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 that no one wins the Electoral College vote. And then it gets worse. And worse. And worse
... The story ends in 1981, followed by a Sequel Series
: Fear and Loathing in the Decade of Tearsnote
, bringing the woes to The '80s
. And it very
much lives up to its title. It can be read here
Be wary of spoilers below as the timeline contains some shocking twists.
Fear, Loathing, and Tropes:
- 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.
- President Rumsfeld. If there was any doubt, by the late 1980's he's started organizing "Liberty Battalions", which are basically an American SS/SA - up to staging book burnings of "anti-American"/"anti-free market" material.
- Israel. See Irony below.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Spiro Agnew is fond of using this, most commonly describing his political enemies as "the nattering nabobs of negativity".
- Mind you, Agnew was famous for doing this in Real Life as well.
- Allohistorical Allusion: A fair few.
- George W. Bush becoming a science fiction actor after his release by the North Vietnamese is probably a reference to how Enterprise`s Trip Tucker was described as "George W. Bush in Space". The allusion then comes full circle when the ITTL version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture comes out, with Dubya cast as helmsman Will Decker.
- The Sequel Series has jihadists establishing an Islamic state in Mali. Hmm, sounds familiar...
- PJO atrocities in North-west Africa are very reminiscent of Boko Haram atrocities in Nigeria.
- Amoral Afrikaner: Magnus Malan.
- Arab-Israeli Conflict: Heavily altered, with the Israelis holding on to the Sinai Peninsula after the Yom Kippur War, and the PLO getting split between the secular nationalists and the religious fundamentalists (who call themselves the PJO: Palestinian Jihad Organisation), who fight among themselves. The PJO eventually wins out against the PLO, and launches several terrorist attacks against Israel. These attacks, combined with the election of a far-right Israeli government, leads to Israel committing ethnic cleansing in Lebanon and brutally suppressing resistance in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel also starts expanding into Syria and former Saudi Arabia.
- Armor Is Useless: The body armor given during an invasion of Cuba is incredibly useless against enemy bullets, to the point that one soldier just throws it off.
- Artistic License – Economics: It must be addressed, unfortunately. The Rumsfeld administration quite literally slashes wages in half across the board. Yes, really. (The Hand Wave is that the missing 1/2 is put into "investment certificates", but still.) Somehow the United States doesn't instantly collapse into a depression after half of its citizenry's purchasing power goes up in smoke. Though it is speculated that putting people's wages into investment certificates will cause economic collapse soon enough.
- Artistic License – History: In-universe example with The "Democrat Killer", who claims that Abraham Lincoln was a Democratic mole in the Republican Party because he was responsible for the end of slavery in America, ignoring the fact that the Democrats of the time were largely pro-slavery.
- Balkanize Me: Happens to mainland China after the fall of the Lesser Mao. It's also implied that this will happen to India sometime before 2000, but the timeline has not reached that point yet.
- In 1985 California has decided to secede in response to Rumsfeld's tyranny, to which a furious Cheney is advocating a Cuban style blockade coupled with a Berlin style wall. This. Will not. End well.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: A large theme of the timeline is the fall of the two-party system in the US, desired by many people in real life, which causes almost all of the timeline's suffering in one way or another. Also, Word of God specifically invokes this in regards to the hinted military coup being planned against Rumsfeld.
- Big Bad: Rumsfeld is the closest thing the series has to one.
- Following the Chirstian Values coup, Douglas Coe takes the role of a theocratic dictator of the Christian States of America.
- The Big Rotten Apple: Thanks to the worse economy, New York City goes bankrupt in 1975 and has its finances taken over by the federal government, on top of all the other problems that it faced in The '70s.
- And as of the Sequel Series, it has Spiro Agnew as its mayor. Sleep tight, New York.
- And then he becomes the 54th governor of the state of New York.
- Black and Grey Morality: The conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union becomes increasingly this throughout 80s.
- On the one hand we have US President Rumsfeld, whose insane Anarcho-Capitalist policies result in widespread economic disparity, combined with resorting to blatant electoral fraud to be elected twice, rampant abuses of presidential authority, turning Hollywood into a right-wing propaganda machine that vilifies historical figures like FDR and his New Deal as communist plots. Not to mention creating Nazi-esque Liberty Battalions which stage frequent book burnings of any literature that could be seen as critical of his policies, disappearing celebrities and political enemies and alienating all of the USA's allies (resulting in NATO's destruction) with the exception of a very much dictatorial South Africa under the apartheid system. And attempting to make himself president for life by destroying any legislative blocks to him having unlimited terms and preventing anyone else from becoming the Republican presidential candidate creating a de facto dictatorship. Things get so bad that California and Hawaii secede from the Union and people within the US Army attempt a coup.
