The 1964 Presidential Election is considered by many an oddity, in that the polls all got it wrong. To be honest, they, the Johnson campaign, and even the Goldwater campaign could not have known that there was going to be an incredibly low turnout, that people were so confident Johnson was going to win, they simply turned off their televisions, their radios, and called it a night. And because of that train of thought, Goldwater by mere chance managed to make it into the Oval Office. President Goldwater. To me, it still makes me shudder to think of what he could possibly have done. Still, I was only a mere infant, and that is all in the past. Nothing can be changed now. However, it is interesting to ponder over what Lyndon Baines Johnson would have done in his stead. Clearly it would have been less radical and in many ways beneficial. This timeline goes over that possibility.
The Presidential Election of 1964
Lyndon Baines Johnson is re-elected President of the United States in a landslide, with Barry Goldwater only carrying the states of the Deep South (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida), Idaho, and his home state of Arizona.
Editor's Note: Of course, this is entirely based on the speculation that the people voted exactly based on the polls produced by Gallup. To many, it was a shocking surprise, even to Goldwater himself that state after state fell into his column. A state like Virginia was at least somewhat understandable, having conservative traditions. But others like Illinois? Ohio? New Hampshire? It sure was a rude awakening when Goldwater even carried Johnson's home state of Texas.
Lyndon Johnson's First Term
Johnson immediately began a rapid escalation of American forces in South Vietnam in the hopes of defeating the Communist Insurgency by the National Liberation Front. At the same time, he asked that bombing runs be made on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main supply line between the NLF and North Vietnam. The hope was that, with the destruction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the NLF would eventually be starved for supplies and forced to disperse, allowing South Vietnam some measure of stability, and redeployment of soldiers back to the states.
However, the Ho Chi Minh Trail proved to be more durable than previously thought. While they could extensively damage select targets, there were just TOO MANY targets. The trail itself was made up of numerous roads, supply stations (many of which were underground), and guarded by anti-aircraft batteries and SAM missiles. All movement by Communist forces was made during the night so as to prevent detection by recon aircraft, making it all that more difficult to pinpoint the exact routes of the network. Even if one were found, it was promptly abandoned in favor of another that likely had been created in the previous weeks.
The ground war as a result did not go as planned. With the NLF still properly supplied through the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the American military found itself fighting an intense guerrilla war. Calls to bomb North Vietnam's major cities (notably by Curtis LeMay) went unheeded by Lyndon Johnson, even when it became apparent that the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail was not having the intended effect.
Instead, in 1966, Johnson would create a strategy in which the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) would begin to take over the American military's pacification role, while at the same time able to hold off the VPA (Vietnamese People's Army). By 1968, however, the ARVN was still too weak to handle the security of the nation, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were still in Vietnam, and rising casualties were making the war increasingly unpopular.
Editor's Note: It was already apparent that Lyndon Johnson had every intention of staying in Vietnam for the long term. However, especially from recently released documents, it is also apparent he meant to win the war from South Vietnam. How he was to do that cannot be as easily said. He was one of the foremost critics of Goldwater's expansion of the bombing campaign over most of North Vietnam, Hanoi and Hai Phong included, largely due to massive civilian casualties that would ultimately occur. Of course, this also proved more effective than the bombardment of the Ho Chi Minh trail, and the NLF found itself short of arms and supplies by the middle of 1965.
Still, Goldwater did what he obviously did not have to do; he decided to end Communism in Southeast Asia once and for all, and invaded North Vietnam in 1966, shortly after the effective collapse of the NLF as a major fighting force. Communist China did not take too kindly to the situation and, upon the request of Ho Chi Minh, sent in the PLA. When Goldwater threatened to "raze" Beijing unless China withdrew from North Vietnam, the Soviet Union stepped in and demanded that the United States withdraw from North Vietnam or lose West Berlin. Arguably, in those moments we came closer to Armageddon since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
However, this time, Washington "blinked". President Goldwater called for a meeting between representatives from all those parties involved (China, USSR, USA, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, etc.) in order to establish "a lasting peace in a region wrought with war". The basic result was a return to pre-war borders, though reparations from the American government to North Vietnam were sought (and denied). Most of the American military would be out of Southeast Asia by the end of 1968 as a result.
Israel and the Six-Day War
The Six-Day War began on June 5th, 1967, when the Israeli military aircraft bombed Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian military positions near the nation's borders, followed by a rapid advance into the said nations. Israel claimed that this was a defensive action, which can be supported by clear buildups by those three nations along Israel's borders over the last month. By June 11th, a ceasefire had been reached, with Israel in control of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula. Johnson would only send military aid to Israel in increased amounts, but did not do much more in fear of antagonizing the Soviet Union.
Editor's Note: Goldwater, of course, could not stand by and leave Israel unsupported. It had only been about two months after the signing of the peace treaty in Rome that ended the Vietnam War when the Six-Day War had broken out. Upon Goldwater's orders, the 6th fleet was to be positioned in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel. The Soviet Union balked, and sent most of its Black Sea fleet to tail the 6th fleet, and would do so until the end of the war. Thankfully, it never developed into a stand-off similar in nature to Vietnam.
President Johnson had campaigned in 1964 on the basis of creating a "Great Society", with which to aid the realization of the American Dream. This included increased spending, reform and expansion of the education system, the establishment of programs with the purpose of fighting poverty, and the reform of the healthcare system within the United States. However, despite Democratic control of Congress, many of Johnson's proposals were not able to be enacted due to conservative opposition. While much of the Great Society did succeed in getting passed, the Health care Bill would be voted down in the Senate, and health care reform would die with Republican pickups in the 1966 Midterm elections.
Editor's Note: Goldwater, as we know, did not really care about the domestic scene until after the conclusion of the Vietnam War. Even then, his influence was merely to cut taxes by 30% (originally proposed 45%, but was rejected by the Democratic Senate) on both the income tax and taxes upon corporations. He also resisted any expansion of the government that he perceived contrary to the Constitution, resulting in his vehement opposition to proposed government controls on healthcare. Regardless, the economy appeared to be doing well, and the Republicans would champion the 1965 tax cuts as the cause come the 1968 elections.
By 1965, many Civil Rights groups were lobbying for a final, definitive and forceful Federal law that would ensure their political rights. He appeared set to pass legislation to that effect, but it was only made stronger following the murder of Civil Rights worker Viola Liuzzo. Though it was opposed by many Southerners, public opinion swayed enough Congressmen to pass an Act that made it illegal for any reason to prevent another American citizen from exercising their right to the electoral franchise.
Editor's Note: Unlike Lyndon Johnson, Goldwater did not pursue the passage of such a bill. To him, it was interference by the federal government in affairs that were clearly within the state's realm of responsibilities. However, he still pursued the murder trial of Viola Liuzzo personally, and can been somewhat expected that Johnson, while pushing a Civil Rights bill (and having introduced the Voting Rights Act through Senator Ralph Yarborough in OTL), would likely have done the same.
Under President Johnson, NASA carried out most of the goals that had been set out by the Kennedy Administration before. Under the Apollo Program, NASA was to land a man on the surface of the moon before the end of the decade. While the landing itself would not occur until 1969, the first manned flight around the moon took place during Apollo 8 in December of 1968.
Editor's Note: With Lyndon Johnson's concentration almost exclusively on the Great Society and the War in Vietnam, he likely would not have concentrated much on a legacy that likely was going to belong to JFK. Would he cut it? No, it was much too popular among the public, and frankly, he somewhat supported it, too. Barry Goldwater, on the other hand, made sure to increase NASA's budget significantly. The Apollo Program as a result was expanded in both scope and length, though the initial schedule itself was left largely unchanged.
Presidential Election of 1968
Democratic Party Primaries
Despite his approval ratings lingering around the forties, Lyndon Johnson only faced one true competitor in the race for the Democratic Party nomination, South Dakota Senator George McGovern. Endorsed by such men as Senators Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern managed to win the majority of those primaries held that year. However, delegates to the Convention at the time were not usually earned through the primaries, but through smaller state conventions held by the local parties. Almost all of these supported Lyndon Johnson, and so at the convention, he was overwhelmingly nominated on the first ballot for a second term. Hubert Humphrey would also be receive the Vice Presidential nomination a second time.
Editor’s Note: It can only be assumed that Lyndon Johnson would have quite easily won the nomination, even with low approval ratings. At the same time, however, we have to assume that an Anti-War segment of the Democratic Party would have developed, with the power to challenge the President. However, this would not have been an easy task, and higher profile candidates like RFK might support others like George McGovern or Eugene McCarthy in order not to lose political capital. As we know, in OTL, the major candidates had been Senators Robert F Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, with the former coming out on top. Lyndon Johnson had considered running again in a rematch against Goldwater, but ultimately decided against it.
