Literature: Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72
An Alternate History timeline written by user "Drew" on the site AlternateHistory.com. The title is obviously a reference to the famous Hunter S. Thompson work Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, and concerns the same events... with a twist. It can be read here.In Real Life ("Our Timeline", OTL) the 1972 American presidential election pitted incumbent Republican Richard Nixon against Democrat George McGovern. McGovern was the candidate of the radical anti-Vietnam war far left, and at a time when Nixon's policies seemed to be turning the Vietnam situation around, he failed to woo moderates and the result was a landslide for Nixon. Then came Watergate and everything that ensued with that. But, what if...?In Fear, Loathing and Gumbo John Julian McKeithen, a former governor of Louisiana, decides to stand for the Democratic nomination. He's a more moderate figure than McGovern and can appeal to a wider audience, and crucially also comes from a political background that has acquainted him quite as much with dirty tricks as Nixon. He wins the candidacy.Now it's worth pointing out that there are a lot of timelines out there in which that would be that: McKeithen, the Mary Sue alternative candidate, would trounce Nixon and then proceed to have an Alternate History Wank presidency in which all the mistakes that happened in OTL are avoided.Fear, Loathing and Gumbo is not like that.The full story will not be given here due to the timeline turning on shocking twists, but thanks to McGovern refusing to step down and standing as a "Peace" candidate, as well as George Wallace staying in the race, the result is a hung electoral congress with no majority for any candidate. And then it gets worse. And worse. And worse... The story ends in 1981, followed by a Sequel Series called Rumsfeldia: Fear and Loathing in the Decade of Tearsnote Yes, merely giving away the full title would be a spoiler., bringing the woes to The Eighties. It can be read here.Be wary of spoilers below as the timeline contains some shocking twists.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: South Africa under the dictatorship of General Malan is rapidly sliding into this, practically becoming The Draka. Not only is it using weapons of mass destruction, up to and including dirty bombs, against its enemies in the rest of southern Africa, but under the influence of Afrikaner nationalists like Eugene Terre'Blanche, it's starting to discriminate against non-Afrikaner whites (particularly the Rhodesian refugees) on top of the existing apartheid system. It's been stated, in updates written from the perspective of the future, that they will break out the nukes before it's all over.
Added Alliterative Appeal: Spiro Agnew is fond of using this, most commonly describing his political enemies as "the nattering nabobs of negativity".
And as of the Sequel Series, it has Spiro Agnew as its mayor. Sleep tight, New York.
Chekhov's Gun: Briefly mentioned in the timeline and recently brought up in the discussion was a piece of legislation introduced with the intent to criminalise homosexuality. The author has suggested that it might be important in the future.
The killer of Kelsey Grammer's sister is killed in a police shoot-out, instead of being arrested and brought to trial. In frustration at justice denied, Grammer abandons acting and studies law, eventually becoming a junior District Attorney. Considering that, in the U.S. at least, the DA's office is often a first step to higher political office...
Enemy Mine: Despite continuing Cold War brinksmanship, the USA and the Soviet Union join forces to defeat the Bayanouni Islamist regime in Syria, and later collaborate on a nuclear attack on the Lesser Mao's own nuclear programme.
North and South Vietnam team up to resist the Lesser Mao's China.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: Inverted. It's looking increasingly likely that the Soviet Union is going to survive and reform its system, with some posters speculating that it might very well win the Cold War — or at least, pull ahead of the US in global influence. Already, it's pulling Western Europe into its economic orbit (and making scads of cash) by selling them natural gas and petroleum at cut-rate prices, and it's engaging in a form of "MBA communism" reminiscent of Deng Xiaoping's reforms of OTL's China, cutting back excessive military spending, allowing more free enterprise, and requiring more accountability from state-owned businesses. Meanwhile, the US under Rumsfeld is starting to experience much the same economic, domestic, and military pressures that ultimately did in OTL's USSR, with foreign adventurism and various wonder weapons bloating the defense budget and the two-party system under increasing strain.
After months of wrangling, Nixon decides to withdraw for the good of the country and allow McKeithen to become President. Then McKeithen dies in a plane crash.
Also, ironically through President Agnew blundering back into the Vietnam War and President Gavin being forced to send more troops to shore up their position, the US has more or less won the war, albeit at a bloody cost. Unfortunately, this leaves the US with the exact opposite of the anti-war "Vietnam syndrome" that afflicted it in The Eighties; instead, it gets a bad case of victory disease that sees it stumbling into conflicts in Syria, Cyprus, China, West Africa, South Africa, Greece...
