting that the man who's family built their fortune on their funeral homes serves in the Obama-but-even-more-so role as unintentional gravedigger of bipartisan civility and the neoliberal boom times.
Is something wrong with the pictures of Harold Ford in this chapter? It's calling him a black man, but the pictures seem to be of a white person. I looked up photos of Harold Ford, and while there is certainly a strong resemblance, the skin tone seems very off.
I know this is gonna sound shocking, but not all black people have the same skin tone.
I know this is gonna sound shocking, but I literally wrote in that comment that I looked up a picture of Harold Ford and thought that the person being shown in the chapter didn't quite look like him, including skin tone.
Edit: The first photo with him and the Confederate flag does appear accurate, so I will exclude that from my confusion with the photos, but the electoral pictures still look off from the picture I found on his wikipedia article.
Google Image Search says that it's him.
I edited my comment some (outside of the explicit edit), but you replied before I was done, so to clarify, the person in the photos does look a lot like Harold Ford, especially the brow which is what convinced me, so I'm not saying that isn't Ford, but the picture nonetheless seems to have captured his skin tone incorrectly. He is very light skinned, but not as light skinned as the person in the photos above portray. I don't know why this is (maybe something with the lighting?), but since this chapter is about "the first Black president," I thought it worthwhile pointing out how the photos seemed to be off, since it confused me when I read the chapter until I looked up his picture for myself, and thought other people might be confused as well.
This is one of Harold Ford's official portraits from his time in Congress. Here is a link to its source on Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harold_Ford,_Jr.jpg
Black people can have varying skin tones, and different photographs can make all people appear many different ways. Yes, this particular photograph is a bit off, I think the contrast or saturation may be too high. But that's how it is in the source. That's all. Don't dig yourself a deeper hole.
Is something wrong with the pictures of Harold Ford in this chapter? It's calling him a black man, but the pictures seem to be of a white person. I looked up photos of Harold Ford, and while there is certainly a strong resemblance, the skin tone seems off.
Hey uh, maybe don't do blatant colorism/racism in our TL? That's just really fucked up and you think I wouldn't do enough research to know whether a black politician is black? Jesus Christ man.
Is something wrong with the pictures of Harold Ford in this chapter? It's calling him a black man, but the pictures seem to be of a white person. I looked up photos of Harold Ford, and while there is certainly a strong resemblance, the skin tone seems off.
He, like Adam Clayton Powell and Walter Francis White(to a greater degree) were of predominantly mixed heritage and saw themselves as black. There was actually a controversy over Harold Ford calling his grandmother a white women during his run for congress, which saw furious denunciations.

The race of Vera Ford, the paternal grandmother of U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., came up when Harold Jr. declared she was white while campaigning for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee.

His statement, first reported in December in a USA Today profile of the congressman, surprised many longtime Memphians who knew the Ford family and believed that Vera was black.

But no one was more surprised -- and shocked and angry -- than Barbara Ford Branch, one of Vera's daughters and Harold Ford Sr.'s older sister.

She vehemently insists that her mother was black and is absolutely baffled as to why her nephew, Harold Jr., would try to rewrite his family's history.

But former U.S. representative Harold Ford Sr. says he's talked with the rest of his siblings and they all agree: Vera was white.

More than a curious tidbit in what will surely be a hotly contested Senate race, the dispute speaks to the larger issue of race -- not just between black and white, but the pressure intraracially to choose sides.
Pictures of Vera, who died in 1994 at the age of 78, show a very fair-skinned woman. The race on her death certificate is recorded as "black." Her parents, John Davis and Lottie McGinnis, are noted as "Negro" on their death certificates.

Vera Davis went to Booker T. Washington High, which was then (and practically is today) an all-black school.

In 1934, she married N.J. Ford, a black man, when it was illegal for a white woman and a black man to wed.

