In this timeline, Robert F. Kennedy's life was never cut short by an assassin in 1968. Instead, his brother-in-law Steve Smith is with RFK that night and takes the bullet for Bobby (Smith will make a full recovery), thus sparing Kennedy's life and leading to his election to the presidency in 1968.
Election of 1968
Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his running mate, Senator George Smathers, received the Democratic nomination in 1968 during a dark and tumultuous time in American history. The Vietnam War was rapidly sucking up more American lives and money, protests rocked the nation's major cities, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 led to a considerable deal of civil strife. The Kennedy/Smathers ticket rode a wave of national discontent and hope for a better tomorrow and defeated the Republican ticket of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew by a narrow 2% margin, making this the second time Nixon had lost the presidency to a Kennedy brother.
During his victory speech, President-elect Robert Francis Kennedy promised to "restore our national will, and to make America a place where men and women of any creed or color can live together in peace and harmony."
First Term: 1969-1973
Robert Francis Kennedy's first term was marked by his de-escalation of the Vietnam War in which the United States had been involved in for four years, and which it was not winning. President Kennedy began withdrawing troops in 1969, and had completely withdrawn them by mid-1971; in exchange for U.S. withdrawal from the war, the North Vietnamese agreed to sit down for peace negotiations with South Vietnam and the United States.
The New Year's Conference of 1970 is considered by many to be a defining moment of the Kennedy presidency. Warm, amiable and likeable, he managed to negotiate "peace with honor", withdrawing all U.S. forces from Southeast Asia while managing to restore the status quo borders between North and South Vietnam. Kennedy had taken what had looked like certain defeat and turned it into something that while far from victory was certainly not a military defeat for the United States.
Kennedy also used his first term to pursue some domestic reforms: he had numerous civil rights bills passed in Congress that enshrined the ideas of Martin Luther King into law, and legally requiring equality for people of all races in America. President Kennedy also had several tax increases passed in order to fund social welfare programs that were designed to close the rich/poor gap. By the end of Kennedy's first term, that gap had indeed closed somewhat. However by 1972, the economy was suffering because of these tax increases on the job creating class. In addition, Kennedy brought environmental issues the forefront for the first time in American history, and took some major steps in increasing environmental protection in the United States.
Kennedy's first term also saw the realization of his late brother's dream of landing a man on the Moon in 1969. He reinvigorated the nation's interest in the space program, declaring that while America may have won the Space Race, space exploration was just beginning. He poured government money into NASA, and set a goal to create a permanent base on the Moon by 1985, and to reach Mars by the year 2000.
Second Term: 1973-1977
President Kennedy and Vice President McGovern were overwhelmingly renominated by the Democratic convention in 1972, and enjoyed good public approval ratings. Popular New York governor Nelson Rockefeller was the Republican nominee, and many on the Democratic side feared that '72 would be a close election do to a weakening economy. However, Kennedy ran a cool and collected campaign, proposing a 10% tax cut across the board as well as cutting government spending 5% over four years. Rockefeller was never able to rally enough support thanks to a bitter primary battle within the GOP between him and CA Governor Ronald Reagan, many conservatives voted for third party American Independent nominee George Wallace. The Kennedy/Smathers ticket was elected to another four years by a safe margin though failing to win a majority of the popular vote. .
Kennedy's second term marked a major economic stagnation for the United States at home, as well as the cooling off of the heated passions of the Sixties. Many Republicans and hawkish Democrats criticized Kennedy for not doing enough to contain the spread of communism abroad; Kennedy officially recognized the communist People's Republic of China in 1973, and made a historic visit to Beijing. Also, in 1974, Kennedy flew to Moscow to meet with the premier of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev. The visit was constructive and laid the ground for future peaceful discussions between the two superpowers.
Kennedy also pushed through more social reform projects through Congress, and passed a new budget that cut spending on defense and radically reformed the U.S. military, making it a more efficient cohesive unit. Kennedy had failed to follow through on his promise to cut taxes and as a result unemployment reached 10% by mid-September, 1974. As a result, the Republicans won control of the both houses of Congress for the first time in twenty years, with Gerald Ford becoming Speaker of the House and Hugh Scott becoming Senate Majority Leader. Many well known Democrats lost their seats including Birch Bayh, Frank Church, Alan Cranston, and Mike Gravel.