- On the other hand we have the USSR Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov, who despite being very much an authoritarian dictator showing no signs of turning the Soviet Union into a democracy, leads the Soviet Union in attempts to end the Cold War by offering Western Europe new trade opportunities as well as ending all support for non-peaceful Soviet revolutions and political movements as well as brokering a peace treaty between ROC and South Korea which earns him tons of good publicity. However it is hinted that he's only doing this to advance his political agenda and attempts to remove what he deems to be potential political enemies within the party, as well as using Nukes in open warfare in Asia which undoes a lot of the aforementioned good publicity, and is increasingly revealing his true colors as a Stalin 2.0.
- Black and White Insanity: The Christian Values leaders Tim LaHaye, Douglas Coe and (to a lesser extent) Pat Robertson, consider themselves to be absolutely righteous and everyone opposing or disagreeing with them to be immoral, including other Christians like the Catholic Jeremiah Denton. It gets upped to eleven once they turn the USA into a theocracy following Rumsfeld's impeachment, with everyone and anyone resisting their oppressive rule being branded a satanist, and have no qualms against using WMDs against them, including nukes.
- The members of We The People, also act this way to a certain extent. One of the reasons Rumsfeld was able stay for another term is that they refused to form a coalition with the Democrats, believing them to be just a collection of sham politicians, with Ralph Nader thinking the Democrats are also aligned with Rumsfeldia's corporate network, dividing the liberal vote in the process.
- The Caligula: The Lesser Mao, to an even greater degree than his predecessor. Viewing himself as a second Qin Shi Huangdi is just the start.
- The Call Knows Where You Live: A variation. James Gavin initially balked at the idea of being thrown into the White House through procedural means, but after being paraded before Smug Snake Agnew, as well the deteriorating foreign situation, Gavin agrees to become the president after Agnew is impeached.
- 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...
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: Marvel Comics, having gone bankrupt at the end of The '70s, has been bought by DC Comics and the two are to merge their universes. Also an example of For Want of a Nail, as in OTL Marvel was kept afloat by its Star Wars comics—in Gumbo, Star Wars only exists as an obscure animated film, and though Marvel still produces comics based on it, they're not popular enough to save it.
- Companion Cube: The Lesser Mao, imagining himself as a new Emperor Qin Shi Huang, surrounds himself with the Terracotta Army statues.
- Crapsack World: This timeline just gets bleaker and bleaker every update, and scarce few parts of the world are in decent shape as it is, but here are a few of the most badly hit countries.
- China is the worst hit, with the Lesser Mao turning the country into a giant Pol Pot style killing field in the worst mass murder in history, including launching nuclear attacks on his own people. Since then it has crumbled into utter anarchy with no sign of recovery.
- South Africa under Apartheid is a fully fledged Neo Nazi state in all but name, and wields an arsenal of WMDs including dirty bombs which it hurls at it's neighbours with wild abandon and is fully protected by President Rumsfeld as a "bastion of freedom" due to the increasing insanity of his anti-communist paranoia.
- India is quickly deteriorating under the authoritarian rule of Sanjay Gandhi, launching a brutal war with Pakistan (with both sides using chemical weapons) and persecuting several of India's religious and ethnic minorities, leading to increasingly large numbers of revolts and terrorist attacks.
- The Middle East has slowly crumbled into a war-torn badland, with Saudi Arabia's monarchy getting overthrown and temporarily getting replaced by religious fundamentalists before getting invaded by Iraq. After the Iraqi pullout, Saudi Arabia descends into a civil war between Iraqi-backed secularists and jihadists. Qatar is taken over by jihadists. The remaining Gulf States and Jordan are desperately trying to hold back fundamentalist insurgents. Israel is increasing its power and territory using military force and ethnic cleansing, and is implied to be a dictatorship. Egypt has fallen into a civil war between secularists and fundamentalists. Iraq and Iran (the latter of which is a military dictatorship) are competing for power in the region by backing their preferred faction. Safe to say the region is ruined for the next several decades, at the least.
- Britain is even worse hit by The Troubles with many more deaths, including the assassination of Queen Elizabeth, and while it momentarily dies down it flares up even worse in the 80s due to a new "Loyalist" terrorist group launching attacks on the British mainland to punish any attempt to end the bloodshed and again this is directly aided by Rumsfeld in order to "punish" Britain for voting in a Labour Government.
- America is getting dragged further and further towards fully fledged authoritarian police state under Rumsfeld, complete with the murder and internment of any and all critics, mass production of propaganda movies to smear the president's enemies, and all kinds of far right and christian fundamentalist fanatics employed and positions adopted by the administration. All while it's economy steadily falls apart. Rumsfeld and Cheney even privately admit they plan to remove each constitutional right save the right to bear arms (in order to keep the right wing happy).
- By 1990, much of the country has been taken over by a theocracy ruled by Douglas Coe. Many cities have been nuked by Coe, and whole states have broken off.