Vera was named the Tennessee Mother of the Year, "the first black woman ever so honored in Tennessee," the Nashville Banner wrote in 1976. This, Barbara told me, is proof that Vera was a black woman and lived as such.

Harold Sr. and Jr. "are denying their heritage," says Barbara, a retired attorney in New York and one of the few Ford children who has never sought public office.

Relatives have asked her to keep quiet, she says, because "my nephew is running for office.

"If you're not going to stand up for your mother, then who are you going to stand up for?"

There was a white ancestor, Barbara says, but it wasn't Vera. It was Vera's grandfather, John McGinnis.

She says that in some ways, Harold Jr. simply stated the obvious, as anyone who looks at her siblings, with their thin noses, straighter hair and pale complexions, knows they have white blood.

"Harold [Jr.] is fair-skinned. ... He wants to be whiter than he is?" she asks.

Harold Jr. dodged my phone calls, but he did ask his father to call me.

Vera's race wasn't anything the family ever discussed, Harold Sr. says, but they knew she was white.

"It was a foregone conclusion" that didn't require analysis around the dinner table, he says. "My [maternal] uncles didn't want to come to the house because my father was brown-skinned."

Some family members have had DNA tests, Harold Sr. says, that back up his assertion that his mother was indeed a white woman.

Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford hasn't seen any DNA tests, but he too says his mother was white.

"It was just one of those things," Joe says. "It never crossed my mind to think about it. She looked white."

In fact, he was listed as white on his driver's license, a mistake he didn't notice until he was 19.

But because their father was black -- or perhaps a mixture of black and Native American -- Joe and Harold Sr. always saw themselves as black men.

"I was always African-American. I'm still African-American. I'm proud of that," Harold Sr. says.

Proud? Don't get Barbara, who also identifies as black, started on proud.

She was proud when Harold Sr. was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but now, she thinks her parents are rolling over in their graves at the mess most of her kin have made.

As I listened to Barbara, I could almost hear the gloves falling to the floor.

"If he (Harold Sr.) calls my mother white, I can say anything now," Branch says. "I will not let them try to make my mother something she wasn't."
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Just caught up on this TL now. Terrific stuff--for a collaborative TL, it's really settled thematically as a grim-ish take on a New-Deal-Coalition-Forever TL, with Ford as a sort of shittier Obama so thoroughly paralysed by the demands of his gigantic electorate that he can do literally nothing with a failed-state-level electoral majority.
46. Chris Matthews, D-PA (2021-present)


Chris Matthews, D-PA
January 20, 2021 - present


An ambitious man, Chris Matthews won his first seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after several years as a Grasso/Byrd staffer. His 1984 election put him on a path that brought him to the U.S. Senate in a 1991 special election at the age of 46. He briefly sought the 2012 Democratic nomination, but he realized that his lane was completely taken up by David Bonior, who was the more well-known of the contenders for the blue collar vote. That was fine enough with Matthews. He got out early and endorsed Ford, helping to piece together Ford’s coalition, and he was rewarded when the new President brought him on as his running mate.

By the time 2020 rolled around, Matthews finally had his shot at the White House. He was 74 years old when he announced his campaign, which put him ahead of even Bill Clements’ record for oldest president, but times were changing, and most Democrats believed that Matthews was the right man for the job. He had toed the line dutifully during the Ford presidency, though he did sometimes get ahead of the administration. Most of his gaffes were seen as endearing. Others were not, and this proved Matthews’ most glaring problem as he tried to win the nomination.

Some of his comments perpetuated an image that Matthews was too old school and even sexist. Appearing on Howard Stern during the 2008 campaign, Stern asked Matthews which of the candidates (Bachmann or Clinton) he found more attractive. Instead of laughing it off or saying it was inappropriate to ask a question, Matthews answered: “I don’t know that either of them pass the Chris Matthews test, let’s just say that.” He further claimed Clinton would never be president because, “She’s never accomplished anything. Her husband died in a plane crash, and she inherited everything. I knew Bill in the House, we were friends. Believe me, he had more fun without Hillary than with her.” Matthews later apologized for the remarks.

