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President Reagan...in 1968

Circle of Willis

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Ronald Reagan first ran for the presidency in 1968, when he was still on his first term as Governor of California, and quickly became Nixon's main opponent from the right wing of the Republican Party. Apparently he actually had a slim window for success despite being way behind Nixon in delegates, as Nixon didn't have enough of said delegates to win on the first ballot until Strom Thurmond came to his rescue with the Southern delegates and Reagan & Nelson Rockefeller (a liberal Republican) were in talks to form a 'Stop Nixon' united front, but this fell through because of their ideological differences.

So - what if Reagan does beat Nixon for the GOP's nomination in 1968, then goes on to beat Humphrey in November? How does the Gipper handle becoming POTUS twelve years early, before stagflation and the end of the Vietnam War, and at the fever pitch of the Civil Rights Movement and the riots consuming American cities?
 

stevep

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Ronald Reagan first ran for the presidency in 1968, when he was still on his first term as Governor of California, and quickly became Nixon's main opponent from the right wing of the Republican Party. Apparently he actually had a slim window for success despite being way behind Nixon in delegates, as Nixon didn't have enough of said delegates to win on the first ballot until Strom Thurmond came to his rescue with the Southern delegates and Reagan & Nelson Rockefeller (a liberal Republican) were in talks to form a 'Stop Nixon' united front, but this fell through because of their ideological differences.

So - what if Reagan does beat Nixon for the GOP's nomination in 1968, then goes on to beat Humphrey in November? How does the Gipper handle becoming POTUS twelve years early, before stagflation and the end of the Vietnam War, and at the fever pitch of the Civil Rights Movement and the riots consuming American cities?
Interesting idea but a key issue is probably how close in personality and views would 1968 Reagan be to 1980's Reagan. For instance:
a) What would his attitude be to the Vietnam war? Would he have sought a further esculation in which case he would run into growing popular fatigue with the conflict?
b) Would he be as hostile to US tech as he was in the 1980's?
c) Given his later hostility to US government involvement on the economy how quickly does programmes such as Apollo get cut and assorted health and educations measures. Especially since presumably he would still want big tax cuts on the very rich people and businesses. [Which is likely to be a lot more unpopular in 1968 than in the 1980's when many of the American population had started losing confidence in the countries future and the role of government in it?]
d) Given his OTL behaviour in breaching Congressional laws could he end up like Nixon anyway, being forced to resign to avoid impeachment for some 'high crimes and misdemeanors?" In which case how does that affect the following years?
e) Would he reject the OTL ABM treaty in order to push for an early 'Star Wars' programme and how might that affect the cold war? Potentially :eek:
 

Buba

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@stevep
1 - When were the tax rates targeting the very rich and corporations introduced? Maybe RR won't have anything to cut ...
2 - the ABM treaty indeed could be a "never were"
3 - this being conditional on many different factors - the Bretton Woods system (maybe amended?) lives on, thus no decade of high inflation between 1973 and the mid '80s?
 

Circle of Willis

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As far as economics go, my (admittedly limited) understanding is that the Chicago School was still in its infancy around this time and that supply-side economics only emerged as a direct response to the stagflation of the '70s. So my guess is that Reagan would govern like a conventional conservative Republican of this time period, rather than jump on board the supply-side economic train 12 years early. In fact if Reagan's then-still-brief record as Governor of California is anything to go by, it seems he might actually not be averse to raising taxes if he thinks it's necessary - not just sales and vice (alcohol & cigarettes) but also on the highest income bracket.

Aside from that, IIRC Reagan's main complaint was that the US should've just declared war on North Vietnam and gone all-out against them instead of, essentially, pussyfooting around with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and putting boots on the ground (covertly or overtly) everywhere except NV. So I'd definitely assume an escalation is in order with an early President Reagan. A larger and completely un-hidden Cambodian Campaign, mining of North Vietnamese harbors, and earlier & constant Linebacker bombing offensives are the minimum I'd expect - at maximum, Reagan might actually try to secure a congressional DoW against the North Vietnamese with the public promise of ending the Vietnam War swiftly in one last big all-or-nothing gamble.

In other matters of foreign policy, Reagan was a staunch backer of Taiwan and opposed any sort of reconciliation with the PRC. So at the least I'd imagine no detente with China as long as he's POTUS.