- Ironically the only country which seems to be improving is the Soviet Union which is steadily adopting Real-world China style reforms and is drawing Western Europe into it's orbit with ease given the increasingly psychotic and vindictive Rumsfeld. While it is still an authoritarian regime, it does seem to have a good chance of emerging from the 80s as a freer and more prosperous country than America does.
- Vietnam, due to an American victory, has become a stable and prosperous country.
- Cyber Punk: The sequel is increasingly this politically, if not technologically.
- Deadpan Snarker: George Wallace.
- Word of God states that the Sequel Series is meant to be this to American conservatives' hero-worship of Ronald Reagan, by having a President in The '80s with policies more reminiscent of modern-day Tea Party conservatives than those that Reagan actually professed and pushed while in office.
- Some commenters have suggested that the entire saga is meant to be a Deconstruction of the common notion that having stronger third parties would be a palliative to some of America's problems. Here, more third parties end up making those problems even worse.
- Defector from Decadence: Jack Edwards and Dick Cheney. The former got tired of Rumsfeld's anarcho-capitalist policies. The latter was horrified he was recruiting Christian fundamentalists.
- Dirty Communists: Rumsfeld and to a lesser extant, Agnew, believe wholeheartedly in this trope. Played straight and turned Up to Eleven with the Lesser Mao. Zig-zagged with Premier Ryzhkov, who is a strict authoritarian but also brokered a peace treaty between the Republic of China and South Korea, and has made efforts to improve life in the Soviet Union and end the Cold War.
- Divided States of America: Incoming as of the April 13th update, with California passing an instrument of secession, complete with Declaration of Independence-style condemnations of Rumsfeldia's crimes. All that remains is a referendum. Which as of the first 2015 updates has passed.
- After Rumsfeld impeaches all resistance on the Supreme Court, California goes straight for independence. Hawaii quickly follows, and even becomes a constitutional monarchy under the old Hawaiian throne.
- Though still officially part of the US, Libertarian Idaho, Wallace's Alabama, and Florida are all going askew of the federal government.
- Later on, the New England and New York governors join an open nullification compact.
- After the Christian Value's party takes power, Alaska, Texas, Oregon, and Washington all secede as well.
- The Dragon: Cheney was this for Rumsfeld. After Cheney defects to the resistance, Timothy Lahaye replaces him.
- The Starscream: Tim Lahaye plots to get rid of Rumsfeld and get the Christian Values Party in charge.
- Drugs Are Bad: Because of the Lesser Mao turning his country into one giant poppy farm, he creates a serious heroin epidemic across America. His own abuse contributed to his descent into madness. The Drug War becomes even worse, with Governor John Rarick making heroin addiction worthy of a life sentence.
- Dystopia Is Hard:
- The main reason why the Lesser Mao's China and his rule fall apart in less than one decade.
- President Rumsfeld managed to send the recovering American economy into total freefall through his oppressive and ideological policies in only a few years. His crazed anarcho-capitalist plan to try to salvage the situation by destroying all social services and most government agencies is guaranteed to make the situation worse.
- Dystopia Justifies the Means/Despotism Justifies the Means Rumsfeldia and the Christian States of America were both political forces that ripped apart constitutional rights and constitutional checks on their power, so they could create a corporate-authoritarian state and a violent theocracy respectively.
William F. Buckley
: I don’t know what you call Rumsfeldism
– other than its own name: I resist the “f” word as it is used too broadly on the left
, so that a real fascist regime such as the South African one is somehow cleansed of its true, dark evil by the abuse of the word to the extent that it has a bland lack of meaning. But I will say that Rumsfeldism
is the road to Hell itself, minus any of the good intentions.”
- Dystopian Edict: The Lesser Mao bans literacy at one point.
- Eagleland: Rumsfeld's America is one of the harshest versions of a type 2 in literature.
- Elvis Lives: Elvis survives the heart attack that killed him in 1977, and claiming to have seen God, becomes a Born Again Christian.
- 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.
- In a lesser example, both the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies are united in protest against the abortive coup against the elected Communist-led government in Italy, albeit for different reasons.
- PJO militants and Shiite militias in Lebanon allied against their mutual enemies there.
- The disavowed Dick Cheney and the resistance against Rumsfeld, though the latter remain wary of him.
- While they both plan to betray the other as soon as Rumsfeld is gone, the Christian Evangelicals and Corporations are plotting with each other to overthrow Rumsfeld, albeit for their own, selfish reasons.
- As of the "Rummyhorror" update the totalitarian nightmare of the Christian Values theocracy has caused a desperate alliance between the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panther Movement, the Jewish Defence Militia, and possibly other extremist/hate groups as a united resistance.
- Epic Fail: Rumsfeld's invasion of Cuba. Highlights include a missile from an F-16 locking onto the plane that fired it, a rifle that jams even worse than the Vietnam-era M16, and body armor being utterly useless.