So, naturally, Matthews’ most serious primary opponent was a woman, Allyson Schwartz, the very woman who replaced him in the Senate after his elevation to the vice presidency. Matthews didn’t take her too seriously, but he soon regretted that after Schwartz got the better of him at a series of primary debates. Matthews went into overdrive, calling in favors from his 30+ years in politics. RFK Jr. and Jesse Jackson endorsed him, and while Clinton endorsed Schwartz and campaigned aggressively for her, Matthews raked in the endorsements of some prominent women politicians, including Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm who said Matthews was the most electable candidate in the race.

Matthews sewed up the nomination shortly after Super Tuesday and decided to bring Texas Governor Wendy Davis on as his running mate.

He entered the general election in a uniquely interesting position as Republican governors and state legislatures moved to ensure the success of their nominee, Maryland Governor Ken Mehlman, the first openly gay nominee for the presidency. Once again, the race for the White House included three serious contenders, and Republicans feared that splitting their vote might result in Matthews winning the presidency.

Kansas Governor Kris Kobach pushed for the state would apportion electors based on Congressional district instead of a winner-take-all system. The legislation quickly passed the legislature there. Idaho went further, passing legislation that essentially negated the popular election held in that state. In Idaho, if no candidate received 50%+1 of the popular vote, the state’s legislators would choose who their electoral votes went to from the top two candidates. Similar legislation was passed in Wyoming and the Dakotas. With the possible exception of Kansas, these states were assumed to be blue states anyway, and so the Matthews campaign didn’t fret. But then Florida happened.

The state had been drifting towards the right wing and while Ford had carried it twice, the 2018 midterms saw a wave of American Freedom legislators win election and a new Governor, American Freedom candidate Pam Bodni, promised that Florida would “not go red” under her watch. She whipped votes and passed an “Idaho bill” in Florida. Matthews ranted that the legislation was undemocratic. Bondi said she was ensuring the intent of the voters was recognized.

On Election Day, Matthews won Florida and its 29 electoral votes, but with only 46.4% of the vote. American Freedom candidate Marcus Bachmann captured 30.2% of the vote, and Mehlman finished third. Florida’s legislators awarded their 29 votes to Bachmann, arguing that the majority of voters had been against Matthews.

It was not enough to cost Matthews the election, but it outraged many Americans and conceptualized the rightward drift of the Republican Party and the threats posed by the American Freedom Party.


Ironically, Kobach’s law in Kansas actually provided Matthews with an extra vote he otherwise would not have gotten, proving that it was not enough to help the Republicans, and given the controversy surrounding Florida’s law, a tri-partisan consensus seemed to emerge: Ranked-choice voting. Democrats had suffered from liberal parties, Republicans were suffering from right-wing parties. The establishment voices in both major parties believed that RCV would protect them. The American Freedom Party believed it was its path to relevance. Republicans hoped to preserve the Electoral College as part of the process but to no avail. Ultimately, the majority of Republican lawmakers decided to give in despite the fact that the Republican nominee for president had not won the national popular vote since 1992. Privately, many Republican lawmakers favored a Democratic president to an AFP one. The amendment was ratified in March of 2023, meaning the 2024 election will be the first decided by a national popular vote and ranked choice voting.

Matthews’ coattails were few and far between. Republican and AFP candidates did well down the ballot and as a result many states had Republican/AFP coalition trifectas. In June of 2021, this would provide Matthews with the first test of his administration.

Associate Justice Dianne Feinstein was in ill health but refusing to leave the Court. She missed several oral arguments throughout the 2020-2021 term, and as a result, the Court was forced to move forward without her. The result was disastrous for liberals.

In University of Illinois v. Wild the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling limiting a public university’s capacity to administer affirmative action policies in admissions.

