HALF PAST NOON: Ronald Reagan and the rise of the American Conservative Party

1 - Prologue: HALF PAST NOON, Part 1: Now or Never
I was going to ask myself questions like in a TLIAD format but I decided against it. So, here it goes:

I first started to conceive of this over 3 months ago. I wanted to do a Cold War TL. But I knew I had issues with actually finishing TLs. So, as a result, I decided to plan it out thoroughly and finish it before posting.

I actually wrote most of it out during NaNoWriMo and continued since then. However, it's not 100% finished as of writing this. I wanted to get it out before the new year to show it off but I would need to work at a crazy pace to finish it up in the time left before the new year. I have about 2/3 of it done and written already so I figure I'll just plop them out once a week or so and work on what's left. Every post is about 4k to 5k words and there's about 20 of them planned out.

This TL's POD is a stronger reaction against Jimmy Carter and Reagan in '76 from their parties. As a result, the Conservative Party that was apparently rumored to be in the works if Reagan didn't get the nomination becomes real, oh so real. It capitalizes off of the perceived corruption in the government and the death rattles of the FDR coalition and the rest is for you to read...

Also please excuse my graphic design and formatting. My strong point is the writing not the visual aides.

Half Past Noon: Ronald Reagan and the rise of the American Conservative Party

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Prologue: HALF PAST NOON

Stalin and his close confidants in addition to some new guests had been drinking for some time at the Stalin dacha and the sun had fallen long ago. Just as he usually did, Stalin enjoyed toying with his guests more than the drink.

He put the record player on a jaunty tune and smiled. “Come, come. Molotov, Zhukov, now you dance!” The general and the diplomat stood up, both too drunk and afraid to protest.

Zhukov naturally assumed the male's position and Molotov was dragged along, stepping in an uncoordinated pattern. Both continued along dancing to the foreign tune.

Stalin clapped and cackled to the clapping approval of the others in the room. Except for Beria. Beria was reticent.

Stalin meandered his way back to his seat next to Beria and poured himself another drink while chuckling. He knocked back the drink and laid back in the chair with a satisfied sigh. It's good to be the King.

The song ended and the pair looked back at the General Secretary. Stalin said nothing and looked around at his guests. He took in every silent second with delight. Stalin could feel their fear for him. They couldn't move even a finger without his command.

Feeling satisfied he nodded. “Once more.” He gave a thumbs up.

“Again, again!” shouted out the sycophantic Malenkov. His wholly fake gleeful smile made his fatty neck ripple.

The pair moved the record's hand back to the outer ring and began their awkward dance again. Stalin sat silent. He was observing.

It was in moments like these that the infamous Beria came to love Stalin. Not as one might love a woman, or as one might love a child, but as a dog loves his master. He believed deep down that only he could fully appreciate his master. Only he could love is dark side. His side that he saw only moments earlier relishing the fear of others.

Comrade Stalin could order everyone in the room shot dead. Beria would carry it out in an instant. Just so that he could see his master smile.

It wouldn't be the first time that he went to the extreme for his master. His crowning achievement, better than even the purges, was when he brought Stalin the skull of Adolf Hitler. Oh, the smile on the General Secretary's face that day!

Now if he knew that Beria had simply dug up a grave of some dead Kulak bastard it would be the end of him. But he did it all for Stalin.

For Beria, Stalin was the greatest man to ever live. To survive the Czar, to survive the Civil War, to survive the Jew Trotsky, to survive the Nazis! He took the Soviets from the gates of Moscow to the ruins of Berlin. Has there ever been a greater conqueror in history? Caesar? Napoleon? Alexander? The Great or the Greek? Both!

Oh, if only he loved him back.

Beria crossed his legs and sighed.

“Four eyes.” the drunken Stalin leaned over, “I'll tell you a secret.”

Beria didn't know if he wanted to know any of Stalin's secret. That was a great way to get killed. But to Stalin he couldn't say no. “A secret?”

“Yes,” he leaned in even closer and his hot breath fogged up Beria's glasses. “it's about how the world works.”

“How the world works?” Beria perked up. Now he was interested.