- Everyone Has Standards: Many right wingers from Nixon to Reagan to Tom Clancy are utterly disgusted and horrified by Rumsfeld's America.
- Scarily enough, despite almost being a Card-Carrying Villain far past the Moral Event Horizon, even President Rumsfeld is creeped out by the far right christian fanatic he has employed in his administration Tim Lahaye, the author of the Left Behind series. But eventually he warms up to Lahaye and has him replace Cheney as Chief of Staff.
- Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov is, despite his own authoritarian positions, deeply disturbed by the madness of Rumsfeld, especially when he informs Ryzhkov in so many words that he knows the USSR kidnapped Richard Nixon, and that he sees it acceptable for them to execute a former US President if they want to, because it will help Rumsfeld garner domestic political support in the wake of his death. Ryzhkov, who was ignorant of and afterwards opposed to the kidnapping for obvious reasons, sees this as beyond the pale and has Nixon released unharmed.
- Several big businesses and corporations are starting to think Rumsfeld's anarcho-capitalism has gone too far. Even the until-then sinister CEO of TRW is left confused and distressed by Rumsfeld's explosive reaction to being informed that he doesn't really want any more deregulation.
- The Christian Values Party also grows increasingly uncomfortable with Rumsfeld's obsession with capitalism, feeling it has overtaken his commitment to Christianity.
- Many Republican governors were outraged when Rumsfeld impeached the Supreme Court for refusing to unseat Pete Mc Closkey in favor of his handpicked stooge. It even prompted Spiro Agnew to sign a nullification clause with other northeastern governors.
- In the "Rummyhorror" update it is shown that even the Ku Klux Klan is horrified by the nightmarish repression and savagery of the Christian Values theocracy. So much so that it is willing to join forces with the Black Panthers and the Jewish Defence Militia against it.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
- The Lesser Mao is such a depraved maniac, he can't help but see traitors everywhere he looks.
- When Western Europe agrees to a detente with the Soviet Union, Rumsfeld thinks that they've just sold out to communism.
- Evil Chancellor: Dick Cheney is definitely this, at least initially. Eventually, though, even he begins to suspect that President Rumsfeld's plan for America is insane. After Rumsfeld turns on him in favor of Christian Values for a moment of doubt, Cheney disaffiliates entirely and tries to build ties with the resistance.
- Evil Is Petty: Donald Rumsfeld, good lord. At one point, Rumsfeld conspires to turn space into a junkyard, just so the Russians can't travel there.
- Fallen States of America: America has become a corporate-fascist state under Rumsfeld, with widespread poverty, terrible working conditions for Americans, a deteriorating environment and economy, the elimination of almost all forms of social services, several states seceding or going against the government, an authoritarian police state with its own blackshirts, and a return to racial discrimination in some parts of the country.
- Then things get even worse after Rumsfeld's impeachment, with the Christian Values party assuming complete control over the country, destroying the congress, and imposing their fundamentalist rhetoric onto society, going so far as to place the 10 commandments into a new article of the constitution. The resulting civil war goes horribly, with a bouncing-back Cuba invading Florida only to be repelled with nuclear weapons which turn central Florida into a nuclear wasteland as well as several other hot spots of resistance such as Philadelphia. Furthermore Alaska, Texas, Oregon and Washington secede from the Union with Oregon joining with California to form the Pacific Free Republic while Washington opts to join with Canada, while Alaska and Texas choose independence. Both PFR and Canada in turn providing weapons and support to various rebel factions across the Midwest and in the Libertarian dominated Mountain West against the CV's theocratic rule, which has re-branded the USA into the Christian States of America, while the secessionist New England and New York states continue to call themselves "United States of America" and resist the CSA's rule under Richard Nixon's leadership. Here's a map if you're curious.
- Fascist, but Inefficient: Rumsfeld's dictatorial and corporatist regime, from driving away innovators by violating patent rights and giving them to TRW, to the complete failure of the Cuba invasion.
- Foreshadowing: Some posters think the economic, military, and social breakdown of China under Lesser Mao foreshadowed what would happen to America under Donald Rumsfeld. It turns out to be half-right: while America does follow China's example, including the government using nukes on its own people, this is only after Rumsfeld is impeached, superseded by the even more insane Douglas Coe.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Rumsfeld.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The Lesser Mao and Magnus Malan.
- The Fundamentalist: The Christian Values Party in America, which Rumsfeld is increasingly relying on for support, and the PJO/Muslim Brotherhood.
- Gaia's Lament:
- In his zeal to create a truly free market, Rumsfeld removes almost every environmental regulation, and actively encourages coal pollution and climate change. He even pushes for environmentalism to become recognised as a mental illness.
- The conflicts in Southern Africa see so many dirty bombs and chemical weapons detonated, that whole areas become uninhabitable wastelands.