Next came Mellon v. Arkansas, when the Court upheld a lower court’s ruling permitting the death penalty for a man who was 17 years old when convicted of murder. Many had expected the case to finally end capital punishment in the United States, or at least stop the punishment for minors. Feinstein’s absence, and the resulting 4-4 tie, meant that Mellon was executed.

The third and final case that touched on cultural sensitivities came from another Southern state. Mississippi had passed a number of restrictions on abortion access, including onerous requirements for clinics, a 20-week ban, and a requirement that any clinic performing surgical abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The Supreme Court again deadlocked 4-4, and all of the laws were permitted to go into effect. It was the biggest blow to Roe v. Wade since the 1973 ruling.

Mississippi Governor Chris Daniels, the only American Freedom Party governor in the country, held a press conference with Texas Governor Ted Cruz. Together, they called on like-minded governors to implement a host of laws that would roll back the liberal advancements on social issues. “The Court has changed, and so must our laws,” Cruz said. “We should rejoice in this!”

Outraged Democrats called for Feinstein’s resignation, but no word came. In the House, Congresswoman Cindy Sheehan, a Democrat from Feinstein’s home state, and Congressman Tagg Romney, a Republican, together introduced a resolution for Feinstein’s impeachment after a series of articles describing mental decline. There was widespread condemnation of the move, however. Republicans feared letting Matthews appoint a younger liberal and some Democrats argued the resolution was sexist and disrespectful of a “legendary” Supreme Court justice.

The calculus shifted shortly after the 2021 rulings came out, when Chief Justice Laurence Silberman died. The Chief Justice’s death meant the Court would shift to a 6-3 liberal edge (5-3 if Feinstein was absent). Matthews replaced him with the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Kamala Harris.

As the Court politics unfolded, Matthews seemed unwilling to engage with the host of Republican governors around the country who were pushing ahead in their efforts to take on the federal government. Once again, primary education became a hot button issue. Mississippi included time for prayer in the school day as part of its metric for allotting federal dollars to schools, despite the fact that the Court had ruled school prayer unconstitutional all the way back in 1962. The Justice Department argued that the Mississippi law did not mandate school prayer, and so it was not in violation of the Supreme Court’s previous ruling. Liberals argued that it was time to engage with the conservatives on these cultural issues, but the president refused to address the issue in a news conference. “The law is the law, and because of the Bachmann Amendments, which I voted against, these states get to create their own funding formulas. That’s the way it is. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to try and impose my will on a bunch of people who don’t want to hear it,” the president argued.

The ACLU decided to take up the case, and it is slated for oral arguments at the Supreme Court, where the Court is expected to rule against Mississippi. Justice Feinstein will not be in attendance for oral arguments, but there are only three conservatives on the Court: Jones, Starr, and Clements.

A similarly controversial schooling issue has sprung up in Texas and Oklahoma. Those states are reserving more than half of their vouchers for religious schools. Some have questioned whether that voucher money can be used to send children off to religious schools. Matthews’ administration refused to issue an amicus brief as the case made its way to the Supreme Court. The opinion is expected in June.

Expecting that they will lose at the Supreme Court, Cruz and Daniels led 11 other governors in creating the Coalition of Independent State Governors. The group defines its mission as “Ensuring the American values of individual liberty are respected in our states against the encroachment of the federal government.” Congresswoman Sheehan declared the CISG “treasonous,” but most Democrats have failed to create a response. “It’s just a big circle… well, anyway. They’re a think tank. That’s all they are,” President Matthews said, refusing to take action against the group.

In his first two-and-a-half years in office, Matthews has failed to get much of his legislative agenda through a bitterly divided government. His inaction – and the passage of RCV – has helped the Liberal Party return from the doldrums. Most of his work has been in foreign policy, where has attempted to renegotiate the terms of NAFTA to be more favorable to American workers.