“Yes.” Stalin chuckled, it was nice to see that even an inhuman rat like Beria could find some enjoyment at the party. “You see Lavrentiy, human societies are like the sun.”

“The sun?”

“The sun cycle. In the early day the light is hard to see, you have to strain your eyes to see the light. You need to envision it. But after some time the light you envisioned is suddenly there, it's day! But then there comes a point when the sun reaches its highest peak. Midday.” Stalin began to nod and Beria nodded along.

The song stopped and the room went silent again. Stalin didn't break eye contact with Beria, he merely moved his hand in a dismissive motion. The music began again for a third time. The awkward, now robotic dancing began once again. The audience clapped and laughed like they had before without missing a beat.

“And when it's Midday, when it's noon, the sun is bright. Blindingly bright. You take it for granted. You forget the old days when the sun was faint. But when you reach the peak, there is nothing but decline after that. The sun starts to go down. It starts to get dark. Everyone starts to panic. Before you know it there's no more sun. It's dark.”

“And then it's night?” Beria didn't totally follow.

“No, then it's the end of that civilization. That system. Over. No more. If you read Lenin you would know this. Imperialism: The Highest Point of Capitalism!” Stalin had leaned in so much that there was all of a foot of distance between their faces.

Stalin pulled back and leaned in his chair like before. “Or you could just listen to me if you don't want to waste your time.”

“I'll listen Comrade Stalin.” replied Beria.

The eavesdropping Malenkov leaned in, “You are a new Hegel, Comrade Stalin.” he nodded and smiled. The others nodded and clapped along to Malenkov's compliments.

Stalin was silent for a moment and ignored Malenkov's comment. He smiled and said: “And clearly then the Capitalists are at their high point, their midday. They are half past noon, they live in the sun's gaze. But it will be dark soon. And the dawn waits.”

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Part 1: Now or Never

1976 was supposed to be a Democratic year.

The economy was slipping, the sitting President was not elected and pardoned the previous President, the Republican Party was shattered along factional lines with the primarying of President Ford. Ford himself had already been subject to two assassination attempts. Things were looking up for the Democrats. For the first time in almost a decade, blue was a popular color again.

There's no way they could mess this up.

Iowa was a shocker. Defying the expectations of pollsters and the political elite, Jimmy Carter came second in Iowa (the first being Uncommitted).

Carter was from the South and could be politely termed as “more moderate” than other elements in the party. Indeed, Carter's politics angered a good many of the Northern and Western Liberals who had been ascendant in the Democratic Party for over a decade at that point. They would not sit by and see the party wrested from them in such a great year for the Democratic Party. They refused to tolerate the Southern populist.

Carter's win in Iowa was less about an implacable determination, a grand charisma, or anything of the sort. It was to do with vote splitting.

The Liberals of the Democratic Party split their votes between four candidates: Mo Udall, Sargent Shriver, Scoop Jackson, and Birch Bayh. There was also one other candidate – Fred Harris, an oddball from Oklahoma. He “winnowed in” with a surprising third, but he was quickly “winnowed out” and wasn't anything to write home about in the end.

Before Carter, the candidate that was considered strongest was Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson of Washington. “Scoop” as he was popularly known, was a war hawk with close ties to organized labor and other progressive causes. He was strongest on foreign policy, and as a result it was the focus of his campaign. He found a great deal of support from Jewish-Americans whom greatly appreciated his staunch Pro-Israel views, though his foreign policy also hurt him – he had been a supporter of the Vietnam war.​

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Senator Scoop Jackson: "To maintain peace we must maintain our military might. Only strength can deter aggression."
Regardless of who was the front runner before, after Scoop fell flat in the Pennsylvania primary he was forced to reconsider his campaign. He was out of money and had very little to show for the thousands he had spent up 'till that point. On April 29th Jackson shuttered his campaign unofficially, remaining in the race on the ballot in several states but ultimately not mounting a challenge to Carter in person.

After that, Carter was in front. And it didn't take long for the Liberals to take note of that.

