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Literature / A Giant Sucking Sound

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"To those of you in the audience who are business people, pretty simple: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, hire young — let's assume you've been in business for a long time and you've got a mature work force — pay a dollar an hour for your labor, have no health care — that's the most expensive single element in making a car — have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south."

Ross Perot, Second presidential debate, October 12, 1992

A Giant Sucking Sound is an ongoing Alternate History series on in which H. Ross Perot's third party bid in 1992 succeeded. It was significant in how it highlighted the hypothetical rise of a successful modern third party, and a dystopian 1990s, and in the process showed just how close we could have had either.

Ross Perot, by not dropping out of the campaign and by selecting Jerry Brown as his running mate, is able to become the first independent president since George Washington. After constant battles with Congress, Ross decides to blow up the two party system, and create the Freedom Party, a party of centrists, moderates, and the politically disaffected which recruits politicians like John McCain, Paul Tsongas, and Joe Lieberman, while recruiting other influential people like Al Sharpton, Ralph Nader, Donald Trump, Jon Stewart, and Jello Biafra. Under Ross Perot many good things happen: a balanced budget amendment is passed, anti-lobbying and campaign finance reform bills are passed, the Internet is made more widespread and available, NAFTA is killed, and the Rwandan Genocide is stopped.


However the state of the world becomes a lot more chaotic: Stormfront grows into a far-right terrorist group that murders many influential people. Islamic terrorism in France plunges Europe into a war on terror. The Russian far right becomes a lot more influential with Chechnya and Russia's economic collapse. Japan is plagued by attacks from Aum Shinrikyo.

Another hallmark of the series is the vivid alternate pop culture, which helps characterize the world even further. One of the most infamous moments of the timeline is the death of Steven Spielberg at the hands of Stormfront, with Saving Private Ryan dedicated to his memory and a number of other projects of his circulating around Hollywood in various forms. Brandon Lee has lived to become one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars, having starred in This timeline's Matrix movie (of which there is only one, which flopped) and another movie based on Metal Gear Solid. Kurt Cobain’s gunshot wound left him braindead, something which has affected rock music in ways even more than his death in reality. Television has seen a version of The West Wing with Sidney Poitier playing the president, and 24 with Charlie Sheen playing Jack Bauer. Other butterflies have seen Harrison Ford play Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List, Russell Crowe land the role of Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Titanic (1997) goes down as a box office bomb, and a grief-stricken George Lucas handing the directing job for the Star Wars prequel trilogy to Sam Raimi, leading to that trilogy being better received critically and by the fans in contrast to our timeline.


This work provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Through she survives her car crash that occurred in OTL, this was the fate of Princess Diana after her divorce from Prince Charles and her subsequent conversion to Islam after marrying Dodi Fayed. Not surprising considering Europe's own "The War on Terror" in Algeria.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: As David Duke is led to the electric chair, he completely breaks down, and begs for mercy and exile. He doesn't get it and is fried.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Congressman Jon Stewart joking about "Senator Al Franken".
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Saddam Hussein being overthrown by his son-in-law Hussein Kamel al-Majid is cheered by the American people, President Perot, and Jeb Bush, who is happy to have his father avenged.
  • Arch-Enemy: Saddam Hussein for Ross Perot, especially since George H. W. Bush is killed by Iraqi security forces. It also mixes in with The Scapegoat, since Perot starts starts suspecting Saddam of everything, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to Aum Shinrinkyo's activities.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Ted Kennedy becomes this to his son Patrick after he joins the Freedomites.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Aum Shinrikyo in Japan prove to be more dangerous than in OTL, killing prominent Japanese politicians and at least 2 million in a nuclear attack on Nagoya.
  • Ascended Meme: In-universe, Ann Richards' infamous 1988 statement on doing things "backwards and in high heels" becomes a title for a book by James Carville about the Richards presidency.
  • Author Existence Failure: An in-universe example with Stephen King, who is killed in his June 1999 car accident, leaving the Dark Tower series incomplete.
  • Bad Boss: Ross Perot's temper makes him a very difficult man to work with to say the least. Hill Harper's predecessor as a White House staffer quit after two months, and Harper himself is afraid to lose his job as a White House Staffer after he tries to advise Perot on Mexico.