Domestically Reagan was huge on law & order around this time, as demonstrated by his forceful breakup of the People's Park protest in Berkeley (followed by deploying National Guard forces to Berkeley for two weeks) and consistent support for capital punishment. I doubt he'd be remotely sympathetic to or inclined to compromise with urban rioters in the slightest. Police militarization was beginning to take off in the late '60s - the LAPD SWAT was founded in 1967 and had their first real baptism of fire in 1969 with a successful siege of the Black Panther HQ in LA - so perhaps President Reagan could massively accelerate & expand that trend? I also doubt Reagan would actively roll back desegregation (he's not a Dixiecrat and didn't do anything to enforce segregation as Governor AFAIK), though apparently he was a strong opponent of busing. As far as more general social conservatism goes, perhaps Reagan could lobby for a School Prayer Amendment as he did in 1982 - it's rather early for the culture war over abortion (which Reagan partly legalized as Governor although he came to regret that decision, same as no-fault divorce), and definitely way too early for the one over gay marriage.

And, of course, I think it'd be safe to guess that he'd have no problem encouraging governors to send in the NG (and personally backing them up with paratroopers) to smash especially large and troublesome riots. Groups like the Weather Underground would probably be even more violent against, and in turn be treated mercilessly by, the Reagan administration (which could use their antics to justify harsher crackdowns and militarization of law enforcement) - something like the Days of Rage could easily result in that group's leaders being shot dead rather than arrested, for example. At worst America's cities might spiral into a mini-Years of Lead, although in the face of escalating violence and 'urban guerrillas', suburbia and the working class might very well come to back Reagan's law & order to the hilt (real-life examples of this phenomenon include initial support for the NG in the Kent State shootings and the Hard Hat Riot of 1970, where blue-collar workmen in NYC clobbered college-educated activists protesting 'Nam & the arrests of Black Panthers).

In general I don't think Reagan would try to be nearly as sneaky as Nixon: his 1968 self seems too blunt, too inexperienced & too prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve for that sort of skullduggery. If he is to commit any impeachable offense it'd probably be in pursuing the Vietnam War too zealously or cracking down way too harshly somewhere domestically, not for dishonesty. That said, given his charisma (Reagan being the one to talk about the moon landings should make for a truly legendary speech!) and lack of an odious reputation compared to Nixon, I think he might have better odds of surviving impeachment proceedings as long as he can keep some conservative Democrats & Rockefeller Republicans on-board. If he needs to appease the liberal wing of the GOP, maybe he could even attempt the domestic equivalent of Nixon going to China and name Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, a black man, his running mate in 1972.

All in all - the more I think about it (and I've been doing that quite a bit today haha), it sure seems that an early President Reagan would make the '70s an even wilder time, to put it mildly!
 

stevep

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Well that would be interesting, to put it mildly! Open conflict with N Vietnam coupled with his hostility towards Communist China is likely to make the former FIC a new Korean war type scenario. Although not sure how much international support the US would get from its western allies. Not even Britain or Canada sent military forces to Vietnam and an escalation of the war, rightly or wrongly is likely to be even more unpopular across most of the western powers. Plus I would say sooner or later discontent is almost certain to rise in the US itself so a lot would depend on how Reagan handled that. Plus with the USSR having learnt its lesson in 1950 it won't be boycotting the UN so there would be no UN resolution in support of such a conflict. Agree that's likely to be where any impeachment might come, for either over-expansion of Presidential power during the war or suppression of peaceful dissent over that and other issues. A younger, more straightforward Reagan is probably less likely to get involved in seeking to bypass Congress by alliances with terrorist groups and states plus a fundamentalist Iran won't be about anyway.

If he's a more conventional economic stance then he might not be the economic and social failure he was OTL, although given a possibly greatly enlarged Vietnam conflict there's going to be a fiscal as well as human cost there. However without the huge tax cuts the overall state of the economy might be better. Your still likely to see inflation as demand grows, especially with a much larger war effort.

Agree with his charisma he's likely to make a more dramatic presentation on the Moon landings and under the right circumstances he might not curtail the programme as happened OTL.

One other possible issue is, if he got re-elected in 1972, how would he react to the 1st oil crisis, assuming the Yom Kippur War still occurs? Suspect a younger Reagan would still support Israel, probably more so given the greater confrontation with the Soviets and Chinese. What might happen if, as Israel starts to win, again assuming that still happens, the Soviets directly send troops to say Syria as I think they threatened OTL.

This is going to be a very tense period and could well see a lot more people dying. At worse we could end up with WWIII!

Steve
 

ATP

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Ronald Reagan first ran for the presidency in 1968, when he was still on his first term as Governor of California, and quickly became Nixon's main opponent from the right wing of the Republican Party. Apparently he actually had a slim window for success despite being way behind Nixon in delegates, as Nixon didn't have enough of said delegates to win on the first ballot until Strom Thurmond came to his rescue with the Southern delegates and Reagan & Nelson Rockefeller (a liberal Republican) were in talks to form a 'Stop Nixon' united front, but this fell through because of their ideological differences.