The ABC (Anyone but Carter) movement began not too long after Carter's second victory in New Hampshire, but it took off only after Jackson's campaign stumbled in Pennsylvania. Jerry Brown, Frank Chuch, Mo Udall, Sargent Shriver, and Birch Bayh all got together to discuss how to deny Carter the nomination. Not in a smoke filled room, not even together all at once. But on the phone, and over time.

Ultimately though the agreed upon strategy was as follows: Candidates will run in races that they are sure they will win or no other candidate from the ABC is running in. Candidates from the ABC will not run in races other candidates of the ABC are participating in.

Slowly but surely Carter's lead was chipped away. A race here, a race there. Carter's campaign started slowing down. His momentum was running out. He was falling down.

Carter's outside persona was that of a folksy gentleman. But those who took part in his campaign would know that Carter was controlling, bordering on the point of megalomania. He insisted on micromanaging every detail that he could. As the campaign slowed down, Carter's mood was sour more and more often. Typically damaging his own campaign with rash decisions, alienating key allies in primaries.

It was rough to take part on the campaign, but it was harder for Jimmy in the end. Jimmy Carter's emotional and mental health took a nosedive following a surprise loss in Texas to Lloyd Bentsen. The loss in Indiana just after Texas to the previously withdrawn Bayh threw him for a loop. In the darkest moments of the campaign Carter flirted with the idea that maybe his opponents had their own set of plumbers just like Nixon – but better judgment won out in that fight.

But still, Carter was angry. Angry at the ABC and angry at the Party. He felt that he was being rejected because of his being a Southerner and because he was an outsider to dirty Washington politics. He was right, mostly. He tried his best to find a way to strike back, and called up George Wallace on a lark.

Wallace was a constant vote winner and was roughly the 3rd in the popular vote at that point. If Wallace pulled out and endorsed Carter it would be a significant boon to the Carter's campaign. Maybe a strong enough boon to push Carter over the edge.

Wallace told him to pound sand.

“I'm winning this outright or not at all Jimmy.” Carter shook his head when he heard that. Wallace wasn't winning it. And it was starting to look like he wasn't either.

After a close loss in Nebraska the Carter campaign changed gears. Before Carter had run a clean campaign. Nothing dirty and minimal attacks. He wanted to be the simple peanut farmer who had simple and effective ideas. The campaign motto of “Why not the best?” exemplified that feeling. Yes, he did criticize corruption in the government, but he did not criticize his own party yet. After Nebraska he started to.

He improved in the contests since then, people figured all of government was corrupt in some way. He claimed that big wigs in the party were conspiring against him in smoke filled rooms. They couldn't handle someone who was clean, he claimed. But in the end it still wasn't enough to save him or his campaign. No sir.

When he lost a bitterly fought primary against Jerry Brown in California he was no loner able to secure a majority of the delegates. While the convention would be remembered as a contested one, Jimmy and all the other political insiders knew that Carter was not going to find success during the balloting. The other delegates were pledged to members of the ABC, Jackson, or one of the other wackadoos.

Carter gave it one last hurrah at the Convention in New York. If he could get George Wallace to release his delegates then they would (theoretically) go to Carter since he was the closest politically to Wallace out of any other candidate. It could give him the push he needed to win.

Carter approached him when the two managed to get away from the reporters and the bright lights. They were intoxicating and gave those who dreamed of power a special kind of fire in the belly, but for this conversation they felt merely intrusive. Back room politics isn't for the average Joe out there on the convention floor with a stupid little boater hat on.

“Release my delegates?” Wallace said with a smirk, “Mr. Carter the party is the party. Maybe if you knew that you wouldn't've made the mistake of going against it. It plays by rules. And rule 1 is that the party gets what it wants. You ain't it.”

“For a fellow Southerner then?”

Wallace's smirk grew into a nasty smile that was more angry than happy. He was still his old self no matter what he claimed out there in public. “Southern honor? Hasn't been something like that for a long time. Long, long time son.”

“Then to stop Brown and the Liberals?” said the desperate Carter.