  • Badass Creed: Stormfront has a villainous one, a dark echo of OTL's Anonymous:
    "We are Stormfront. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In a secret deal, Ann Richards pardons any remaining far right terrorists in exchange for performing work for the CIA in Afghanistan.
  • Balkanize Me: Quebec separates from Canada, albeit relatively peacefully, Kurdistan breaks away from Iraq, Kabylie from Algeria, Kivu from the Congo, Belgium divides into Wallonia and Flanders.
  • Benevolent Boss: In contrast to Perot, Ann Richards is a lot more pleasant to her staff. In spite of all the difficulties she endures, she never has an outburst in front of her staff.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: How Paul Wellstone sees Perot's anti-crime measures.
  • Blood on the Debate Floor: The 2000 Freedom Party convention is thrown into chaos after Perot nominates Joseph P. Kennedy II, who never even campaigned, to stop Jerry Brown from getting the nomination. Soon every major Freedomite tries to get on the ballot, fights breakout, Warren Rudman has to dodge projectiles after he refuses to end the convention, and Kennedy gets a bleeding scalp.
  • Broken Base: The draconian measures undertaken to defeat and imprison Stormfront's leaders and their show trial prove to be very controversial in-Universe. Moderates see them as an unfortunate but necessary maneuver to defeat terrorism. Liberals see it as the beginning of Big Brother, while conservatives think it doesn't go far enough.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Ross Perot. The man is paranoid and temperamental, but reaching the presidency, building a successful third party, expanding the Internet, and passing a balanced budget amendment are no small feats. It's kind of deconstructed, since his attitude makes him very hard to work with, and as terrorism explodes across the US, his growing fear prevents him from setting an example for the nation and eventually stop him from achieving a second term.
    • Jello Biafra plays this trope straighter. Despite his antics and radical politics, is able to become Governor of California by 2012.
  • Butt-Monkey: President Ann Richards has to deal with a Freedomite and Republican majority Congress opposed to her liberal agenda, the constant rumors of homosexuality, Iraq falling deeper into chaos, the rise of the belligerent Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and a nuclear Pakistan and India at each others throats.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Subverted in regards to Rwanda, which Perot actively prevents. Played straight with the civil war in Sierra Leone, and a genocide that breaks out in the Solomon Islands, both of which Ann Richards ignores. Jeb Bush lampshades that as part of his candidacy for the 2000 election.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The stress of the presidency on Ann Richards drive her to smoke more and more. She dies of lung cancer in 2003.
  • Crapsack World: Through there are some bright spots (Internet in every aspect of everyday life, as well as Perot's intervention to stop the genocide in Rwanda and the resolution of the Taiwan crisis come to mind), it can be said that the 90s was this, or very close to this for the state of the world. We have Neo-Nazi militia running amok and killing many influential people like Tupac Shakur, Paul Wellstone and Steven Spielberg. Russia is in the hands of ultranationalists led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Terrorism, both Islamic and secular, is prevalent in many parts of the world, leading to the bombing on Paris and the nuking of Japan, the former leading to a drawn-out version of The War on Terror in Europe. Through the US manages to depose Saddam Hussein through a coup and handle Somalia better than in OTL, Iraq descends into civil war and Somalia fractures even earlier. And though the Palestinian peace talks progressed further than in OTL and culminated with the recognition of a Palestinian state, the possibility of a peaceful solution to the Arab–Israeli Conflict seems to be shattering with increasing terrorist attacks on Israel following the Camp David agreement that eventually lead to the death of Ariel Sharon in TTL.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Paul Wellstone's death left the DNC without a successor. Now candidates pick a running mate before their conventions in case something were to happen to them.
  • Darker and Edgier: Stormfront and Aum Shinrikyo are much more violent and deadly than in OTL, with the assassination of several influential celebrities and a nuclear terrorist attack under their belts. The Stormfront attacks arguably had the same effect of darkening pop culture in-universe as well. And with Titanic's box office bomb, this possibly averting the more controversial and negative effects of "teen/tween" media on TV and Film if not remove them altogether.
  • Dawn of an Era: In-universe, in the prologue, a Harvard professor regards the election of Ross Perot as the beginning of the 21st century for better or for worse.