- The Christian Values Party uses nukes with reckless abandon. Their attempts to stop Cuba from taking Florida and crush pockets of resistance have left large areas of the country severely irradiated.
- Gambit Pileup: Towards the tail end of Rumsfeld's second term as POTUS, there are several different parties attempting to take him down: The Carter/Dellums/Clinton resistance, the US Army General Dorman and The Christian Values Party/TRW alliance. It's still up in the air as to which one will finally succeeded, if any.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: A rare In-Universe and political example. Under Rumsfeld, the film industry was highly censored, but some filmmakers were able to sneak in some anti-Rumsfeldian themes. Back to the Future featured an ending in which Marty discovers that his alteration of the past wrote him out of existence, which was an attempt by Spielberg at drawing a metaphor about Rumsfeld's Orwellian alteration of history. The movie It's a Wonderful Life is used to convey another anti-Rumsfeld message by drawing comparisons between Rumsfeld and Mr. Potter, but its history as a beloved American classic means that these themes were ignored by censors.
- Government Procedural: A lot the story explores and dissects the Constitutional system of government, which makes sense, considering the timeline involves the 1972 election creating a constitutional crisis.
- Granola Guy: Pete McCloskey is a downplayed version: he believes in the environment, even becoming a proponent of the Jefferson State project to create an environmentally friendsly state, but he's otherwise politically moderate, becoming California's governor on a ticket of moderation between Barry Goldwater Jr. and John Tunney. Rumsfeld's anti-environmental policies are a factor in his decision to have California secede from the union.
- 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 trade, 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, an aggressive ideological pursuit of the free market at all costs doing severe structural damage to the economy and standards of living, and the two-party system under increasing strain from both sides. The parallels get even stronger in Rumsfeld's second term with California and Hawaii seceding from the Union and several other state governments openly defying the will of Washington.
- The Gulag: The Lesser Mao has loads of them, some of which are assigned to farm opium and make heroin from it.
- Handicapped Badass: George Wallace. His is able to shake off his segregationist past and use his paralysis as a symbol that he understands human suffering. He even becomes president of the United States in 1976. This becomes deconstructed later on, as Wallace is unable to use his brand of politics to create a meaningful national agenda, to the point of losing support among liberal Democrats, and the stress of public life takes a toll on Wallace's already fragile health. It is reconstructed later on however. After a period of physical training, he returns to his old turf as Governor of Alabama to resist the actual federal tyranny of Donald Rumsfeld.
- Heel Realization: Jeremiah Denton suffers from this after he learns about the Liberty Battalions' murder of wounded American soldiers, and moves to have Rumsfeld removed from office. He has a bigger one after learning about Rumsfeld's treatment of political dissidents, and how he purposely ignored it for political gain.
- Heel–Face Turn" Jack Edwards and Jeremiah Denton both.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: President Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are way, way worse than their OTL counterparts.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Rumsfeld had used the mental health system as a means of silencing dissidents, having them shipped to Bedlam Houses on the grounds that they were mentally unfit and had suffered a 'nervous breakdown'. During his impeachment proceedings, his opponents use this charge against him, claiming that he himself had suffered a 'nervous breakdown' and was therefore unfit to carry out the duties of the Presidency. It culminates in him being dragged off to one of the same mental hospitals that he had locked so many of his opponents in.
- Hope Spot:
- 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 '80s; 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.
- A retroactive one in the form of the modern day political retrospectives, which all but confirm the partial recovery of China and India's successor states and the fall of Rumsfeldia, with only Newt Gingrich's having any sympathy for what Rumsfeld and Cheney did. The rub is that back in the active flow of the timeline, things just keep getting worse, and worse, and worse, to the point that these eventual victories may be rendered impotent by unaddressed context.
- The coup attempt against Rumsfeld is proceeding smoothly to execution, only for Sarah Heath to betray them all at the last moment, having been a devoted Christian Values mole from the beginning.
- Rumsfeld is finally deposed, and Denton decides to serve out the remainder of his term and work with the remaining moderate political forces to restore confidence. But the Christian Values Party decides not to give up their power, and they don't, forming an oppressive theocracy which all but destroys the USA by 1990.
- George Wallace claims to have turned over a new leaf on race relations but as president, continued to send covert arms to apartheid South Africa.
- For all of Rumsfeld's talk of freedom, he creates the most repressive regime in American history, and allies himself with Magnus Malan. Not to mention imprisoning Ted Turner for violating business regulations that are the process of being dismantled on behalf of Rumsfeld's corporate supporters.
- 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.
- Iron Lady:
- 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 Namer herself sees her political career shot after her reaction to an IRA attempt on her life accidentally gets a mother and her child killed.
- Irony: Israel becomes a fascist, expansionist, and genocidal state.
- James Bond: The film series begins diverging from our own in the late '70s, a reflection of the shifting state of geopolitics.