Republican Party Primaries
The front runner had appeared by 1967 to have been Richard Nixon, but he declined to run after the publishing of polls showing him far behind Lyndon Johnson. The candidate then became George W. Romney, who had over the last year turned against the Vietnam War, and proposed a ceasefire and gradual withdrawal from South Vietnam. The only major challenger to George Romney was California Governor Ronald Reagan, a staunch conservative who won the support of the Southern delegations. However, outside of the South and California, Reagan’s influence was very limited, as in many cases he was compared to Barry Goldwater, a politician whom America had overwhelmingly rejected just four years past. Therefore, George Romney won quite easily on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. He would pick John G. Tower as his running mate.
Editor’s Note: Richard Nixon had for the most part retired from public service, and likely would not have run had he not been certain he could attain the Presidency; therefore, the natural heir apparent would have been George Romney. Some would say Nelson Rockefeller, but he had already gone through an expensive and costly campaign in 1964, and his image needed time to heal before voter’s eyes. Ronald Reagan, though, would likely run as the conservative alternative to the moderate Romney. However, again, he would have appeared to many as a re-incarnation of Barry Goldwater, and therefore unelectable by many Republicans. George Romney’s anti-war stance is in some ways fact, but by the time he had publicly claimed he was against the war it was winding down.
In OTL, Barry Goldwater was opposed by only a single candidate, New York Mayor John Lindsay. After being crushed in the New Hampshire primary, Lindsay promptly withdrew from the race and endorsed Goldwater. However, California Governor Ronald Reagan was nominated to replace William Miller as Vice President at the Republican National Convention.
American Independent Party
Alabama Governor George Wallace, rather than directly challenge Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic primaries as he had in 1964, decided to run as a candidate under the newly created American Independent Party banner. Running on a platform of segregation, state’s rights, law and order, and absolute victory in Vietnam, it threatened to end Johnson’s chances of reelection.
Editor’s Note: In 1964, George Wallace had planned to make his own run for the Presidency as an Independent, but decided against it when Goldwater had won the nomination. It can only be assumed that if George Romney won the nomination in 1968, with Johnson running on the Democratic Party ticket, he would have gone ahead with the same plan four years later. Of course, in reality, George Wallace endorsed Goldwater in his reelection bid, and actively campaigned for him across the South.
Lyndon Johnson had to deal with an insurrection within his own party among the southern conservatives, while at the same time dealing with anti-war elements that defected to George Romney under the “Democrats for Romney” banner. However, a major dispute eventually came up over Romney’s eligibility to run for the Presidency, specifically the fact that he had been born in Mexico during the short span of time his parents resided there. When the case came before the courts, it was decided that Romney was indeed not naturalized citizens for this reason, but those who were born on American soil, including territories and military bases, were to be considered thus.
The chaos was almost immediate. Major leaders within the Republican Party met together and ultimately decided that the nomination should be transferred to John Tower. Ronald Reagan lobbied to be given the Vice Presidential nomination, but his was rejected, but a narrow margin and despite Tower’s support, in favor of Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield.
For many, this produced a situation in which all the major candidates were for the War in Vietnam, and therefore there was no reason to pay attention to the election itself. George McGovern would be pressured to run as a Progressive Democrat. However, though he might disagree with President Johnson’s positions on the Vietnam War, he preferred Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office over John Tower or George Wallace.
Election Day would find a relatively depressed turnout, with a significant number of write in votes for the former Republican candidate, George Romney. Lyndon Johnson would narrowly win reelection to the Presidency. George Wallace would hurt John Tower more than Johnson, both being conservative southerners; while Wallace himself would only win the Old Confederacy (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina), he would flip enough Tower states to Johnson to prevent the election from going to the House.
Editor’s Note: George Romney’s issue of either being a natural citizen, and therefore eligible for the Presidency, has never actually been properly dealt with, even during his run for the Republican nomination in 1972. However, it can be assumed that the Supreme Court, had it been forced to rule on the issue, would say he was not a natural-born American, since he was indeed born in Mexico. I am not sure whether Ronald Reagan would then have been able to take the nomination away from Tower, but the fight itself likely would have been nasty.
Lyndon Johnson would have in all likelihood have won reelection, even if by a narrow margin. John Tower and George Wallace both appealed to conservatives, and for the most part split the vote in many states that otherwise would have gone to John Tower. Would Wallace’s coalition have lasted past this election? If it was a collection of ideas, yes. However, it likely would have been also a coalition based on his personality, and therefore liable to fracture unless he was the one leading it.
As we know, the election here was arguably just as close, with Kennedy claiming that Goldwater almost brought Armageddon upon us just so some he could put another feather in his hat. To an extent, Kennedy had a point. However, Goldwater simply countered it with the results of the Paris Conference, and the growing American economy. Even with a relatively high turnout, Barry managed to eke out a win, in no small part aided by Ronald Reagan’s California.
Lyndon Johnson's Second Term
The Vietnam War had not been going well, and despite attempts to properly train the ARVN, the South Vietnamese military was demoralized from successive military defeats. The government in Saigon by the beginning of 1969 was still struggling to set up a working Democratic system, having gone through several military leaders, juntas, etc. General Westmoreland wanted to abandon the plan of making South Vietnam self-sufficient, favoring one in which the American military personally destroyed the NLF for them, and then withdrew from the country. However, Johnson would not budge, and things did not get much better.
By 1970 there were over 800,000 American soldiers in South Vietnam, most nothing more than conscripts having been given substandard training. Back at home, the war was growing increasingly unpopular, with Johnson’s approval rating falling into the twenties. Lyndon Johnson himself had grown tired of the conflict, and despite General Westmoreland’s pleas, refused to send additional reinforcements.
However, developments in South Vietnam seemed to be turning out for the better. With the force of the American military, a Democratic system not much unlike that of France was set up in Saigon, replacing the successive military governments that had existed over the last decade. Elections were held in 1971, resulting in a Liberal-Communist Coalition government rising to power. Westmoreland suggested that the election results be annulled, but Lyndon Johnson, with the support of Hubert Humphrey, stated that they should stand, even if it were less than desirable.
In Paris, a final peace treaty was signed between North Vietnam and South Vietnam in 1972. The borders were to remain the same, but South Vietnam would in 1974 hold a vote, upon which it would decide if it wanted to remain independent, or unify with the North. After the treaty was finalized, the American military would begin a rapid pull-out and be out of the country within six months.
Editor’s Note: Lyndon Johnson was known to be stubborn, and likely would have stood with his initial decision had he made one; in this case, trying to pass the war effort onto the shoulders of the South Vietnamese. However, it is likely that he would have grown tired of the war. With no end in sight, and the ARVN failing to fight effectively without American support, the Democratic Party would have lost many seats in the 1970 midterm elections.
The major point is that Johnson would have at that point been desperate to find a way to extract the United States from Vietnam, and would likely have risked significant political capital to do so. That he would have had the American military at gun point aid the creation of a Democratic regime in the South is not that far out of consideration; it had been suggested during the early days of the war during Goldwater’s Presidency.
It is also not out of the realm of possibility that the Communists would have emerged as one of the major parties, but that is only with the assumption that Lyndon Johnson cared for stability over regional dominance. The NLF in this case would still have been effective, both as a military force and as a political force, though the exact extent and nature of its power cannot be accurately measured.
The ultimate question then is, if put to a referendum, would South Vietnam have unified with North Vietnam? To be honest, it probably was not all the likely. Still, it is food for thought.
In the opinion of many, the Johnson administration did not have a domestic agenda throughout the second term; the war in Vietnam simply took too much of his attention, and he spent more and more time with generals, intelligence officers, and diplomats, rather than members of Congress. When the Republicans took over both Houses during the 1970 midterm elections, any chance of further Great Society programs getting passed fluttered away; in many cases, conservatives sought to cut the budgets of programs they saw as useless, expensive, or unconstitutional. Lyndon Johnson, however, would not have it, and viciously defended the Great Society, vetoing any budget that put deep spending cuts in any of the programs he viewed as necessary. The resulting gridlock between Congress and the President did not do much to improve Johnson’s image with the public, and there was a fear that funding to the troops in Vietnam would be cut. A compromise would finally be reached were the budgets of most Great Society programs would be scaled back slightly. In return, Johnson would not veto a ten percent tax cut that was about to be passed through Congress.
Editor’s Note: With the Conservative Coalition in full force, supposed Republican pickups in 1970, and higher concentration winning the War in Vietnam, it is highly unlikely that Johnson would have had any king of domestic agenda, or at least one that would be effective. The conservatives would try to repeal parts of the Great Society, and being President Johnson’s legacy, he would try to defend it any way he could.
