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Ike the Democrat


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After reading Hobbes's alternative history (whigs v. democrats) scenario, I am in the mood for making my own alternative world, based on a series of events resulting from a change in one momentous decision made by Dwight Eisenhower in the early 1950s.

As you may know, Ike was approached by both Democrats and Republicans to run in the 1952 presidential election; he could have "fit" in either party, and ultimately chose the Republican Party, thus denying Robert Taft's conservatives.

In my alternate history, things are a little different. Maybe Ike is in a better mood when the Democrats come down to beseech him. Maybe the Korean War goes a little differently. Maybe Harry Truman isn't so prickly.

At any rate, Ike decides to run as a DEMOCRAT instead of as a Republican in 1952, picking Sen. Estes Kefauver as his running-mate. This will be the first simulation in the series (but for the sake of argument; Eisenhower-Kefauver beats Taft-Knowland (the conservative GOP ticket) in a very close election - but carrying the entire Solid South).

This has the result of a conservative-coalition being birthed prematurely, the northern Republicans never quite having joined hands with the Dixiecrats as they did in IRL 1964 and thereafter.

For reasons political, Eisenhower does not name Earl Warren as chief justice of the Supreme Court; rather, he names a moderate Southerner as Chief Justice. The outcome? The Court, divided on race, denies a writ of certiorari to petitioners in Brown v. Board of Education. School desegregation and "massive resistance" in the South is pushed off into the future, indefinitely.

Ike/Estes gets re-elected in 1956 (presumably) to a Knowland-Bricker ticket.

After seven consecutive terms of Democratic rule, the Republican Party is weak. Moreover, it is seen as a complete joke. The New Deal is ascendant, with a national health care plan adopted by Congress (sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson -- the great friend of President Eisenhower). The administration is taking a moderate stance towards Soviet imperalism, but that's a far cry from the paranoid isolationism embraced by the Republicans. Moreover, the Republicans are increasingly liberal on Civil Rights, not seeing any use in pandering to "Confederates" that are hopelessly lost to Ike and the Democrats.

But in America, trouble is brewing. The Supreme Court cannot deny school segregation forever. Moreover, recent Court appointments (including the ambitious Justice Brennan) are ready for a fight.

The dam breaks in the summer of 1959, just as both parties are gearing up for the 1960 elections. The Court rules on Andrews v. Vidor Independent School District, reversing Plessy v. Ferguson.

Moreover, there is growing antagonism among the Southern conservatives that Eisenhower has "gone soft" on Communism. With the President's decision to support the Court on Andrews, the Southern Democrats pledge a walkout if "one of their own" does not receive the nomination for 1960.

Within the Republican Party as well, there is division between the Rockefeller liberals (who are sensing the pendulum is swinging back to them) and the Taft/Knowland/Goldwater conservatives. A floor-fight seems imminent in Chicago, since there is no Vice President Nixon to fill the gap (as there was in real life).

After bloody primaries, the liberal, internationalist wings of both parties prevail, leaving the conservatives "on the outs."

Late in the summer of 1960, the conservatives convene in Dallas to talk turkey. After much debate, the Conservative Party is born, running Democrat Harry F. Byrd as President and Republican John Tower (of Texas) as Vice President.

Taunted as the "Confederate Party" by Republicans and shunned by the Democrats, the three-way race of 1960 pits the Democrats on the Left, the Republicans in the middle, and the Conservatives on the right. But deprived of their Deep South bloc, and exhausted from years of scandal and intrigue, the Democrats finally lose the 1960 election to the Republican ticket of Rockefeller and Nixon.

But the realities of governance are too much for the centrists; particularly those such as Rockefeller who view government as a matter of managerial magic rather than sausage-making. The Soviet involvement in Cuba is answered successfully, but the President is seen as "caving in" to the Communists. "Massive Resistance" spreads in the South and the Republicans' strong civil rights agenda goes... nowhere. The Republicans are decimated in the 1962 congressional elections.

In 1964, the Democrats run Johnson and Humphrey; the Republicans run Rockefeller/Nixon for re-election, and the Conservatives nominate Goldwater and Orval Faubus.

After the ballot counting is done, the Conservatives finish second, nearly beating the Democratic ticket. But the close result is fortuitous.

The growing war in VietNam is brought to a close early, when outgoing Republican moderates and Democratic liberals agree not to widen the war, lest the trigger-happy Conservatives win in 1968. The Democrats and Republicans slowly find themselves agreeing more and more on things... with the two-parties eventually merging as a "unified front" of moderates and liberals. The civil rights act is pushed through Congress, and Jim Crow finally comes to an end in the South...

Until tragedy strikes.

President Johnson is assasinated in 1967, putting the country into a state of hysteria. Humphrey is sworn in, and names Republican George Aiken as Vice President.

Heading into the 1968 election, the Democratic-Republicans renominate President Humphrey and Vice President Aiken; the Conservatives re-nominate Goldwater and (now-Senator) John Tower.

(This is as far as I want to write... but I think you see how this sets up a set of interesting scenarios premised on "early polarization" as opposed to "late polarization").

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YoungCT, are you thinking of Robert Byrd (U.S. Senator from W.V., liberal, albeit a former clansman), or Harry F. Byrd?

Harry Byrd was most definitely a conservative, opposing much of the New Deal, and having "a nearly pathological hatred of debt" according to one writer.

In addition to being a racist, etc.

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