- The first film discussed is an adaptation of Colonel Sun starring Michael Billington as Bond, which gets put into production to cash in on the public's fear of, and fascination with, the increasingly howling-mad People's Republic of China under the Lesser Mao — who, upon hearing about the film, goes out of his way to sabotage its production. Despite his efforts, though, it is still released in 1980.
- The next film, originally meant to be You Only Live Twice, fell into Development Hell for six years due to the disintegration of NATO; the UK and Western Europe's thawing relations with the USSR and very cold relations with the US effectively rendered the plot obsolete. This film, released in 1987 as DeadEye, saw the role of Bond recast with Ray Lonnen while Clint Eastwood (who, like many other American celebrities and political figures, had been essentially exiled to Britain due to his politics) played the villain, the American general Morgan Buckner. Buckner's Evil Plan, explicitly stated to have the approval of the US President (who Eastwood played the role as a deliberate parody of), is to use microwave pulse satellites to launch false-flag attacks on the UK and the USSR, starting a war between the two nations that would end with the US swooping in to rebuild Europe in its image. The film is a hit in Europe and Asia, and while it's never officially released in the US, it still becomes an underground Cult Classic there.
- Japan Takes Over the World: Japan appears to be coming closer to this than in OTL. The worse 1970s economy means that Japan avoids the economic bubble of the 1980s. And increasingly nationalistic political forces take control of Japan which encourage the creation of a strong military including a nuclear bomb.
- Kangaroo Court: Under Rumsfeld, the justice system becomes his means of imprisoning any Democrats who would oppose him.
- 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.
- La Résistance: One shows up against President Rumsfeld, led by Jimmy Carter, Ron Dellums, and Bill Clinton. With other members including Bill Gates, the mastermind behind Liberty Spark .
- California Governor Pete McCloskey resists Rumsfeldia by getting California to succeed from the Union.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Agnew is not hesitant in the slightest to re-intervene in the Vietnam War. Later on, Rumsfeld begins committing the United States into wars in China, Greece, South Africa, and Cuba.
- Mega Corp.: TRW, while a far milder and more realistic example than most examples of this trope, is becoming something like a Mega Corp., and one closely affiliated with the Rumsfeld Administration at that. By the mid-80's, they feel comfortable with threatening Dick Cheney to his face, and he backs down.
- Deconstructed in the late 80's, when Rumsfeld has more-or-less abolished every legal standard for private businesses. TRW ends up having to deal with all the tin tyrants and outright criminals that run rampant in the newly "free" market, hurting both their efficacy and their international reputation. This becomes such a problem they end up trying to sway Rumsfeld towards a more (if minimally) regulated economy.
- Another realistic variation of this trope is the Hughes Network, a massive media network that is a mix of this and Strawman News Media. With a worse 1970s economy bankrupting many media networks, Howard Hughes buys them to create an earlier version of Fox News. One of their programs is a Talk Show hosted by Spiro Agnew. Under Rumsfeldia, they become a Propaganda Machine for the Rumsfeld regime, and are able to take over ABC, NBC, and CNN.
- Monumental Damage: The Capitol Building, along with the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson monuments, have all been destroyed by the Christian Values Party. Statues of Christ the Warrior and Douglas Coe have taken their place.
- Morality Pet: Jimmy Carter becomes this for Jack Edwards, and is able to make the man see how horrific Rumsfeld's policies are.
- Neutrality Backlash: Ryzhkov uses the US invasion of Cuba in order to identify and eliminate not his open political opponents, but those who remain silent and intend to only join the side that wins. He explains to Putin that those who name themselves your enemy can be dealt with at leisure, but opportunists are the real danger.
- Not So Different: Ron Dellums wonders about this in regards to George Wallace.
- Rumsfeld has been derisively called "America's Lesser Mao" due to the parallels between both men.
- 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.)
- Once the Christian Values party turns the USA into a theocracy, they have absolutely no reservations about breaking out the nukes, especially since they're the only thing standing between them and certain defeat at the hands of the rebels and/or an intervention from Europe.
- Oh Crap!: Ryzhkov after learning about the military disaster at Cuba. He recognizes that Rumsfeld's regime is on the verge of collapse, but he's probably very afraid of the fall out.
- Off with His Head!:
- Hua Guofeng, one of the opponents of the Cultural Revolution, is beheaded in front of the Great Hall, as a form of intimidation by the Lesser Mao.
- Mobutu loses his head after being overthrown by generals backed by the French.
- Oppressive States of America: The US fell into this rapidly under Rumsfeld, with rampant abuses of Presidential authority used to crush dissent by manipulating the media and murdering (James Gavin) or kidnapping/"disappearing" (George Carlin, Barry Goldwater, Roger Ebert) people who dissent against Rumsfeld. In addition, censorship is ramped up dramatically, and Penthouse and the nascent civilian Internet are shut down in the name of "national security."