President Goldwater’s domestic agenda was for the most part just as small. It largely consisted of downsizing the government, and giving the state’s more responsibility of their own local affairs. He was moderately successful in this regard, with the Democratic Congress preventing more radical steps at decentralization, despite significant Republican pickups in 1970.
On July 20th, 1969, the United States sent three astronauts to the moon, two of whom descended to the lunar surface. Buzz Aldrin became the first human being to walk upon a foreign surface, and the first words upon its surface being:
“…..let all of mankind know………it has now made its first steps into the heavens beyond. That today…….not Americans…....or Russians……claim the moon for their own…….but the citizens of the human race. On this day…….we are one people……out of many…..”
They would be picked up by the USS Hornet after their splash landing in the Pacific Ocean upon their return. However, after this point, the Apollo Program would begin a decline. With funds being diverted to finding an end to the Vietnam War, and both public and congressional support of the Apollo Program ending, Johnson would not push for its continuation; JFK’s legacy of landing an American on the moon had already been accomplished, and he had little to no interest on expanding it. Stuart Roosa would become the last member of the Apollo Program to set foot on the moon during Apollo 20.
Editor's Note: It is not all that far of a stretch to believe that Johnson, having most of his concentration on achieving victory in the Vietnam War, would have given half-hearted support to the Apollo Program, something even he believed was more the legacy of John Kennedy rather than himself. At the same time, the American public and Congress both grew tired of the lunar landings after initial excitement with Apollo missions 11 and 12, and just as historically done, would likely have given difficulty in expanding NASA’s goals for space exploration.
In many cases, President Goldwater’s constant support and earlier budget increases for NASA are credited with having saved the later programs from being forced into cancelation. When a temporary lunar outpost was created in 1977, support began to return. A manned fly-by of Venus also aided in this return of overall support, with James A. Lovell and his two crew members becoming the first men to visit another planet.
Indo-Pakistani War 1971
Historically, American foreign policy became increasingly allied with Pakistan, whom had since its independence opened a pro-western foreign policy, while India had become more closely associated with the Soviet Union, despite its supposed non-aligned policy. However, President Johnson became more concerned about America’s position in supporting a dictatorship, especially when stories of human rights abuses came out. As a result, Johnson became to orient American policy more in support of India then Pakistan.
However, when war broke out in 1971 after Pakistan conducted aerial bombardment of Indian airfields, the United States decided to remain for the most part neutral, though giving diplomatic and domestic aid to India. The war ended with East Pakistan becoming the independent nation of Bangladesh, and much of Pakistani-administered Kashmir coming under Indian occupation.
Editor's Note: With the way the Vietnam War was proceeding under President Johnson, it can be assumed that he was less likely to be supportive of dictatorships, especially those that did not properly take care of their people. Goldwater, on the other hand, did not care so much one way or the other. To him, India was on the path to Communism, and he did his best to make sure that India was properly contained (though this did not go as far as diplomatic communications with the People’s Republic of China. Despite the level of support Goldwater gave to Pakistan, East Pakistan was lost. However, this was in part compensated by Pakistani gains in Kashmir and other areas along the Pakistani-Indian border.
1972 Presidential Election
A Draft-Nixon movement came about, but it failed to gain much more than minor support when Richard Nixon himself declared that he would not, under any circumstances, accept the Republican nomination for President. Instead, the main contenders ended up being George Romney, the Governor of Michigan, Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California, and Nelson Rockefeller, the Governor of New York. Each represented its own wing of the Republican Party, but there was trouble from the onset. There was some question about George Romney’s citizenship, but more of the media’s attention was directed at his religious beliefs, George Romney was a Mormon. Even when he dispelled the issue in a well-received speech, he failed to gain any traction against Reagan. With him and Rockefeller fighting for the Republican moderates, Ronald Reagan won the majority of the primaries by default, despite his apparent hawkishness, and conservative views often compared with Barry Goldwater.
Editor's Note: This is more or less what happened in OTL. However, Vice President Reagan won the primaries for the most part overwhelmingly, and was easily nominated at the convention. Here, we have to assume that he would have been viewed in a somewhat more negative light, or at least the more moderate wing would be cautious of him. His charisma, however, would likely have won them over at the convention, something that Goldwater, Romney, and Rockefeller never had, at least to Reagan’s ability.
The Democratic establishment hoped to put Hubert Humphrey forward as the Democratic Party nominee, but faced a major opponent in the form of New York Senator Robert Kennedy, who had the support of George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy. Edward Kennedy had wanted to run, but bowed out when he was convinced his brother had a better chance at defeating Humphrey in the primaries. George Wallace also entered, but more to control the southern delegations at the convention, and hoped to make the Democratic primary more sympathetic to Southern political views. Shirley Chisholm also notably began a run, but would eventually withdraw and endorse Hubert Humphrey.
The primaries themselves were a mess. Kennedy won virtually all the primaries, but Hubert Humphrey managed to carry all of the conventions outside of the South (the majority of delegates were elected by party bosses that controlled the state parties in state conventions). When the delegates arrived, none of the candidates were near a majority, though Humphrey had a narrow lead. The eventual result was rather surprising, unexpected, and considered pure chance. Edmund Muskie, a delegate from the state and Senator from the state of Maine, was nominated as a compromise candidate three ballots after he was introduced (On the 38th ballot). While Humphrey and Kennedy endorsed him (with RFK becoming the Vice Presidential nominee), Wallace stormed out of the convention with his delegates (having failed to change any part of the Democratic Party platform) and endorsed the Republican nominee, Ronald Reagan.
Editor's Note: Because RFK had not been the nominee, or rather had not ran at all in 1968, he likely would have run in 1972, though the Democratic Party’s chances were dimming. Ted Kennedy had run in OTL, but he likely would not have run against his brother, and neither would his friends George McGovern or Eugene McCarthy. George Wallace had made an attempt at changing the Democratic Party in OTL, but found just as little success, and ended up spending more of his time ensuring that Reagan would be able to count upon the South for support.
In regards to Edmund Muskie’s surprise victory, he was a respected politician from a swing state (though of little electoral worth), and was viewed as a fresher face among the already dirtied Democratic Party field. There was at a time a Draft Muskie movement during the 1972 primaries, and support at the convention for his candidacy, though it was made moot by Ted Kennedy’s overwhelming nomination (and also his own reluctance to actually become the Commander-in-Chief). However, with the balloting process having gone on as long as proposed here, and no winner in sight, he may have viewed his candidacy as the only way the Democratic Party could remain united. Of course, at the same time, we can propose about fifteen other politicians for the same reason, but we will remain with Muskie.
When Edmund Muskie had entered the race for the Presidency, the electoral map for the most part was shaken up. While the Democratic Party was clearly not favored to win a consecutive fourth term, Muskie was clearly making it close, aided in part by the charismatic personality that was his running mate, Robert Kennedy. However, Ronald Reagan was equally, if not more charismatic than Robert Kennedy, and it was Edmund Muskie that was at the top of the ticket, not Bobby (though some would argue that Volpe in part strengthened the image projected by the Democratic ticket, being a man of few words). Making matters worse, the Republican Party remained ahead in public fundraising, and would remain so throughout the campaign.
While opinion polls initially favored Muskie, the debates proved to be key. His performance during them proved to be spectacular, with Governor giving witty and intelligent answers to all the questions, while hitting hard at the Democratic Parties administration of the nation. Muskie would not perform terribly, but was just overshadowed, and did not connect as well with the American people as Reagan did. As a result, Reagan began to pull ahead in the opinion polls (despite the disaster that was the Volpe vs. Kennedy debate). When the election was finally held, Reagan and Volpe were elected in a landslide.
Editor's Note: Despite Muskie being a respected Democratic Party politicians, it must be realized that after four years after an election that almost resulted in a defeat, and where conditions have only grown worse, it is unlikely that the Democrats would have won a fourth consecutive term with any candidate, except maybe Robert Kennedy himself. However, Muskie would likely have been favored over the perceived radicalism of Reagan, until he was able to unleash himself during the Presidential debates. These were Reagan’s ultimate strength in OTL, and it is unlikely that would have done any worse had his opponent been Ed Muskie rather than Ted Kennedy. Therefore, he would have been able to reassure the American public that his more radical views were not all that radical, and in ways beneficial (at least to some).
Would he have won in a landslide? It is very likely; the American people would likely have grown tired of Democratic control of the White House, the War in Vietnam only having just ended, gridlock with Congress despite being under Democratic control, etc. Ronald Reagan’s speaking abilities would only help to ensure that outcome. Of course, that did not happen in reality. While he won by a comfortable margin, Ted Kennedy still did relatively well, despite a flourishing economy.
