Speculation: What if JFK had not been assassinated? Served 2 terms and no LBJ prez
Reader comment on: JFK and Goldwater: Comment of the Day
Submitted by Mark Michael (United States), Nov 19, 2013 00:03
Reading over the summary of your book, the thought hit me: Historical counterfactuals are fun to do. Someone should write one in which JFK wasn't assassinated and then won a close election against Goldwater. My rosy scenario is (1) he succeeded in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act with big GOP & LBJ's help, (2) no Great Society federal program - rather some modest augmenting of state-level means-tested welfare programs; maybe a Peace Corp for inner cities, (3) he talked with Eisenhower about what to do about Vietnam, given the bloody nose he got at the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile crisis, and the Berlin Wall. Hmm. This is a hard one! Eisenhower strongly counseled against a major land war in Asia, but would he counsel JFK to threaten to invade North Vietnam and truly punish them for their aggression? Threaten nuclear strikes? Or would JFK's instincts that led him to not send in the regular Army into Cuba after the CIA-sponsored farce failed at the Bay of Pigs come into play again in Vietnam? Hmm. Okay, try this: the domino theory was still in vogue. They decide to draw the line at Laos and Cambodia and above Malaysia. Let the North have South Vietnam. Take advantage of the ethnic hostility between Vietnamese and all the other SE Asian neighbors to draw the line less expensively, using more Special Forces rather than large numbers of regular Army troops.
Who wins the 1968 election? Let's guess the Vietnam situation tilts it to the GOP. Who is the GOP candidate against, say, LBJ? Nixon, Reagan, Goldwater? Boy, writing counterfactual histories is hard. Would Nixon have still made a comeback after his 1962 loss of the California governor's race, and "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore!" remark. Assume Reagan still gained prominence with a stem-winding speech at the 1964 GOP convention and was elected CA governor in 1966. Would Goldwater hava lost by such a huge margin if he were the nominee in 1964? Probably not - no sympathy vote. But would the GOP turn to him a 2nd time? Doubtful. So it's Reagan v. Nixon.
Okay, I'll stop here. I thought there was a nice, much less "big government" type of alternative history that would write itself. Maybe Khrushchev would have turned out to be the Soviet Union's Gorbachev and not have been deposed by old-line Stalinists apparatchik. It could have followed the path of China after Mao's death. Or imploded like it did in 1990-91.
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