  • Deconstruction: Like Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, this work seem to take a nuanced approach on the idea of a major contender of two-party system. While it allowed implementations of reforms—namely campaign and political donations reforms—that were found hesitant by both Democrats and Republicans; it turned out to be Not So Different once it became established with all benefits and warts of a major party, and the radical members from both sides of political spectrum began to assume power with focus towards their own goals even forgoing any forms of compromise.
  • Defector from Decadence: Many Freedom Party politicians are former Democrats (like Paul Tsongas and Joe Lieberman) and Republicans (like John McCain and Arlen Specter) who see themselves as departing from two parties that had become excessively corrupt and partisan.
  • Different World, Different Movies: This timeline focuses immensely on pop culture, especially how the events of TTL influence it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kurt Cobain as in OTL, only to be left brain dead, Pol Pot in his prison cell, and Jack Wheeling, a warden who witnesses David Duke being fried.
  • Entitled Bastard: "Stormfront Offices Raided: Duke Claims First Amendment."
  • Fate Worse than Death: Kurt Cobain's brain death.
  • Fictional Political Party: When his attempts at bipartisanship fail, Perot creates the Freedom Party, a mix of centrist and center-right politicians, political radicals, and others dissatisfied with the two-party system. Its recruits include Democrats Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, Joe Lieberman, and Howard Dean; former Republicans John McCain, Warren Rudman, and Arlen Specter; libertarians like Ron Paul and L. Neil Smith; independents like Bernie Sanders, Angus King, and Jesse Ventura; radicals and activists like John Hagelin, Ralph Nader, and Al Sharpton; and other celebrities like Jello Biafra, Donald Trump, and Jon Stewart.
  • For Want of a Nail: Ross Perot not dropping out in a fit of paranoia and selecting Jerry Brown, who had a similar platform, as his running mate.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Senator who won the Medal of Honor and lost part of his leg in Vietnam (in both OTL and TTL). It makes him the prime choice as Ann Richards' running mate.
    • Subverted with Newt Gingrich, who resigns from Congress after being paralyzed from the waist down in an attack by Russell Weston, finding the job of Speaker too stressful in his condition.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ross Perot first after the Oklahoma City bombing and then when Nagoya is nuked by Aum Shinrikyo. Richard Holbrooke also suffers from one after the latter incident.
    • Perot suffers a protracted one after nearly being killed in a Stormfront attack that kills Ed Rollins. The resulting paranoia which is not helped by Stormfront's continued attacks drives him to essentially end his campaign.
    • George W. Bush after his father is assassinated. It is so bad, he gives up on his campaign for Governor of Texas.
    • George Lucas after Spielberg is murdered by Stormfront. He gives up directing the Star Wars prequels.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • Titanic (1997) and The Matrix are among the biggest box office disasters of the 1990s.
    • Maria Shriver becoming the Democratic Governor of California.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: David Duke, a prominent white nationalist in our world, here becomes one of the leaders of the Stormfront terrorist movement.
  • Honest Advisor: Clay Mulford, Tom Luce, Ed Rollins, and Hill Harper for Ross Perot. By all accounts, it is the most difficult job in Washington.
  • Hope Spot: After the nuclear destruction of Nagoya the Western nations and Russia are one step closer to nuclear disarmament. Then the ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky becomes the Russian president, withdraws from the nuclear treaties, and embarks on a belligerent foreign policy.
    • Perot is able to stand up to the People's Republic of China on Taiwan's sovereignty, and becomes incredibly popular as a result. Then he and his administration are accused of taking bribes from Chinese businessmen who represent the communist party in a scandal called "Chinagate". The damage to his reputation and the pressure of far-right terrorism cause him to lose the 1996 election to Ann Richards.
    • Yitzhak Rabin is not assassinated, so it appears peace can finally be achieved between Palestinians and Israelis. Then Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat are both assassinated, the Gaza strip is plunged into chaos, and peace talks break down. However, by 2012, there appears have been a joint-recognition treaty signed with President Russ Feingold.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Tupac Shakur is still shot and Paul Wellstone still dies (though kinda subverted for the latter, as he is assassinated instead of dying in a plane crash), the Arab Revolutions of 2011 are still implied to have happened (though possibly earlier) and Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still overthrown by the US in the 2004 coup d'etat.
    • Paul Tsongas, despite playing a stronger role in politics TTL as the first Freedom Party chairman, still dies of his lymphoma. As Word Of God states, "butterflies can form hurricanes, but they can't refrain cancers".