The 2024 election proves to be one of the most historic. Former President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is running as an independent, Matthews is facing several nominal primary challenges, the Liberal Party, the Republican Party, and the American Freedom Party are all expected to nominate candidates. The biggest hurdle remains for the Liberal Party – blocked from federal matching funds – but Sheehan, the de facto Chairwoman, said she believes grassroots donors will carry them to relevance.

It remains to be seen how the election will play out, but if there’s one lesson to be learned it’s that fifty years after Watergate, the American presidency is altogether different and the rigid two party system has met its demise.
Great work and somewhat surprised to see it over so soon. I would love to have a rundown of all the Presidents and why they had (or didn’t have) what it took.
Associate Justice Dianne Feinstein was in ill health but refusing to leave the Court. She missed several oral arguments throughout the 2020-2021 term, and as a result, the Court was forced to move forward without her. The result was disastrous for liberals.

In University of Illinois v. Wild the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling limiting a public university’s capacity to administer affirmative action policies in admissions.

Next came Mellon v. Arkansas, when the Court upheld a lower court’s ruling permitting the death penalty for a man who was 17 years old when convicted of murder. Many had expected the case to finally end capital punishment in the United States, or at least stop the punishment for minors. Feinstein’s absence, and the resulting 4-4 tie, meant that Mellon was executed.

The third and final case that touched on cultural sensitivities came from another Southern state. Mississippi had passed a number of restrictions on abortion access, including onerous requirements for clinics, a 20-week ban, and a requirement that any clinic performing surgical abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The Supreme Court again deadlocked 4-4, and all of the laws were permitted to go into effect. It was the biggest blow to Roe v. Wade since the 1973 ruling.
This is quite the use of an alternate Dianne Feinstein, especially after the recent calls for her resignation from the Senate after her multiple absences.
Appendix: Presidents, Speakers, Senate Majority Leaders, and SCOTUS


Presidents of the United States in What It Took
37. Richard M. Nixon (R-CA), 1969-1974

1968: with Gov. Spiro Agnew (R-MD) def. VP Hubert Humphrey (D-MN)/Sen. Ed Muskie (D-ME), Gov. George Wallace (AIP-AL)/Curtis LeMay (AIP-CA)
1972: with VP Spiro Agnew (R-MD) def. Sen. George McGovern (D-SD)/Sargent Shriver (D-MD)
38. George H.W. Bush (R-TX), 1974-1977
1973: appointed Vice President after the resignation of Spiro Agnew
1974: assumed the presidency after the resignation of Richard Nixon
39. Ella Grasso (D-CT), 1977-1981
1976: with Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) def. Pres. George H.W. Bush (R-TX)/VP Ronald Reagan (R-CA) [1]
1980: with VP Robert Byrd (D-WV) def. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC)/Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-MI)
40. Robert Byrd (D-WV), 1981-1989
1981: assumed the presidency after the death of Ella Grasso
1984: with VP Bob Kerrey (D-NE) def. Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-CT)/Gov. Bill Clements (R-TX)
41. Bill Clements (R-TX), 1989-1997
1988: with Sen. Donald Rumsfeld (R-IL) def. VP Bob Kerrey (D-NE)/Gov. James Florio (D-NJ), Rev. Jesse Jackson (PUSH-SC)/Tony Mazzochi (PUSH-DC)
1992: with VP Donald Rumsfeld (R-IL) def. Gov. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)/Sen. Walter Dee Huddleston (D-KY), Rev. Jesse Jackson (PUSH-SC)/Niilo Koponen (PUSH-AK)
42. John Van De Kamp (D-CA), 1997-2002
1996: with Gov. Thomas Capano (D-DE) def. VP Donald Rumsfeld (R-IL)/Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Niilo Koponen (PUSH-AK)/Howie Hawkins (PUSH-NY)
2000: with VP Thomas Capano (D-DE) def. Sen. Bob Dornan (R-CA)/Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MI)
43. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (D-NY), 2002-2005
2002: appointed Vice President after the resignation of Thomas Capano
2002: assumed the presidency after the assassination of John Van de Kamp
44. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), 2005-2013
2004: with Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) def. Pres. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (D-NY)/VP Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-AR) & Fmr. Sen. Lowell Weicker (L-CT)/Sen. Bill Weld (L-CT)
2008: with VP George Voinovich (R-OH) def. Fmr. VP Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-AR)/Gov. Donna Shalala (D-FL) & Rep. Dennis Kucinich (L-OH)/Fmr. Sen. Jim Jeffords (L-OH)
45. Harold Ford, Jr (D-TN), 2013-2021
2012: with Sen. Chris Matthews (D-PA) def. Sen. Dan Quayle (R-IN)/Atty. General Sam Alito (R-VA)
2016: with VP Chris Matthews (D-PA) def. Gov. Gordon Smith (R-OR)/Gov. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) & Sen. Bob Conley (F-SC) & Rep. Todd Akin (F-MO)
46. Chris Matthews (D-PA), 2021-present
2020: with Gov. Wendy Davis (D-TX) def. Gov. Ken Mehlman (R-MD)/Sen. Greg Pence (R-IN) & Mr. Marcus Bachmann (F-MN)/Sen. Sarah Palin (R-AK)
[1] Ella Grasso replaced Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-WA) as the 1976 presidential nominee after his assassination. She was originally his running mate.