First Term of Ronald Reagan
The Arab governments, lead by Anwar Sadat, had made clear their intent to reclaim the land that they had lost during the Six-Day War. Israeli and American intelligence was able to indentify military buildups by Syria and Egypt along their borders, and it was clear that they were likely to attack within the coming months. However, the Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, became worried that if Israel were to launch a pre-emptive attack, it would not receive any support from the United States, its main provider of military arms. President Reagan would make a phone call and stated:
“……the United States has been a friend of Israel since its birth………and I have been its friend since its birth………and I will do all in my power to make sure that the world……..and America……..continue to protect the Hebrew people from attack………whether through supplies……diplomatic support……or military action. And that is even if you go ahead with a justified preemptive military attack…..”
On October 6th, Israel began aerial bombardment of Egyptian positions on the west bank of the Suez and Syrian positions near the Golan Heights. Despite heavy losses due to SAMs that had been supplied by the Soviet Union to those nations, the majority of the SAM batteries were destroyed, and the offensive power of Syria and Egypt was for the time crippled. Shortly after, the Israeli military began two offensives; in Egypt, the goals was to take the western bank of the Suez Canal, including Port Said, while establishing a defensive line within African Egypt; in Syria, a drive was to be made toward Damascus.
By the war’s end on October 15th, Israel had succeeded in securing the Suez Canal, and forced Syria to capitulate, despite military intervention by Iraq and Jordan. Syria would recognize the existence of Israel, and recognize an annexation of the Golan Heights, in return for an Israeli withdrawal from Pre-War territory. In Egypt, however, there was only a return to an armistice, and a heavily fortified border developed along the armistice line. Israel would eventually turn over control of the Suez Canal in 1974 to the United Nations, under pressure from the United States and the USSR.
Editor’s Note: There is actually no difference here from OTL. President Reagan here did the exact same thing as President Reagan……….here.
1973 Oil Crisis
By the turn of the 70’s, a significant percentage of the Western World’s oil imports came from the Middle East, a region that also had become involved in the politics of the Cold War. Because of this, the Arab nations, at the behest of Anwar Sadat, planned to use the “oil weapon” as a tool in order to end foreign support for the state of Israel. When the Yom Kippur war began, letters were delivered to the embassies of the major western powers and others, that if they in any way gave aid to Israel, they would initiate an embargo upon them. President Reagan paid no attention to the message, and continued to send military aid to the Israeli people (aided in part by the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The Arab nations involved (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Iran, Abu Dubai) kept their word.
The effects were immediate, with the American economy entering a recession following a crash on Wall Street, and gasoline prices skyrocketing. Various methods were introduced in order to combat the lack of gasoline to power industry, including rationing and price controls (which Reagan himself would remove immediately at the end of the crisis). What is more important is that it prompted Ronald Reagan and leaders in Congress to realize that the Third World now had bargaining power in regards to American foreign policy, an idea that was completely unacceptable. Nuclear power was, after much deliberation, chosen over other renewable fuels such as solar power, largely because it was already tested and developed. At the time, the United States had over thirty nuclear power stations providing power for eighty percent of the nation. President Reagan’s proposal, known as Project Independence, called for the construction of another three hundred stations over the course of fifteen years, at which time the policy could be renewed. Despite the exorbitant costs, the economic outlook and ever rising gasoline prices allowed for passage through Congress.
Negotiations with the Arab nations would eventually make a break-through following the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Syria, and the turnover of the Suez Canal to the United Nations. All but Libya would lift their oil embargoes against the United States by the end of the year, allowing for the economy to begin a swift recovery. However, Project Independence was not canceled by Congress.
Editor’s Note: Most of this is based on historical fact. In reality, Project Independence had to be scaled down somewhat due to Democratic opposition. As a result, construction was limited to only two hundred nuclear power stations, but the timetable was reduced to ten years, which was then subject to renewal by Congress.
1974 East Mediterranean Crisis
On July 20th, 1974, in response to a coup that sought to unify Cyprus with Greece, Turkey began an invasion of the nation, though it ceased while occupying a small sector around Kyrenia on the 23rd. During the resulting negotiations between the Greeks and the Turks, Ronald Reagan ordered for the American military (with the permission of Congress) to be deployed to Cyprus and contain the Turkish military to those areas already under occupation, but not to engage under any circumstances. The situation was difficult due to both Greece and Turkey being part of NATO. However, Reagan viewed the invasion as an illegal act of force on the part of Turkey. Following condemnations from both members of NATO and the United Nations Security Council, Turkey withdrew from NATO and took a neutral stance in world affairs. Turkey withdrew from Cyprus on the 14th of October, under the pretense that the Turkish Cypriot population would be guaranteed their rights and representation in the Greek government. Turkey itself would not rejoin NATO or re-establish diplomatic relations with the United States until 1979.
Editor’s Note: For the most part this is historical, except the need for Congress’s approval. This was required since the Tonkin Resolution had been repealed during the Johnson Administration.
Second Korean War
On the 18th of August, 1976, Captain Arthur Bonifas and 1st Lieutenant Mark Barrett of the United Nations Command Security team were murdered by North Korean soldiers in the Joint Security Zone, within the Demilitarized Zone. The incident had occurred over the trimming of a hundred foot tree that blocked observations by United Nations Command, and had been scheduled with the permission of the North Koreans. At first, it was claimed that the American and South Korean soldiers had attacked the North Koreans, but film evidence taken by a corporal proved the contrary.
Under direct orders from President Ronald Reagan, eight hundred American soldiers escorted a squad of engineers to the tree, and were to protect them from any interruption of their work by the North Korean military. They were shortly afterward joined by several hundred South Korean soldiers. The North Koreans meanwhile deployed over two thousand soldiers to the area, building machine gun emplacements and mining the bridges. For the next twenty minutes, there was tension, along with an uncanny silence, only broken by the work of the engineers removing the limbs from the tree.
No one is exactly sure who fired first; all video evidence points to the North Koreans, but even the film is grainy to such an extent that it also appears as if the South Koreans had opened fire. Regardless, the small skirmish quickly spilled over into war, with North Korea ordering its military over the DMZ the next day (it had lost over 1200 men in the battle at the JSC, the Allies 348). That the People’s Republic of China joined the conflict days later did not help matters for the United States, though it would take time for the PLA to deploy onto the Korean peninsula.
Unlike the First Korean War, the United Nations was not able to get involved (the Soviet Union blocked any possible police action). However, this did not prevent the majority of the NATO Alliance from making a deployment to aid South Korea in what was perceived as a defensive war; similar deployments would be made on Taiwan after the failed Chinese amphibious invasion in October of that year.
Like the first war though, fighting was limited to the DMZ. Aerial bombardment by NATO and American aircraft, despite the presence of SAM missile batteries imported from the Soviet Union, made movement for the North Korean military almost impossible, even foolhardy. They had made a few gains along the DMZ in the initial phases of the war, but were within the next few weeks pushed back across the border. By the January of the next year rolled around, the Allies began preparations for a spring offensive, hopefully to bring a quick end to the war.
Editor’s Note: This is all based on historical fact. After American soldiers had been killed by the North Koreans, with North Korea launching an invasion of the South the next day, a declaration of war would almost be inevitable. However, the major fear was always how to deal with Communist China, a nuclear power, and ally of North Korea (not the USSR). I remember it being said that Reagan’s appearance of always being ready to duke it out with the Communists might have unnerved North Korea, and maybe some of its soldiers, but war would likely have broken out at some point anyway, even under a President who sought peace.
In many ways, Ronald Reagan’s domestic agenda could be called radical. He put forward a plan that called for a flat tax or incredibly low income tax in order to spur economic growth. Many of the Great Society programs that had been passed during Johnson’s Presidency he wished to see reversed, or at least starved for funds to the point they could no longer operate. He also called for government support of rural America, whether that would be through subsidies, tax cuts, grants, etc. There was also to be a rollback on healthcare, where the government began to deregulate that market, or in other words grant more freedom to independent firms in that field.
For the most part, despite Republican majorities, much of Reagan’s domestic agenda was stifled by filibusters in the Senate. Support for rural farmers came, stemming the emigration from there to the suburbs, but at the same time many of Johnson’s programs remained. In a way, they were viewed as successful (except for welfare, which was done away with) and acceptable to the constitution. A major tax cut was placed, but it failed to reach the levels Reagan and many conservatives desired, and proposals for a flat tax died in the committees.