    • In spite of Perot's intervention in Rwanda, Zaire still collapses in 1997.
  • Iron Lady: President Ann Richards, with her unrelenting attacks on Stormfront, and her battles with Congress.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Carroll Campbell, who was suffering from dementia in OTL, shamelessly mocking Perot over Chinagate.
    • Pat Buchanan cheering Wellstone's murder as a boon to the Campbell candidacy.
  • Killed Off for Real: Paul Tsongas (from his lymphoma), George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Ed Rollins, Hosni Mubarak, Steven Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein, David Schwimmer, Chuck Schumer, Paul Wellstone, the city of Nagoya, Satoshi Tajiri, Junichiro Koizumi, Saddam Hussein, David Duke, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Wesley Clark, Yasser Arafat, President Ann Richards and Stephen King.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: Vladimir Zhirinovsky becomes the Russian President, who embarks on a very nationalistic foreign policy: Backing Slobodan Milošević, backing pro-Russian juntas in former Soviet nations, resuming nuclear tests, and, in light of the Chechen war, creating Jim Crow-style restrictions on Muslims in the Russian Federation.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Stormfront and its leaders. In Real Life they were key white supremacist figures and Stormfront is the name of a major white supremacist website.
    • Pat Buchanan views Russian President Vladimir Zhirinovsky as one, even saying he would help any Jews in Russia if they would need to escape because of him.
  • Nepotism: Ross Perot nominates his son Ross Perot, Jr. for Freedom Party Chairman after Paul Tsongas resigns due to the strain of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It becomes a What the Hell, Hero? moment for a president rallying against cronyism, and Warren Rudman, wins the chairmanship anyways.
  • New Media Are Evil: Pops up In-Universe, due the actions of a Stormfront, and a more horrific Columbine massacre. A notable example is this TL's Fight Club, which is censored by the MPAA, who fear its violence could inspire more violence (but does find success in Europe). Ann Richards averts this attitude in regards to Columbine, claiming the teenagers should have had a listening ear, to the anger of many Moral Guardians.
  • Not So Different: Former Vice President Hill Harper jokes about the comparisons between the liberal Warren Beatty and the conservative Ronald Reagan, two actors who became the Governor of California.
    Harper Hill: We should really stop remembering Warren Beatty as the liberal version of Ronald Reagan as the actor-turned-politician, with the womanizer option. First, he had won an Academy Award.
  • Now What?: When Ross Perot wins, he reportedly asks:
    Ross Perot: "What do I do, now?"
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: One of the biggest twists in story the aforementioned death cult nuke Japan for the 3rd time in 50 years.
  • Old Shame: In-universe, Carroll Campbell's candidacy is this for the GOP, thanks to his dementia-driven antics.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Jim Edgar's OTL proclamation of a Scientology Day, which is more prominent since he becomes the 1996 Republican Vice Presidential Candidate.
  • Our Presidents Are Different:
    • Ross Perot is a mix of President Jerkass, especially with his attitude toward Vice President Jerry Brown, President Buffoon, and President Lunatic for his irascible behavior.
    • President Ann Richards is President Minority and President Iron with her attacks on Stormfront.
  • Pet the Dog: Ross Perot stops the Rwandan genocide, sends aid to Japan after Nagoya is nuked, and stands up for Taiwan's sovereignty.
    • On a more personal level, Perot's friendship and respect of Hill Harper, whom he appoints chief of staff after Ed Rollins is killed in the Stormfront attack.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: In spite of appointing Latinos like Lena Guerrero and African Americans like Hill Harper and Colin Powell to work for him, Perot isn't above saying things like "colored" and "Chicano".
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Stormfront, being a Neo-Nazi terrorist organization, plays this dead straight.
    • Russian President Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who commits war crimes against the Chechens, and establishes a Jim Crow-like system for Muslims.
    • Earl Krugel, a Jewish radical who attacks the King Fahd mosque.
  • Positive Discrimination: Subverted with President Ann Richards. A lot of people in-universe note that being the first female President is an important accomplishment. However, being a woman doesn't make you immune to the battleground of American politics, which is even more tumultuous because of the rise of a third party. Richards has to endure a Freedomite-Republican coalition against her agenda, not to mention an increasingly chaotic world scene and Stormfront terrorism. She struggles to prove herself to be a legitimate president.