By the time Kennedy's second and final term as president was ending, many were trying to change the Constitution to allow Kennedy to run for a third term. However, Kennedy announced that he would not seek a third term, and such efforts were dropped. Instead, his vice president, George Smathers, was nominated for the president but in the election of 1976 to former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Although President Kennedy left office with high personal approval (59%) his failure to deliver on tax cuts had sunk the Democrat hopes for victory in 1974 and '76.
Reagan Era: 1977-1985
Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected the 38th President of the United States in 1976, defeating Democratic nominee George Smathers by a fairly wide margin, winning forty-five of fifty states. Reagan's vice president was Kansas Senator Bob Dole.
President Reagan immediately set out to greatly down-size the federal government and discontinue many of Kennedy's sweeping social reforms, much to the chagrin of the Democrat opposition. One of Reagan's first major policy changes was the Economic Recovery Act of 1977, which set across the board tax cuts, but especially helped those in the upper brackets with the top rate dropping from 78% to 55%.
Reagan's foreign policy initiatives included the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). He also increased the budget for the U.S. military and supported anti-Communists governments and organizations around the world. Reagan's popularity helped the Republicans retain their control of Congress in 1978 mid-term elections.
Ronald Reagan faced Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale in the election of 1980. Running with the slogan "Morning in America" Reagan defeated Mondale in every state except Minnesota.
President Reagan used the GOP control of the government to completely overhaul the American tax system in his second term, instituting a flat income tax and slashing all other taxes by large margins. The American economy, continued a major period of growth under Reagan. Reagan also used his two terms in office to institute many socially conservative reforms, namely appointing conservative judges and placing some controls on abortion, which had been unchecked during the Kennedy administration. He also scaled back the power of the federal government, downsizing it considerably and repealing some of Kennedy's social programs. Also, the Reagan years marked the fulfillment of Robert Kennedy's pledge to build a permanent American Moon base by 1985; one was indeed constructed that year, and President Reagan and former President Kennedy proudly hosted a national gala commemorating the event. The space program continued to flourish under Reagan.
Reagan also took a very aggressive stance against the Soviet Union and against communism in general; by 1985, the end of Reagan's presidency, the Cold War between the USSR and the United States had ended, and the Soviet Union collapsed later that year.
Ronald Reagan was a very different president than America had seen before, and he marked a major shift from the liberal policies of the past twenty years. Today, he is considered to have been a talented and dynamic president, possibly the greatest of the 20th Century.
Dole Administration: 1985-1993
The presidential election of 1988 was one of the most boring in American history; two exceptionally dull men, Vice President Robert Joseph Dole and Governor Michael Stanley Dukakis, competed for the presidency. Dole was milking Reagan's popularity and success, and won a commanding victory over Dukakis. In 1985, he took the oath of office as the 39th President of the United States, with Jack Kemp serving as his administration's vice president.
During his first term, Dole continued the policies of Reagan and the U.S. economy remained strong. Dole was re-nominated unopposed. The Democrat primary saw Senators Jesse Jackson and Al Gore fight a battle all the way to the final primary in California. Jackson called himself the heir to Bobby Kennedy's vision while Gore used his youth (40) and populist twist to compare himself to the Kennedys. In the final debate between Gore and Jackson, Gore when asked about his experience, said that he had been in public service longer than Bobby Kennedy when he became president. Jackson fired back with a line that won him the debate and the nomination, Jackson: Senator I know Bobby Kennedy, I served under Bobby Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy is a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Bobby Kennedy. Jackson won the California primary and the nomination two days later. Jackson chose California Senator Jerry Brown as his running-mate and prepared for the fall campaign against Dole and Kemp. Dole was popular and Jackson was seen as far too radical by many resulting in a comfortable win for Dole.
The defining moment of Dole's second term came in the 1991 Gulf War, in which the Middle Eastern nation of Iraq invaded its tiny neighbor, oil-rich Kuwait. Dole used his admirable political skills and assembled a global coalition to oppose Iraq, with nations from each continent contributing. The war was a great success, and came to a close after six months of fighting, with U.S. troops marching into the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and replacing him with a democratic government.