Outside of economics, Reagan had also wanted to privatize the education system; he viewed that charter and independent schools were of a better quality than public schools, and that an economic rather than a state model would work better. In this case, Congress did not agree, though they did allow for the passage of an amendment that allowed for the federal funding of religious schools and events.
Editor’s Note: President Reagan’s domestic agenda “here” is radically different than it actually was. Because Goldwater never became President, Ronald would have had much more in the way of proposals than he would have had Johnson been President. Of course, “here” he would have had more success with the Republicans and conservatives in control of Congress. Reagan historically was never able to succeed in passing the Freedom of Education Amendment due to Democratic filibusters in the Senate, nor was he able to get taxes any lower than they had been under Goldwater. However, healthcare rollback is historical (though it never succeeded).
One of Ronald Reagan’s major priorities had been to get NASA back on its feet again after the major budget cuts it had endured during the second term of the Johnson Administration. He hoped to initiate another program that had been planned by NASA, known as Artemis (the sister of Apollo in Greek mythology). The plan was for Artemis to establish a base on the lunar surface of the moon, and exploit its mineral resources for the benefit of the United States. At the same time, plans for a space station, known as “Liberty”, were floated as another possible goal for Artemis.
However, Congress was neither keen nor willing to openly support such ambitious goals, especially given the public’s lukewarm reception to the idea. NASA’s budget was increased, but not by as much as Reagan had sought. Still, it would be enough to get the Artemis program started, and plans for a lunar outpost to be established in 1979 were already moving forward.
Editor’s Note: As I have explained previously, because of NASA’s earlier successes, it never faced any sort of budget crisis, nor did it have any problem in attaining support from the public or Congress. Flybys of both Venus and Mars were conducted (the Mariner Program), with construction having begun on a lunar facility late into Reagan’s term. Rich deposits of resources found on the lunar surface, yet rare on Earth, helped continue to fund NASA’s activities. Of course, the Soviet Union refused to be left out of the spoils to be found on the lunar surface. On the 23rd of October, 1976, Alexey Leonov became the first Russian to walk on the surface of the moon. The USSR would continue manned lunar landings for the next couple years.
1976 Presidential Election
Ronald Reagan was largely favored to win the nomination of the Republican Party for a second term, and his popularity forced out other, more high profile candidates such as George H. W. Bush, John Connally, and Howard Baker. However, one candidate did come forward to challenge the President; Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland. Mathias had become increasingly worried that the Republican Party was moving too far to the right wing of the political spectrum, and hoped that he might swing it back towards the center. However, he was not entirely sure if he was going to run until he was encouraged by John Anderson, a Representative from Illinois.
The primaries were, for the most part, anti-climatic. Ronald Reagan did not seriously consider Mathias a threat, and let others do most of the campaigning for him. The President would win the New Hampshire primary by an overwhelming margin, and after poor showing in the next couple primaries, Mathias dropped out of the race. Reagan and Volpe would be nominated by the Republican National Convention nearly unanimously.
Editor’s Note: This is all historical fact.
Many had expected Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to run for the Presidency, or at least his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy of New York. However, both publicly announced that they would not be running for the Democratic Party nomination. The resulting vacuum left three major contenders standing; Governor George Wallace of Alabama, Senator Mo Udall of Arizona, and Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington. Other candidates included Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, and Former Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma.
The primaries were in no way decisive, and in many ways simply played the candidates to their regional strengths. George Wallace was entirely confined to the Southern states, but was also able to score narrow victories in the Illinois and Indiana primaries. Mo Udall, while doing well just about everywhere but the South, found his major base in the Prairie states out west. Scoop Jackson was confined to the Northeast and Pacific Coast, and had great difficulty finding traction just about anywhere else.
By the time the Democratic Convention opened, it appeared all too likely that it would be brokered, that another “Muskie” would be thrown out for the American people. However, unlike before, the nominating process ended after the first couple ballots, with Mo Udall becoming the Democratic Party nominee for President. He would pick Terry Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, as his running mate.
Editor’s Note: Largely the same as historically, except for two major differences. One, Mo Udall managed to win the majority of the primaries and therefore delegates, allowing him to win at the convention on the first ballot. Two, Mo Udall had chosen as his running mate Scoop Jackson; we would have to assume that their relationship would have soured much more with a protracted political campaign, and make a Udall-Jackson ticket incompatible, or unstable.
President Ronald Reagan was heavily favored for reelection, with an expanding economy, taxes at the lowest rate they had been in years, and an overall sense of approval. That was until August, when the Second Korean War broke out. Charles Mathias, feeling that Reagan was simply too reckless to be an effective President, and too conservative for the good of America, launched an independent bid, with John Anderson as his running mate. As a result, what was previously a walk quickly became a dead heat between Reagan and Udall.
The debates are known as some of the most famous in history, with both Reagan and Udall respectfully answering questions and remaining largely on the issues, and some say that Udall actually won; Mathias was not given much notice by the media, and what was originally a potent political force slowly began to wane.
One of the more famous moments during the campaign was when Ronald Reagan visited the troops not far from the frontline, and gave a speech over the evening news on location. While some claim that it was foolhardy to place him within range of North Korean snipers, it reinforced his image as a leader in the eyes of many Americans, and one who could more properly lead the United States through the war. On Election Day, Ronald Reagan would comfortably win reelection.
Editor’s Note: All is based on historical fact. However, Charles Mathias in OTL did not lose nearly as much support as is suggested here, and polled nearly twelve percent on Election Day, significantly narrowing the race.
The Second Term of Ronald Reagan
Second Korean War
Into April, the war had remained in a stalemate largely along the DMZ, despite attempts by North Korea and China to breach South Korea’s defenses. Allied forces could not progress against the North Korean fortified lines, and so for the last several months they had decided to maintain a policy of intense aerial and naval bombardment. In regards to China, in order to not provoke a nuclear response, a simple blockade was maintained along their harbors, along with minor bombardment of naval facilities wherever they were found.
The Supreme Commander of NATO, Alexander Haij, eventually introduced a plan that became known as “The Rehearsal”. The idea was to copy the success of the Inchon landings from the last war, by conducting amphibious landings at Anju and Kumya sometime in June. From there, they would meet at the center of the peninsula, and begin expanding the perimeter until it reached from the Yalu River to the DMZ. Ronald Reagan did not immediately endorse the plan; he was worried that casualties were going to be too high to justify the operation, and that it might fail altogether. However, following a private “meeting” with Alexander Haij, he gave it the green light.
Not everything went as planned initially. While the bulk of the North Korean military was within short distance of the DMZ, the PLA had a large presence over most of the peninsula in trying to maintain its supply lines. Despite extensive air cover, it took a number of days for the area around Kumya to be properly secured, and over a week around Anju. By the additional forces could be deployed in order to try to make the cut off, the PLA had begun fortifying the mountains in between. When it was suggested that using tactical nuclear strikes might eliminate most of these fortifications, Ronald Reagan authorized their use. Allied forces would meet in Pukch’ang in the middle of September.
At this point, it had been suggested by the President’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, that now would be the best time to seek peace; the North Korean’s were likely to within the month run out of munitions, and the massive segment of the PLA was now trapped with them. Reagan, however, looked at the situation in an entirely different manner. Rather than possibly allow there to be a Third Korean War, he decided to fight it to the end, or until North Korea unconditionally surrender to the NATO and the United States. The pocket would collapse over the next two months, and the South Korean border was extended to the Yalu River; unfortunately, this was at the cost of another twenty thousand American lives, and another twelve thousand members of NATO. China would agree to a ceasefire after air raids began to be conducted on Beijing and Shanghai in November (the Chinese Air Force had been wiped out by this time).
In a spectacle reminiscent of the Nuremburg trials, those who were involved in the Communist regime of North Korea were put on international trial, which Ronald Reagan asked to be broadcast internationally. Kim Il-sung was ordered to be put to death by firing squad for various crimes against humanity, though this would be condemned by China and the USSR. Many others who escaped death, like Kim Jong-Il, were exiled to the People’s Republic of China for life, and could not return under penalty of death.
Editor’s Note: Historical.
1978 Invasion of Panama
Since the 1960’s, the Panamanian government had been seeking the formation of a new treaty in regards to the status of the Panama Canal Zone, which remained a territory under the control of the United States government. A new proposal was going to be sent in late 1976, but the outbreak of the Second Korean War prevented it from receiving proper attention. Scant months after the end of the war, President Reagan received the Panamanian ambassador, who presented him with a treaty establishing that the Canal would be turned over to Panama at some point in the future. It would be rejected outright by Reagan, who would state that the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty signed in 1903 gave the United States to construct and operate, for an indefinite period of time, a Canal through the isthmus, and he would never void that treaty as long as he was in office.