  • Precision F-Strike: 1996 Republican candidate Carroll Campbell drops one at a presidential debate.
  • Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: Many. Mainly people from entertainment who decided to run for office:
    • You have President Ross Perot, who is succeeded by Ann Richards (D), Bob Kerrey (D), Donald Trump (F), Russ Feingold (D), and Jeb Bush (R).
    • Rep. Jon Stewart (F)
    • Press Secretary and Senator Stephen Colbert (D).
    • Congressman, Mayor of San Francisco, and Gov. Jello Biafra (F) of California
    • Natalie Portman (under her real name of Natalie Hershlag) never goes into acting, and instead becomes a psychology student. Her work on the pop culture of the 90's is quoted often in the passage in relation to pop culture.
    • Hill Harper (of CSI: NY fame) is quoted extensively throughout the timeline, and is mentioned to have become the Freedomite Vice President by 2004. His previous career was as a White House staffer, Chief of Staff, and a Freedomite Senator from Iowa, before being handpicked as Donald Trump's running mate.
    • Attorney General Douglas Wilder
    • Senator Ben Affleck (D), who chose politics after Harvey Weinstein was assassinated by Stormfront, preventing the release of Good Will Hunting.
    • Governor Warren Beatty (F) of California.
    • Ted Nugent still continued his music career, but his opposition to Perot's gun control package drove him to enter politics, and he became Governor of Michigan (R) by 2007.
    • Orrin Hatch, a Utah Senator, is appointed to the Supreme Court, as is Tom Luce, a Texas attorney who became Perot's chief of staff.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Stormfront, a far-right terrorist group that unites white supremacists and members of the militia movement, certainly fits this description.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After being needled by Carroll Campbell about "Chinagate", Ross Perot angrily storms out of the third presidential debate. It's seen as his official exit from the presidency.
  • Shout Out: "Outrun my Gun" is named after a song lyric in OTL - from "Pumped-Up Kicks", about school shootings and terror. Fitting.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Pat Buchanan considers the far-right terrorists misguided patriots.
  • Take a Third Option: Instead of working with the two-party system, Perot chooses to create a third party instead. Unlike many works that portrayed it as Mary Suetopia, the author seems to provide a more nuanced commentary that it made the choice as the least-repulsive option at best, and being similiar in flaws and notoriety as any established parties at worst. Up to Eleven in the 2000 election, which see third party runs by not only Freedomite Angus King, but Pat Buchanan on the Constitution Party ticket, and Jerry Brown on the Green Party ticket after he loses the nomination for Freedom Party candidacy.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Ross Perot and Jerry Brown work effectively as running mates, but they simply can't stand each other.
  • Tom Hanks Syndrome: In-universe, Bill Murray is the Trope Namer and becomes a more dramatic actor, including an Academy Award-winning role as the late Paul Wellstone.
  • Vice-President Who?: Invoked by Ross Perot who, not liking Jerry Brown, weakens the power of the vice presidency.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The closest thing to a true villain in this TL David Duke, goes into a rage after being declared guilty for his crimes as a terrorist. He goes even more ballistic as he is brought to the electric chair, and wets his pants.
  • War Is Hell: The War in Algeria, according to James Blount, and the War in Chechnya, according to Alexander Lebed.
  • Western Terrorists: Stormfront grows from a far-right website to a dangerous terrorist group in response to Ross Perot's strong gun control law, and with a more widespread and uncontrollable Internet.
  • Wham Episode: Several. George H.W. Bush's assassination by Iraqi security forces, Ross Perot creating the Freedom Party, which ushers in a new era of American politics, the attack on the Eiffel Tower bringing Europe into a war on Islamic terrorism, Nagoya being hit by a nuclear bomb, Paul Wellstone's assassination, demonstrating the danger of far-right terrorism, The Chinagate scandal, resulting in Ross Perot losing the presidency, the 1999 LAX bombing, and the Asian Pacific attacks.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Perot nearly destroying the Freedom Party by preventing Jerry Brown from getting the nomination.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: South Carolina Governor and presidential candidate Carroll Campbell is ashamed to have received the endorsement of Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The capture of Stormfront's leaders only ushers in a new wave of far-right terrorism that lasts for more than a year, attacking Vandenberg Air Base and the J. Edgar Hoover Building.


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