- 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.
- President Evil: President Rumsfeld has become this.
- President Denton, who was expected to President Lunatic because of his fundamentalist ties, chooses to be President Personable, and tries to rebuild the political system and restore confidence.
- Puppet King: The "Acting President" in "Rummyhorror" serves this role for the "Great Teacher", Douglas Coe.
- The Purge : The Lesser Mao engages in these constantly ,to the point where his underlings actively work not to be promoted so as to be less tempting targets. Rumsfeld purges the military after the failed coup attempt, although he fails to be rid of all his enemies there..
- 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.
- Politically Incorrect Villain:
- The "Democrat Killer's" grievances against the Democratic Party includes the granting of civil rights to blacks by LBJ.
- President Rumsfeld compares homosexuals to pedophiles in his speeches.
- Magnus Malan of South Africa implements racist policies against blacks (worse than in real life) and even non-Afrikaner whites, of which the former are on the verge of being murdered in a genocide. At one point, he imprisons Rhodesian refugees in concentration camps, even when the British government is begging for their release.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Rumsfeld's corporate backers didn't push for his impeachment because of his tyranny, but because his planned policies would have completely trashed the economy, and are happy to keep his other pro-business policies. Ron Dellums calls them out for this.
- Private Military Contractors: President Rumsfeld's free-market rhetoric goes so far as a desire to privatize the US military and replace it with these.
- Reality Ensues: The increasing privatization of the Armed forces causes one of the worst military disasters in US history, with the US barely able to get a beachhead on Cuba.
- Propaganda Machine: The TRW corporation churns out low quality propaganda films and advertisements that are pro-Rumsfeld.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: A rare In-Universe example: The US invasion of Cuba was such a disaster, that Nikolai Ryzhkov initially assumed the KGB report in which he learned about was spewing propaganda. He confirms the story with President Mitterand, to his horror.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- President James Gavin, who tries to walk a moderate line, and is willing to solve the foreign policy crises caused largely by Spiro Agnew.
- Ngo Quang Troung, a competent ARVN general who becomes South Vietnam's first democratically elected President.
- Pham Van Dong, the Prime Minister of North Vietnam, who despite being an Communist dictator, is far less ideological than his Soviet backers, and is willing to team up with South Vietnam and, by extension, America to fight back against the Lesser Mao.
- Nikolai Ryzhkov, who despite being an authoritarian, is trying to bring prosperity to the Soviet Union and end the Cold War, and tries to shut up the hardline generals who want to fight a war with the West.
- Pete McCloksey, a former Republican congressman, who rejects the increasing polarization of both parties, becoming the Governor of California on an independent ticket, and becomes one the most powerful resistors of Rumsfeldia and later the Christian States of America.
- Jeremiah Denton, who once, he gains the Presidency, tries to rebuild America from the years of Rumsfeld's rule. Unfortunately, his own CV allies resist his attempts at reform, leaving him little more than a figurehead.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Roger Ebert gives a blistering one to the movie industry for producing Pro-Rumsfeldian, right-wing propaganda. He's fired by the Chicago Sun-Times, and committed to a Bedlam House.
- Bill Clinton gives one to Trent Lott for allowing a Christian Values wingnut to become vice-president.
- Red Scare: President Agnew's policies are predicated on the idea that the world still works like it did in the McCarthyite 1950s.
- President Rumsfeld's foreign policy operates on the same principle, except much more extreme, so far as to consider democratically elected leftist governments such as Francois Mitterrand's Socialists in France and Enrico Berlinguer's Communists in Italy as fellow travelers of Moscow. In fact, it's so extreme that Western Europe by 1984 has broken from NATO entirely and created a third bloc, loosely affiliated with the Eastern bloc.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Muslim Brotherhood/PJO are an Islamist revolutionary groups(s) that commit atrocities everywhere they go.
- Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Liberty Battalions are a good example of what happens when such groups are actually sanctioned by the government.
- 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.
- Shout-Out: During the Cuban Invasion, there's a mention of an incredibly useless M-20 assault rifle.
- Shown Their Work: Drew did his research on this timeline, and it shows. Big time.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Given by George Wallace, of all people, to Spiro Agnew on the latter's show. Arguably, a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Sleazy Politician: Trent Lott, the Mississippi representative who becomes Speaker of the House, is described repeatedly as being a self-serving opportunist. It's all but stated he blocked Governor Richard Lamm's nomination as a caretaker Vice President just so he could ascend to the presidency if the ailing Wallace either died or was impeached over illegal arms dealing in Central America. When Rumsfeld is elected, he goes along with his insane policies, and supports the nomination of the fundamentalist Jeremiah Denton as Vice President, just so the Christian Values party doesn't threaten the Republican majority in the House.
- Smug Snake:
- Rumsfeld grows into this by the late 80s. He even thinks that he can rip apart the federal government, not realizing that the Christian Values people he's employed are secretly plotting against him.