On September 7th, 1978, Panamanian insurgents under the command of Manuel Noriega began an attack on the Panama Canal Zone and the Panama-Colon Railway. Despite the best efforts by American servicemen stationed within the zone, many of the Canal’s locks were severely damaged (some destroyed). Many sections of the Panama-Colon Railway would have to be replaced before it was once again navigable due to triggered detonations along its tracks. After having done what damage they could, the insurgent forces retreated into Panama. Forty nine Americans were killed in the attacks, eighteen of them civilians.
Under direction from President Ronald Reagan, additional American forces were deployed to the Panama Canal Zone, and an ultimatum was sent to the Panamanian President Omar Torijos to hand over those who had participated in the September 7th attacks. Omar refused to do so. On the 23rd, the United States would invade Panama and quickly topple the Torijos regime, replacing it with a democratic regime with “Pro-American” standings. Manuel Noriega would be put on trial in New York City, and found guilty of numerous accounts of first-degree murder, among other charges. He was sent back to Panama where he was executed by firing squad.
Editor’s Note: This is entirely historical. The policy in regards to the Panama Canal likely would have progresses under Lyndon Johnson as they did under Barry Goldwater, though both were concentrating on developments around the globe. While Reagan and Goldwater did what they could to keep the many Pro-American governments of Latin America in power, regardless of their human rights records, in the case of Panama it came back to bite them. The Canal did not come back into operation until two years after the attacks, though this largely because they had decided to modernize and enlarge sections of the Canal. Otherwise, it likely only would have taken six to eight months.
Iran Hostage Crisis
Iran under the Shah Reza Pahlavi had grown increasingly unstable by the late 70’s, its foundations cracking due to corruption, internal dissent, the thoughts of revolution. When the Shah was forced to evacuate the country, the Iranian monarchy collapsed and was replaced by a provisional moderate government headed by Medhi Bazargan. Immediately, however, a struggle developed between him and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had just returned from exile in France; many of the religious and fundamentalist leaders within the country wished to establish and Islamic Republic under his leadership, and to remove Bazargan and his supporters from office.
On the ninth of November, 1979, six hundred students, calling themselves the “Follower’s of the Imam’s Line”, stormed the embassy and took the Americans within hostage. While both Khomeini and Bazargan were initially reluctant to support the move, Khomeini after some prodding by supporters decided to endorse it. Having been given the popular support of the people, Khomeini also kept Bazargan from effectively being able to do anything in regards to the situation, and was forced along with his cabinet to resign.
When the photos and films came out of Iran detailing what was occurring, American opinion in regards to the new Iranian government dropped to almost nil in levels of support. Protests were held daily in the streets calling for their release. Those residing within the country that were of Iranian descent had to hide their ethnicity in order to avoid harm by others (often the police would not help), and their businesses were ransacked and destroyed. The situation in Washington was just as chaotic. Ronald Reagan on the eleventh issued an ultimatum to the Iranian government:
“……..the holding of American citizens………innocent civilians………is an intolerable act……….one that no nation should ever commit. I ask you now……..to release all those who you are currently holding captive in Tehran. If you do not comply with this simple demand……..measures will be taken to enforce your compliance. What these measures are…….I will let your imaginations work out……..”
After Iran refused to do so, a rescue operation known as Operation Eagle Claw was authorized. The basis of the plan was for the 101st Airborne Division to fly from a US Carrier Fleet in the Persian Gulf to location some distance outside of Tehran to refuel (known as Desert One). From there, they would proceed using RH-53D helicopters to the embassy and evacuate the building from the roof. They would then return to Desert One to refuel before returning to the Carrier Fleet, where the hostages would receive medical treatment for any injuries incurred before or during the operation.
Eagle Claw took place on the second of December, and did not meet any real resistance on the part of Iran until the eight RH-53D helicopters reached the American embassy. While in the process of evacuating the embassy, Blackbeard 3 was hit by a shoulder-fired rocket and crashed into the streets below. Those soldiers who were in Democracy 4 asked that it land so that they could bring aboard as many men from Blackbeard 3 as possible, a request that was granted Major General John Brandenburg. By the time they landed, the surviving crew members were already having a difficult time keeping the Iranian military at bay, and likely would have not been able to extract themselves to the embassy on their own. When the seven helicopters left Tehran, eleven American servicemen had been killed, with another twenty wounded; two of the hostages were killed before their guard could be prevented from executing them, while another three were wounded by shrapnel. Estimates of Iranian casualties vary, but it can be assumed that there were no less than one hundred casualties on their part.
The operation was for the most part met with positive support by the American public, but at the same time was criticized; many though negotiations would have easily allowed for their release without the need for violence, and therefore there would have been no deaths. However, some sources within the Republic of Iran state that Khomeini planned on extending the Hostage Crisis as long as possible in order to build up his own support in restructuring the government, one which would follow Islamic law. Ronald Reagan would publicly claim that the operation itself was “neither a victory nor a defeat.....for though we got our people back…….we have lost a former ally.”
Editor’s Note: This is historical fact. Following the Battle of Tehran, as it would be called later, Ruhollah Khomeini remained a power within Iran, but he was not able to achieve his goal of an Islamic Republic; the leftists and moderates refused to allow such a development, and instead preferred a democratic system similar to those in Europe. This would eventually be achieved in 1980. However, the Iraqi Invasion of Iran prevented elections from being held, forcing the provisional government to remain in power until 1987. Khomeini himself, who was to be a candidate in the 1980 elections for President, was killed in a chemical attack on Tehran in 1983.
Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
On December 24th, 1979, the military of the Soviet Union began an invasion of Afghanistan, which had in preceding years great difficulty in defeating a growing anti-Communist insurgency (which was indirectly receiving support from the United States). By the next day, most of the important population centers and strategic locations within Afghanistan were occupied, and the Communist Afghan government was propped up.
Many nations around the world, including the United States, viewed the invasion of Afghanistan as a breach of international law, and called for the Soviet Union’s immediate withdrawal from the country; unsurprisingly, these calls were unanswered, and the USSR remained in place. Ronald Reagan however refused to allow the Soviet Union to so easily take over the nation, and in January of 1980 set in place Operation Typhoon. The major objective was to equip the Mujahedeen (Afghan Resistance Fighters) with arms under the guise of economic aid to Afghanistan from within Pakistan. After some time, all of this support would go behind Ahmad Shah Massoud, whom Reagan and the CIA believed would be a stabilizing influence once the USSR left Afghanistan and a potential ally to the United States in any Post-War government that was put in place.
Editor’s Note: Historical
Ronald Reagan’s domestic agenda consisted largely of the continuation of his nuclear energy policies that were put forward in Project Independence, the passing of a flat tax rate or further tax cuts to inspire further growth of the American economy and to “rollback” the government’s influence over the healthcare system. While a flat tax was not able to be implemented due to Democratic opposition in the Senate, Reagan succeeded in cutting taxes across the board by another ten percent. He also succeeded in eliminating several divisions and regulations of the healthcare industry, returning the greater part of it to the private market.
Project Independence, however, soon came under attack. On March twenty ninth, 1979, one of the reactors at the Three-Mile Island nuclear power plant experienced troubles, and after some difficulty was able to be brought under control and returned to working condition. While for a time it was largely unreported, when information began to leak out about how close the reactor had come to entering a critical stage, it was picked up by major media sources.
Many groups began to lobby for the end of Project Independence in favor of other alternative energy fuels, but a vote in Congress (under pressure from the President) failed to cut funding for continued construction of the plants. While in some locations development was delayed through lawsuits, protests, and sometimes riots, almost all were finished by the deadline put in place by the original bill passed in ’73.
Editor’s Note: By his second term, the domestic arena was no longer area where Ronald Reagan was spending his concentration, preferring to deal with foreign relations and the expansion of the American sphere of influence. Three-Mile Island caused its controversy, but it was not until Chernobyl that there was any absolute worry about the destruction that could be caused by Nuclear Power plants that have gone critical.
Despite issues with funding from Congress, Reagan was able to get the Artemis Program up and running without any major problems (except having Space Station Liberty cut). Also, there were rumors that the Lunar Outpost was going to be cut entirely, but when Reagan threatened to prevent a budget from being passed without NASA receiving the necessary funds, Congress reluctantly went along. Artemis made use of the same spacecraft that had been used in Apollo, though there had been major modifications since then in order to prevent any mishaps as had happened on Apollo 13 and 19.