Congressional Leadership

Speakers of the House
1971-1977: Carl Albert (D-OK)
1977-1985: Tip O’Neill (D-MA)
1985-1987: John Brademas (D-IN)
1987-1991: Edward Rell Madigan (R-IL)
1991-1999: Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY)
1999-2003: Don Young (R-AK)
2003-2007: Dan Lungren (R-CA)
2007-2014: Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr (D-LA)
2014-2019: Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
2019-present: John Thune (R-SD)

Senate Majority Leaders
1961-1977: Mike Mansfield (D-MT)
1977-1987: Edmund Muskie (D-ME)
1987-1995: James A. McClure (R-ID)
1995-2003: Ed Garvey (D-WI)
2003-2004: Gene McNary (R-MO)
2004-2013: Ed Garvey (D-WI)
2013-2019: Roland Burris (D-IL)
2019-present: Mike DeWine (R-OH)

U.S. Supreme Court

Chief Justice Kamala Harris (Matthews, 2022- )

Replaces Laurence Silberman (1989-2022), Warren Burger (1969-1989)​
Edith Jones (Clements, 1991- )
Replaces William Brennan (1956-1991)​
Dianne Feinstein (Van de Kamp, 1997- )
Replaces Byron White (1962-1997)​
Vince Foster (Van de Kamp, 1998- )
Replaces Harry Blackmun (1970-1998)​
Cyrus Vance Jr. (Kennedy Jr., 2004- )
Replaces James Marshall Sprouse (1987-2004), Lewis Powell (1972-1987)​
Ken Starr (Bachmann, 2005- )
Replaces William Rehnquist (1972-2005)​
Stephen L. Carter (Bachmann, 2007- )
Replaces Amalya Kearse (1991-2007), Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991)​
Merrick Garland (Ford, 2013- )
Replaces John Paul Stevens (1975-2013), William O. Douglas (1939-1975)​
Elena Kagan (Ford, 2014- )
Replaces Patricia Wald (1981-2014), Potter Stewart (1958-1981)​
Great timeline; I just realized the Curse of Tippecanoe is still...nope won't make that pun, it's still present here. Was that something that was planned, noticed and then ran with, or a happy accident?


Great timeline; I just realized the Curse of Tippecanoe is still...nope won't make that pun, it's still present here. Was that something that was planned, noticed and then ran with, or a happy accident?

Tagging @Enigma-Conundrum, but I think he wanted to incorporate it and Grasso fit perfectly. Once he used it in 80, I decided to use it again in 2000.