Wallace answered tersely, he didn't have time for games.“Try again in 1980. Or go back to farmin' peanuts. Yer choice Jim.” Wallace carted himself off. He had important things to do, like stare at Coretta Scott King from across the arena. Every time he saw that woman a twisted feeling filled his gut. He turned his head around. “I have a speech to give. I bid you a-doo.”
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Former Governor George Wallace
Carter was finished. But he wasn't done being angry about it.

The question then was who would be the nominee? Carter's delegates weren't just going away so the candidate had to be chosen carefully and needed to be an acceptable choice for every member of the ABC. If it broke down now, Carter would win. If the ABC failed now, then there would be a party crackup and an independent run. It would be for vanity and it couldn't win but it would endanger the party's chance in the general. And nobody wanted to piss all the political capital Nixon and Ford handed to them down the drain.

So they got together, this time indeed in the stereotypical “smoke filled room” Carter alleged they took part in.

The ensuing conversation lasted about 4 hours and took more than a few cartons of cigarettes between the men and their entourages. Mo Udall made a few jokes despite the tense atmosphere. Brown threatened to walk once but get corralled back in. But they got a candidate they agreed with.

To make a long story short: Birch Bayh was chosen as the nominee. He was from rural Indiana which could counteract Jimmy's rural charm and he only took part in 4 contests so he avoided much of the mud slinging. It was enough for the exhausted group. They had to take a nap, and then enjoy the victory.

The running-mate was to be left up to fate (and personal choice) - as long as it wasn't Carter. So they went with an old favorite rather than anybody newer.

The 1976 Democratic Presidential Ticket: Birch Bayh/John Glenn

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It was sweltering in Kansas City.

It was the middle of August and the Kemper Arena was packed to the brim with people. Everyone was here to see the end of the contested convention. Ronald Reagan from California gave President Ford a run for his money but it wasn't enough to overcome incumbency outright.

Ford was controversial at best. He pardoned Nixon (who was so blatantly corrupt) and the economy slid into the worst recession since the Great Depression. The fall of Saigon and the policy of detente also mobilized Conservatives and other hawks against Ford. Therefore, Reagan challenged him in the primaries. The Conservative Reagan failed to win the majority of the delegates or the plurality of the popular vote in the primaries. Yet still, Ford did not have enough delegates to win outright on the first ballot.

And so, the schmoozing began.

Reagan, being an actor, was at an advantage in the personal charisma department but even with the best Geritol smile in the world, he was not the sitting President. Ford was able to pull out all the stops to impress those who were on the fence. Flights on Air Force One, expensive meals, indeed even meeting Ford carried benefits as he was the sitting President. Ford was ready and willing to do just about anything to win the nomination. Reagan couldn't compete with Ford in that capacity. Not even close.

Reagan and most of the Conservatives were already testy with Ford and the more Liberal elements but when it came to the platform things got heated. Conservatives, most of which were led by Jesse Helms, attempted to put forward several policy planks. Particularly several that were in outright disagreement with President Ford's own policies.

Ford and the opponents to Reagan fought back hard and preventing most of the planks from coming to pass. The failure of the Human Life Amendment being added to the platform in the wake of Roe V. Wade was a painful failure indeed. Reagan and Helms were furious.

Rumors began to circulate about a new party that would be created if Ford won out over Reagan. It first appeared in the Chicago Tribune as an independent piece, but soon Helms and other Conservative operatives were pushing that narrative in the hopes of scaring Ford or the delegates into submission. Ford and his campaign failed to yield to their threats.

Reagan also considered making a ballsy move of his own: announcing his running-mate early. The plan was to make Liberal Republican Richard Schweiker Reagan's running-mate, causing Ford to lose support of Liberals. It wouldn't be much, but it was thought to be just enough to put Reagan over the top. In the end however, the idea was dropped after political operatives approached Schweiker. Schweiker squashed the idea out of hand, he didn't even know Reagan. After that it was abandoned.

So it would come down to a Hail Mary on the balloting, hoping that the uncommitted delegates were enthused by the vision and personality Reagan brought to the table.

With baited breath, the two factions watched as the balloting commenced. The hot August heat was boiling in that tight space. Everyone was packed in tight and sweating like water fountains. It was the most exciting convention of the 20th century.