Artemis 5, the first manned lunar landing of the program, placed Robert Henry Lawrence upon the surface of the moon, the first African-American and minority to walk upon its surface. Artemis 6 and 7 would begin the establishment of the lunar outpost. Construction was still ongoing when Reagan left office. NASA would seek additional funds in order to expand its scope in both exploitation of resources from the moon and missions to other planets in the solar system, but Congress would continue to only give support for the current lunar facility, despite increasing public support for the lunar program.
Editor’s Note: At this point in time NASA was becoming self-sufficient, the sale of lunar resources paying for all of NASA’s services. The Buzz Aldrin Lunar Outpost was finished in the Shackleton Crater within the South Pole-Aitken Basin, and by 1979 it was decided to make the facility multinational. Yuri Gagarin would be the first cosmonaut to stay at the facility during his second mission to the moon in early 1980. In the meantime, NASA was also planning for a Mars mission to occur in 1986. The Mariner Program ended in 1978, when Mariner 6 was lost while making a flyby of Mercury; it is assumed that a solar flare that was observed either killed the crew or significantly damaged the craft to the point where it could not return.
1980 Presidential Election
The 1980 Republican primaries in the end proved to be a fight over the future of the Republican Party. John Volpe decided that he did not want the Presidential nomination; President Reagan decided to endorse the former Democratic turned Republican Governor of Texas, John Connally. Barry Goldwater, to the chagrin of Reagan, decided that Connally was too in tune with the religious right, who had come to support the Republicans during the Reagan administration. He would endorse one of the more moderate candidates in the race, John Anderson, along with the former Independent candidate, Charles Mathias. Senator George H. W. Bush had toyed with the idea of running, but when polls showed him far behind the other candidates he dropped out.
Throughout the primary season, Connally was ahead of Anderson, despite his victory in the New Hampshire primary; Anderson would largely be confined to several states in the Midwest and the Northeast, his stronghold being New England. After it became apparent that he Connally was going to be the nominee, Anderson dropped out of the Republican primaries and began a run for the Presidency as an Independent. Goldwater subsequently dropped his endorsement of Anderson, but did not endorse the Republican nominee John Connally. Connally would choose Illinois Representative Phil Crane as his running mate.
Editor’s Note: For the most part this is historical. Both Reagan and Goldwater had a falling out during the 1980 Presidential Election largely due to the increase in the far-rights influence in the Republican Party. The difference here is the amount of pull Goldwater had; having been President, Goldwater had much more zest and likely would have not fallen to the pressures from the Republican Party as he did “here”. At the same time, his endorsement aided Anderson much more than he did “here”, resulting in a convention fight. Connally still won and chose Kansas Senator Robert Dole to be his running mate in order to appease the more moderate members of the party. Anderson decided to run as an Independent regardless, and Goldwater did not drop his endorsement of him.
The Democratic primaries were for the most part calm with only one candidate coming to the forefront, Senator Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts. Other candidates that had considered running were Governor Hugh Carey of New York, Senator Jimmy Carter of Georgia, and Senator Richard Daley from Illinois. However, they all subsequently dropped out of the race in support of Kennedy when he announced his run on January third. The only opponent of any note that Kennedy faced was John Rarick, a Congressman from the states of Louisiana. Though largely ignored by the media as a fringe candidate, his considerably large vote percentages in the South (never higher than twenty percent) were a subject of concern. His delegates were not allowed to be seated during the Democratic National Convention. Kennedy would choose as his running mate Illinois Senator Richard Daley.
Editor’s Note: There is no real reason to see that the 1980 Presidential Election would be any different “here” than in OTL. Ted Kennedy would in this case be a fresh face having never been nominated; in reality he was still quite young despite having run previously in 1972. While some would say that Bobby Kennedy would have run in 1980, he likely would have remained in the Senate as he did historically, in order to entertain his dream of becoming Senate Majority Leader. John Rarick was considered troublesome by many within the Democratic Party largely because of his “victories” within the South, though George Wallace did not support him as many thought he would. He would go on to endorse John Connally for President.
The 1980 Presidential Election was considered one of the closets and most bitter elections ever held in United States history. John Connally, despite being just as conservative as Ronald Reagan, was still considered by many Republicans as a “Democrat in Republican colors”, and this would be utilized by the Anderson campaign. At the same time, Kennedy was considered by some Democrats as too liberal in his policy (something that was supported by his voting record) resulting in many Democrats deciding to support John Anderson in his Independent run. This Democratic base would be further solidified when his running mate was declared to be Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire, who had initially declined.
The debates were just as indecisive, typically being considered ties between Connally and Kennedy. Even into November the polls were close, and it was though that it might need to go to the House of Representatives in order to elect the next President. However, Connally would narrowly win on Election Day; this victory is attributed to many Democrats and Independents that otherwise would have voted for Kennedy instead voting for John Anderson.
Editor’s Note: As we know, it was Kennedy, not Connally that won in 1980. However, we must look at the election in this point of view; Anderson never lost the support of Barry Goldwater, who had even more pull historically among the Republican base. Having lost this endorsement “here”, which is even weaker, would likely mean that many Republicans that in reality voted for Anderson might have instead voted for Connally, giving him a narrow victory. We have to also realize that “here”, the United States is not suffering from voter fatigue after sixteen years of Republican control of the White House, it has only been eight. A desire for change could have influenced the election significantly, at least from the conservative policies, even though they had been successful in their purpose.
After the election, Anderson would form with Proxmire the Independence Party of America. Would they have formed it “here” with their support in the Presidential election even smaller (say fourteen to fifteen percent from their real number of twenty two percent)? Possibly, however, it did not perform well in the 1982 Midterm elections, and it likely would die then rather than continue on. I will then assume that it disbands in 1983 after failing to win any of the seats it had desired.
First Term of John Connally
Soviet War in Afghanistan
John Connally would continue his predecessor’s support for Ahmad Massoud, though he would exponentially increase it. While Reagan had kept support down to a level of eight hundred million, Connally had it placed at one point two billion in 1981; it would later reach a height of around three billion in 1984. Because of this support, Massoud would soon become the principal leader of the resistance in Afghanistan and consolidate many groups of Mujahedeen into a unified army of insurgents. Still, by 1985, Kabul and the major routes within Afghanistan remained under Soviet occupation. However, there was serious talk in Moscow over how and when they would be able to extract themselves from the Afghan conflict.
Editor’s Note: Connally even more so than Reagan wanted to help the Mujahedeen defeat the Soviet Union and prevent Afghanistan from falling within the Soviet sphere of influence. Many politicians though that Moscow was only using Afghanistan as a springboard into Pakistan or Iran. Would he help them as much as proposed “here”? Probably. Kennedy, on the other hand, decreased funds over time to around five million while keeping it limited to Massoud’s forces; he did not wish to antagonize the Soviet Union, and hoped that diplomatic pressure might be able to drive them out of the country instead. It did not.
While American-Iranian relations had soured immediately following the Iran Hostage Crisis, current events in the end pushed those feelings away. In September of 1980, Iraq, under the direction of Saddam Hussein, began an invasion of Iran in order to secure the Iranian oil fields in the region known as Khuzestan. Iraq had historical claims to the region, which was given to Persia by the Ottoman Empire many years before, and it was populated mainly by ethnic Arabs.
Ronald Reagan while in office had remained neutral, claiming that the Iranians “had it coming to them”. John Connally, on the other hand, began to realize that Iran could potentially remain a major ally of the United States by aiding them in this war, but only if he played his cards right. He offered military aid to Iran in June of 1981, but was at first refused. Later that same year, when the American military hardware being used by the Iranian military began breaking down and there was a lack of spare parts, they reluctantly accepted the aid of the United States. Along with military aid, Connally ordered that major domestic aid be sent in all forms, including food, basic materials, funds for reconstruction, and any other efforts that would benefit the Iranian people.
John Connally believed that Iran was the only possible major ally that the United States could have in the Persian Gulf region, and it would be pushed toward the United States following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein was already a major ally to the Soviet Union, which sent him arms in order to prevent his regime from falling (sometimes this culminated in bombings by the USSR against Iran, something that was harshly condemned, but really had no easy solution). Even if he could not make Iran an ally of the United States, he hoped that by aiding them in their struggle against Iraq, he would be able to aid the more moderate factions in the government, preventing the Islamic proponents from seizing control.
To an extent, this succeeded in achieving its aims. While many Iranians were still bitter over the resolution to the Iranian Hostage Crisis, by 1984, over thirty nine percent of those polled in Iran on average viewed the United States in a positive light. While the moderate factions were not strengthened by Connally’s actions, the death of Khomeini in 1983 served to severely weaken the influence of the Islamic factions, to the point where the moderate were elevated to positions of great power (where they would establish, ironically, a European-style Democracy over the next couple years).