- Trent Lott. See above.
- The Sociopath
- The Lesser Mao. He does anything to maintain power, including massive purges that kill millions, and even dropping an atomic bomb on a rebelling city. He cares about nobody except himself, believes himself to be smarter than everyone around him, regularly uses drugs near the end of his rule, turns his country into a Khmer Rogue style hellhole, and turns China into a massive producer of heroin largely to spite the West and for his own monetary gain.
- Donald Rumsfeld. He obviously doesn't care about ruining the environment, and forcing working people to work for starvation wages if he can create a "free" economy. Or locking up his own allies if they don't agree with his whim. And he doesn't care about giving soldiers substandard equipment and killing them if he can save money.
- Take a Third Option:
- Some British voters in 1977 are disgusted with the Edward 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. Later on, the more left-wing members of Labour resign from the party to protest the UK's complicity in the nuking of Lop Nor, forming True Labour (later renamed to the Social Democratic Party).
- For similar reasons, third parties such as the Socialist Workers Party, the African-American Freedom Party (black nationalism a la Malcolm X), the Libertarians, the Christian Values movement (the Religious Right without the association with Reaganomics, siphoning off many former Dixiecrats in the South), and We The People (the New Left as its own political party, broken off from a Democratic Party that's increasingly little more than a center-left rump) become increasingly important in the American political landscape. Rumsfeld and Cheney exploit this to win the 1984 election.
- One of the modern retrospectives suggests that We The People eventually ceases to be a third option, graduating to major party status after the fall of Rumsfeldia.
- Talk Show: Spiro Agnew gets one after his impeachment. Gets high ratings even though he seems to spend most of the time ranting about "the ludicrous liberals". Compared on the boards to Glenn Beck without a capacity for Self-Deprecation.
- The Atoner: George Wallace invokes this during his presidential campaign, claiming to have abandoned his segregationist ways. As president, he goes further, choosing his old nemesis Nicholas Katzenbach as his vice president, appointing Ron Dellums to his cabinet, and giving MLK a posthumous Medal of Honor. After seeing Rumsfeld destroy the nation, he realizes his own mediocrity opened the door, and returns to his old job as governor of Alabama to save it from Rumsfeldia.
- Token Good Teammate: Vice President Jack Edwards, with Jimmy Carter's help, is the only member of Rumsfeld's administration to see how wrong his policies are. He eventually joins the coup, only to land in jail once it falls apart.
- Tragic Mistake: Jesse Jackson's 1984 WTP run for office is considered to be this In-Universe, since it divided the liberal vote, allowing Rumsfeld to stay in for a second term.
- Verb This!: "Arrest this, assholes,” said by Nicholas Cage to some Liberty Legion officers.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The Christian Values party as a whole. When Rumsfeld ends welfare and eliminates workers' rights, they offer food and money to the tired masses yearning to breathe free. However, they eventually reveal their true colors and create an oppressive theocracy.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Cheney, Clinton, and Carter are united in resisting Rumsfeld, but they don't exactly get along, and Cheney has ulterior motives of his own.
- Rumsfeld divides opposition groups using this method as a way of holding on to power, primarily focused on driving a wedge between the Democrats and We The People.
- Wham Episode: When the Lesser Mao nukes his own rebelling troops, and then Wallace nukes with the consent of the USSR his main nuclear facility in response.
- As of the April 13 update "Let's all go to the cinema," California has seceded from the Union.
- As of the "Saturday, July 4, 1987" update, The long awaited invasion of Cuba has begun, and is a complete fiasco.
- As of the "Rummyhorror" update, It's been two years since Rumsfeld's impeachment and the USA is under the control of the theocratic Christian Values party, and their oppressive policies have resulted in a civil war and at least a dozen more states seceding from the union.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: In-universe variation. The Ayatollah Khomeini has LSD slipped into his food, causing him to give sermons which generate this effect.
- 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.
- Young Future Famous People: Constantly. For example...
- 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. He eventually tries to mount a challenge to Rumsfeld in the '84 Republican primaries, until Rumsfeld goes after him and he is forced to forced to go underground.
- 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. In the sequel, he serves as a young political dissident, and helps smuggle Jimmy Carter out of Washington after the coup against Rumsfeld fails.
- 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.
- Vladimir Putin is present as the political student of Premier Suslov during his time as an officer, and is the one to council and release Richard Nixon from captivity later on.
- Sarah Palin is apparently involved in a coup against Rumsfeld. Until she betrays them all to Rumsfeld, having been a Christian Values infiltrator all along.
- 1st Lieutenant Nick Coppola and Lance Corporal James Todd "LJ" Smith are seen fighting in the Cuban invasion, with Coppola and LJ's odds being against them.
- OTL New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is shown as being a major figure in the Libertarian Party.