One good thing that has come out of the political chaos is a limit on campaign funding and advertising, which will at least prevent some of the excesses that American politics has reached today in OTL.
I Am the Noun: The Iranian Shah, in a closed discussion with President Wallace, declares "I am Iran!" when the latter says he has to go.
Rhodesian Prime Minister Ina Bursey, who turns the Rhodesian Bush War into a much larger conflict embroiling the entire southern cone of Africa. She gets called "the Iron Bottomed Lady" for her intransigence.
The Trope Namerherself sees her political career shot after her reaction to an IRA attempt on her life accidentally gets a mother and her child killed.
Knight Templar: The "Democrat Killer". Claims that his actions are guided by God. Eventually shoots and injures the Democratic nominee for Vice-President in 1976 and turns out to be Mark David Chapman.
Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Officially broken as of the Kwangzi incident, in which the Lesser Mao nuked his own troops in order to put down a mutiny. (The fact that this doesn't even come close to the Lesser Mao's Moral Event Horizon speaks volumes about his rule over China.) This leads the US, in an effort to take down the Lesser Mao, to nuke the Chinese atomic research facility at Lop Nur with the Soviets' blessing. It's also been stated that South Africa will eventually resort to nuclear weapons in order to stave off collapse (they're already using dirty bombs and other WMDs), and that Japan and Taiwan are working on a joint nuclear weapons project out of fear of China. (It's top secret, of course; many Japanese still remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)
Our Presidents Are Different: President Agnew is an alloy of President Jerkass and President Lunatic. President Gavin is closest to President Personable, while President Wallace is a President Schemer.
Out-Gambitted: Happens to President Wallace in Iran, as a result of his failed attempt to examine Iranian politics under the Shah through the lens of his background in Southern Dixiecrat politics.
Red Scare: President Agnew's policies are predicated on the idea that the world still works like it did in the McCarthyite 1950s.
Ripped from the Headlines: People and things that have recently appeared in the news often get to make appearances in the timeline. Weirdly, this also sometimes happens in reverse: Drew was writing about civil wars in Syria and Mali over a year before suspiciously similar wars actually broke out in Real Life.
Serial Killer: One stalks Washington, DC and targets Democratic politicians.
Shown Their Work: Drew did his research on this timeline, and it shows. Big time.
Some British voters in 1977 are disgusted with the Heath government's catalogue of catastrophe but are unconvinced about Denis Healey's Labour Party. The result is that the Liberal Party has a massive surge from just nine seats to over fifty.
For similar reasons, third parties such as the Libertarians, the Christian Values movement (the ReligiousRight without the association with Reaganomics), and We The People (the New Left as its own political party, broken off from the increasingly Dixiecrat-dominated Democrats) become increasingly important in the American political landscape.
Who Shot JFK?: Chicago gangster Sam Giancana survives the attempt on his life in 1975 (which killed him in Real Life) and writes a tell-all book with journalist Dan Moldea, in which he dishes on (among other things) the subject of the JFK assassination. As it turns out, Oswald was just a lone nut. A conspiracy between The Mafia and anti-Castro Cuban exiles tried three times to kill him, but all of them failed, and Oswald's attempt, which ultimately did get him, had nothing to do with their conspiracy. However, Giancana does speculate that another conspiracy wanted JFK dead, and that they had deliberately foiled the Mafia's efforts in order to kill him themselves. He also says that the Mafia wanted to kill Bobby Kennedy as well, but Sirhan Sirhan beat them to it.
George W. Bush is a fighter pilot held in a North Vietnamese prison camp (having been unable to avoid the draft) and has, since his release following the end of the Vietnam War, become an actor; his brother Jeb followed him into the Air Force.
At the same time, Al Gore is an embedded journalist in Syria who is captured by the regime there and held in similar circumstances.
Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham serve as interns in one of the legal cases surrounding the disputed 1972 election, and Clinton is later posted as a legal officer in the army to Syria. His experiences there encourage him to run (successfully) for Congress... as a Republican.
David Petraeus is a lieutenant who leads a stand against Syrian insurgents, which ends up killing Private Walter B. Willis.
Barack Obama has not featured in person, but he is the author of some of the books quoted in the timeline and is apparently a history professor, as is Newt Gingrich, whose own works obviously offer the opposing slant on certain topics.
Dan Quayle is an NCO in Vietnam who earns commendations as a war hero and subsequently becomes the face of a campaign highlighting the poor treatment of soldiers and veterans.
Kelsey Grammer enters politics instead of acting, becoming a junior District Attorney.