So - what if Reagan does beat Nixon for the GOP's nomination in 1968, then goes on to beat Humphrey in November? How does the Gipper handle becoming POTUS twelve years early, before stagflation and the end of the Vietnam War, and at the fever pitch of the Civil Rights Movement and the riots consuming American cities?
I am not very good in american history - but i knew,that Reagan finished off soviets by making oil cheap and stopping technology transfer.USA practically built Kamaz factory in that period.
Now - if he manage made oil cheap and keep american technology from soviets,then,as long as he made 2 terms,soviets would collapse just like in OTL.

They always could start war,like they planned after 1981,but it would be their lost or mutual destruction.
So,without WW3 - soviet widraw from Europe in 1975,Poland and other countries free,and commies would not take over just like after 1993 becouse there would be enough normal people left.
South Vietnam would remain free.

USA without free abortion would be stronger country - but lgbt+52 could still ruin it just like in OTL.
 

49ersfootball

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Big question is whether Reagan would up the ante even further in supporting Daddy Park's dictatorship in the Republic of Korea ?
 

Circle of Willis

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I think Nixon got to make four SCOTUS appointments, so Reagan might be able to alter the outcome of Roe v. Wade (and with it the entire landscape of the culture war) if he makes more conservative appointments. Not sure who he could pick instead of Nixon's people, though.

Re: Korea - I see no reason why Reagan wouldn't support Park, tbh. He's a pro-American dictator on the front line with Communism in Asia who worked closely with the US to send the South Korean economy soaring into the stratosphere; what's not to like from Reagan's point of view? Especially if he intends to escalate the Vietnam War, considering SK contributed the second-most to the anti-Communist side there after only the US itself.
 

49ersfootball

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I think Nixon got to make four SCOTUS appointments, so Reagan might be able to alter the outcome of Roe v. Wade (and with it the entire landscape of the culture war) if he makes more conservative appointments. Not sure who he could pick instead of Nixon's people, though.

Re: Korea - I see no reason why Reagan wouldn't support Park, tbh. He's a pro-American dictator on the front line with Communism in Asia who worked closely with the US to send the South Korean economy soaring into the stratosphere; what's not to like from Reagan's point of view? Especially if he intends to escalate the Vietnam War, considering SK contributed the second-most to the anti-Communist side there after only the US itself.
I could see Taiwan staying on the UN General Assembly too. No Detente policy.
 

Atarlost

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It was said that only Nixon could go to China. If it remained true that only a hardline anti-communist could afford to extend an olive branch to the PRC a Nixon replacement not doing so would lock them out of American markets. Our industries would offshore to places like the ROK, Thailand, India, and Mexico. If that lead to an economic revival in Mexico it would take off a lot of immigration pressure destroying one of the Democrats' issues and preventing a wedge from being driven between socially conservative latinos (who there'd be fewer of, but still quite a lot going all the way back to the annexation of California) and socially conservative whites. If India becomes the rising industrial power of the late 20th and early 21st centuries instead of China everything changes. They're not interested in pan-Asianism. Some ultranationalists would probably like to exercise hegemony over other parts of the former British Raj, but that's about the extent of Indian identity.
 

49ersfootball

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It was said that only Nixon could go to China. If it remained true that only a hardline anti-communist could afford to extend an olive branch to the PRC a Nixon replacement not doing so would lock them out of American markets. Our industries would offshore to places like the ROK, Thailand, India, and Mexico. If that lead to an economic revival in Mexico it would take off a lot of immigration pressure destroying one of the Democrats' issues and preventing a wedge from being driven between socially conservative latinos (who there'd be fewer of, but still quite a lot going all the way back to the annexation of California) and socially conservative whites. If India becomes the rising industrial power of the late 20th and early 21st centuries instead of China everything changes. They're not interested in pan-Asianism. Some ultranationalists would probably like to exercise hegemony over other parts of the former British Raj, but that's about the extent of Indian identity.
US & Taiwan relations still strong.
 

raharris1973

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I think the idea that Reagan elected in 1968 can salvage the Vietnam war as a winnable enterprise is wishful thinking.

I think the fear that he may try to do this very thing, would be his biggest single electoral liability.

The median American voter would find him much easier to vote for *after* the US is out of Vietnam and South Vietnam is down and he can whine about weaklings who let it fall. Because then they can just talk about it, not have to do anything.
 
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