The war itself, however, largely remained a stalemate by the end of 1984. While Iran was successful in ejecting the Iraqi military from its home soil, it had fewer successes in penetrating the highly developed fortifications within Iraq itself. The only major success on the part of Iran was the occupation of three northern governorates (with heavy support from Kurdish partisans), specifically Arbil, Kirkurk, and As-Sulaymaniyyah. War continued unabated.
Editor’s Note: The Iran-Iraq War is typically labeled as one of our missed chances to try to re-attain our strategic power in the Middle East; more specifically, the regaining of a former ally. John Connally often stated that we should, and that he would have, done all in his power to try to bring Iran back into our sphere of influence. Kennedy thought that it might be best that we stay out of the conflict, and that any alliance with Iran was in reality going to be under constant strain because of our friendship with Israel. In a way he is correct. However, since the religious factions lost much of their power following the death of Khomeini, such an alliance may very much have been possible; unlikely, but possible.
Iran’s pursuance of the war would likely have gone better with American support (many of the their weapons were of American origin, and there was a lack of spare parts early on). As a result, much of their support came from other nations, like West Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Would they have done much better? Likely not; Iraq already had built a line of fortifications along their border in previous years, and they were very difficult to defeat even with American weapons. Just as historically, their success will for the time probably be limited to Northern Iraq, where Iran received support from Kurdish militias (who had been promised independence after the war).
To be honest, I hate Ted Kennedy for missing this chance, but thankfully he would be redeemed later.
American Intervention in Latin America
John Connally’s was a strong advocate of not only the Monroe Doctrine, but wanted American influence in the nations of Latin America to not wane, both economical and governmental. Despite Reagan’s best efforts (the coup by Allende in Chile being among his most famous examples) much of the region had fallen under the influence of the Soviet Union and Communism in some way or another. This would culminate in multiple deployments of American soldiers throughout the region. In some cases (like Grenada) they were rather brief; others (like Nicaragua) would extend over a period of years with a permanent American military presence within the country.
Editor’s Note: While Ronald Reagan and John Connally had both advocated maintaining American influence in Latin America over the Soviet Union, theirs ways of doing so differed. While Ronald Reagan desired a more covert approach, only using force when provoked, Connally believed that an overt approach was better able to achieve the nation’s goals. Even during the 1980 Presidential Election he professed this. Ted Kennedy instead opted for a policy of nonintervention, only becoming involved when American interests were directly threatened.
Only ten days before Connally had taken office, a civil war between the left and right factions within El Salvador had begun. Under Reagan, the United States had sent much economic and military support to the nation in the hopes of promoting stability. This for the most part failed, as the military government’s methods of suppressing public opposition in more cases than not further inflamed the people against them, most notably the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, with further shootings occurring at his funeral. By 1981, the nation was in shambles.
John Connally had analyzed the situation before hand, and he and his generals came to the conclusion that it would be better if both factions were eliminated from the equation. While the more revolutionary elements of the FMLN and the FDR were too far to the left and liable to fall into the Soviet sphere, the current government in San Salvador was corrupt, unstable, and impossible to justify. Therefore, El Salvador would become for a time a protectorate of the United States and form its own government; American troops would only leave once that government was stable and not liable to collapse.
Under Operation Columbus (launched June of 1982), over fifty thousand soldiers were deployed from Honduras into El Salvador in an attempt to bring an end to the civil war. Within months most of the nation was occupied; Roberto D’Aubuisson was tried for crimes against humanity and hanged, along with many other members of the government, the FMLN, and the FDR. Robert M. Shoemaker, who was made Provisional Head of the Protectorate Government, called for elections in November of 1983, which were held despite continued fighting in the countryside, resulting in a Christian Democratic Party victory, with Jose Napoleon Duarte becoming President. With the Salvadoran military being restructured, the American military was fully removed from the country by June of 1984.
Editor’s Note: A lot of this is based on faith, but at the same time principle. It is understood that the left-wing insurgency was supported by Nicaragua and Cuba (and Cuba had also committed troops), and that the right-wing military was supported by the United States until 1981. After the initial opening of Operation Columbus, most of the better supply routes for the FMLN and FDR would have been cut off (Nicaragua having been occupied), and the entire impetus behind their existence, the death squads and repression by the military government, would disappear. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine a relatively quick return to peace, if not respect for the American forces stationed within the country for bringing it about (unlike in Nicaragua). When Kennedy took office in 1981, he cut off support to the D’Aubuisson government in San Salvador and brought it up to the United Nations, but refused to deploy American soldiers as peacekeepers. The El Salvadoran Civil War would end in 1986, when San Salvador fell to combined elements of the FMLN and FDR; it would develop into a Communist state of the same strain as Cuba and Nicaragua.
The US-backed Somoza regime had collapsed in 1979 and had been replaced by the Sandinistas. However, when the FLSN (Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction) took a more Marxist outlook in reforming the government, some bolted and formed resistance groups, collectively known as the “Contras”. Ronald Reagan had been funding these groups for some time before he left office, but other developments had prevented him from forming a coherent policy in regards to the civil unrest in Nicaragua.
John Connally shortly after he came to office was already determined to bring an end to the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, viewing it as a cancer that would spread throughout all of Latin America. He, General Daniel Jones, and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would develop a plan known as Operation Columbus. Along with a joint operation into nearby El Salvador, two hundred thousand marines would invade Nicaragua from Honduras and Costa Rica, supported by elements of the unified Contra command under Enrique Bermudez. Once occupied, a national government would be formed (led by Enrique Bermudez) until elections could be held, from which a parliamentary government would be formed. It called for a withdrawal of most American forces by the beginning of 1984, with smaller battalions remaining deployed in strategic locations around the country until 1990.
When the United States and its Nicaraguan allies entered the country on June 26th, 1982, the Sandinistas were prepared for a drawn out fight; they had put the military on higher alert when the United States had begun deployments along its borders. While Nicaragua for the most part fell in February of 1983, the Sandinistas began an insurgency against the “American Imperialists”, using stockpiled supplies hidden in the countryside during the months before the start of the war. Segments of the population would also support the Sandinistas when the Contras began to use “questionable” methods in combing outlying villages for guerrillas. The National Government itself would grow unstable when Enrique Bermudez was assassinated in March of 1984; the planned elections in 1984 had to be postponed until 1985 due to the ensuing leadership crisis.
By the end of 1984, over one hundred American soldiers remained deployed in Nicaragua, with little to no end of the war in sight, and it was losing public support.
Editor’s Note: Nicaragua would certainly not be the pushover El Salvador was for numerous reasons, most of them having already been described. Nicaragua would have prepared for an insurgency with the aid of Cuba when they knew they were going to be invaded. Also, the Sandinistas at least had a significant amount of public support, and many would harbor them when they were forced to turn to guerrilla warfare, while their support would likely grow as the Contras tried to repress them. In many ways, it can be compared to the situation that existed in South Vietnam from 1964-1966.
Kennedy refused to fund the Contras, and they collapsed by the end of 1982 as an effective fighting force. Nicaragua would then be aiding Cuba in their expeditions around the globe, notably Angola. They also began training and supporting Communist insurgents within the Central American republic of Honduras.
John Connally was not especially worried about Colombia; the nation had been in a technical state of Civil War since 1964, and its enemies were not exactly Communist in nature. Still, he desired that stability be brought to the nation, and that a Pro-American government remain in power. To this end he deployed around thirty two thousand American soldiers into Colombia in order to help it combat M-19 (the 19th of April Movement), and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). After initial combat operations throughout 1983, the M-19 offered to give up their arms in return for amnesty and the ability to become a political party, and offer the Colombian government accepted. By the end of 1984, only two American divisions remained deployed in Colombia in defeating the last significant insurgent forces.
Editor’s Note: John Connally publicly stated that he would have sent men to Colombia in order to end the fighting if he had been given the ability. At the same time though, the source is controversial, and he might not have. However, since it goes hand and hand with just about everything else he is doing, I have included it. Ted Kennedy DID authorize a deployment of around one thousand troops into Colombia in 1982, but that was largely to deal with the drug cartels, not aid the Colombian government against the M-19.
While John Connally openly repudiated the insurgent groups known as the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Front, both Communist in origin, neither at the beginning of his administration called for any serious attention. When major raids were being made against the population in 1983, however, Connally ordered that a division of marines be deployed to Peru in order to contain and then crush the insurgency, under the pretense of protecting the civilian population. In a matter of months, the operation had largely succeeded, and they would be withdrawn by the beginning of 1984.
Editor’s Note: This is entirely my speculation based on John Connally’s historical response to the Communist atrocities in Peru. Of course, Kennedy responded in kind, and largely did nothing to abate it.