Dole's approval ratings soared. As a result, his vice president, Jack Kemp was elected president in the 1992 reelection bid over Tom Harkin, who was running in the image of Robert Kennedy, Harkin's running mate was Tennessee Senator Al Gore.
President Kemp: 1993-2001
Jack French Kemp immediately set out to improve the nation where he felt his predecessor, President Dole, had failed. The budget, which had reached high deficits under Dole, was slashed. Kemp instituted several reforms that benefited working class Americans, including abolishing the payroll and business taxes. He also, along with Vice President George Bush, launched major education reforms: the education budget was greatly increased along with school choice programs and teacher's salaries and benefits. As a result, the U.S. became more competitive and successful in the real of global education, but with a high price tag.
Foreign affairs during Kemp's first term were quiet, with the U.S. pursuing a humble policy after the end of the Cold War.
The Kemp/Bush ticket was easily reelected in 1996 over the Democrat ticket of Al Gore and Bill Bradley.
Kemp's second term was marked by the U.S. and European intervention in the Kosovo War, with NATO committing air and ground forces in the Balkans against Serbia in 1998. The Serbians quickly withdrew from Kosovo and sued for peace, which NATO granted them, on the condition that they disarm and grant independence to the provinces of Kosovo and Montenegro. The Serbians agreed. In 1999, U.S. special forces captured terrorist leader Osama Bin-Laden.
Also, 2000 marked a year of great American triumph; the United States landed a man on Mars. The Moon was now home to three permanent settlements, with two more to be constructed within the next decade.
President Kemp was largely liked by the American public, and in his term oversaw education and tax reform, as well as economic growth. His vice president, George Bush declined to run for president and the party nomination would be battled over and handed to somebody else.
The Clinton Years: 2001-2009
Former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton easily clinched the 2000 Democrat presidential nomination, as the divided Republicans fought amongst themselves. The two major contenders for the nomination were Senator John McCain and Florida Governor Jeb Bush. McCain campaigned on continued reform and improving the party's image; he eventually won the nomination, though not until after a bruising primary battle with Bush. McCain selected Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge as his running mate, while Clinton selected Democratic Congressman Dick Gephardt. The election was extremely close, and the outcome was not decided until twenty-four hours after the first ballots were cast, but Clinton eventually won the presidency.
President William Jefferson Clinton's tenure in office was defined by his response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, by Islamic radical group al-Qaeda operating out of Syria. He organized a coalition consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, and over a dozen other countries to retaliate militarily and invade Syria, whose government had sponsored the attacks. The invasion was a success, and the government of Syria was removed and replace with a functioning democracy. Al-Qaeda was defeated and the U.S. was eventually able to withdraw victoriously in 2007.
Clinton also instituted a slew of anti-terror and homeland security laws on the home front which, while keeping America safe, many felt threatened civil liberties. He also additionally launched the Lexington Project in 2003, an initiative which eliminated American dependence on fossil fuels by 2025, replacing them with alternative fuels such as nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, and biodiesel.
In 2004, President Clinton defeated Republican nominee Chuck Hagel in the presidential campaign, securing another four years.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans; thanks to ineffective crisis management by President Clinton, Vice President Gephart, FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security, a humanitarian disaster occurred and the death toll reached tens of thousands. Also that year, the American territory of Puerto Rico officially joined the Union as the 51st state.
President Clinton's administration was marked by economic prosperity, with the exception of 2007-08, which did see a major dip in financial growth. He is generally considered to have been a successful president and an effective leader in the difficult months following 9/11.
Allen Administration: 2009-present
The Republican presidential nomination in 2008 went to former Governor and Virginia Senator George Allen, who selected Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as his running mate. The Allen/Pawlenty ticket ran an efficient and powerful campaign, eventually overwhelming the Democratic presidential nominee Dick Gephardt and his running-mate Barack Obama, who was defeated by a solid margin.
George Felix Allen was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20th, 2009. He immediately set to work trying to fulfill his campaign promises of government reform and turning around the ailing American economy.
President Allen was able to cut taxes across the board in 2009, as well drastically reduce wasteful government spending. He also saw the passage of his health care reform plan, the National Health care Reform Statute. It replaced the old Medicare and Medicaid programs, and allowed people to buy health care across state lines.