Ford breathed a sigh of relief.

1976 RNC 1st Ballot:
Ford: 1,180
Reagan: 1,077
Richardson: 1


Ford had won – but barely.

Reagan got on stage afterwards to give a concession speech. Given Reagan's past as an actor, it is not particularly surprising that Reagan's concession speech was so stirring that it overshadowed Ford's own acceptance speech. Ford was made a fool in victory, his speech looking merely perfunctory compared to Reagan's eloquence in his defeat. Reagan emphasized the values of morality and righteousness but there was no call to party unity like Ford expected. Reagan was still sore from the loss.​

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A final stab wound? Or will there be more?

And so they proceeded onto the running-mate nomination.

Kit Bond, a more moderate Republican from Missouri was chosen. The result failed to enthuse the already angered Conservatives. Helms and Reagan had a phone call not long after.

“That bastard Ford made us out for fools Ronald. He got all he wanted and we got nothin'. They did us like Carter goddammit!” Helms was enraged from the whole affair and resorted to calling Reagan on a payphone by his hotel to make sure no one was wiretapping him. Nixon had put the fear of conspiracies and 'plumbers' into just about everyone in Washington.

“I know, I'm as angry as you are Jesse. Just as - “

Helms interrupted.

“Angry? Mister Reagan I am outraged! Outraged! I left the Democrats because they were dirty dealers and were becoming goddamn sodomite liberals. If the Republicans can't be the upstandin' party then who can?”

Reagan sighed. Helms was right, for all he was worth. Nixon killed whatever appearance of morality and fastidiousness the GOP had among the average person, but for big-whig Conservatives Ford's brutal and rough victory against Reagan had the same effect twice over.

“If we aren't Republicans then what are we Jesse?”

Jesse Helms chuckled grimly. “We're Conservatives Mister Reagan. Conservatives.”

“I suppose that's what we are – but there...” Reagan's mind processed what Helms was trying to imply. “Well I've considered what you're trying to imply before. But I don't know if it's the right time.” Reagan had read the news and seen the same articles meant to threaten Ford.

“It's always the right time to be right.” Helms was right once again, it was always the right time to be moral and upstanding. For Reagan it was looking like it was now or never. He didn't want to take the risk of challenging Ford again in 1980 or dealing with an incumbent Bayh.

“Now or never.” Reagan muttered to himself.

Reagan threw caution to the wind. He felt personally shamed by Ford and alienated in his own party. He felt like he was up against a brick wall...Reagan tabulated every excuse for doing this that he could think of. Lord knows he'd need it when the press got wind of this stunt.

And so the Conservative Party raised its odious orange banners all over the US.​

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The quick and informal convention assembled in Greensboro North Carolina in late August. They met in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, a small venue that made the crowds at the convention look much larger than they really were – the press ate it up. As per usual during the early days of the Conservative Party, Reagan's old talents in Hollywood were utilized extensively to the Conservative Party's benefit.

The keynote speaker was decided to be jilted Democrat Jimmy Carter. Mr. Peanut railed hard against the Democrats and the Republicans with an uncharacteristic vigor, something augmented to his public persona since the ABC did him over. The old Jimmy was over, he wasn't spiteful and angry all the time but he was becoming a finger pointer – for better or worse.

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Former Governor Jimmy Carter: "No more DC swindlers! Good government for a good society!"
Carter railed against both the GOP and his own party. Both were corrupt beyond measure, both were out of touch beyond measure. American needed someone like Ronald Reagan. He was a cowboy so he knew what it was like to be a real man in the field. “Not as much as a peanut farmer, but gosh darn it all he sure ain't no DC swindler!”

Once again, the press ate it up. The drama was juicy, so juicy.

Conservatives of both parties announced defections and with each defection the news media hyped the party up more and more. The names of the defected were announced in a grand rigmarole chant for the media, to make sure they knew what narrative to report. And for fun. Ultimately these defections were not nearly as numerous as the press hyped up. Most were from the House, where Congressmen were free to be more radical. Where the new party got the most defections and declared candidates was actually on the local level. It was a part of Pete Domenici's plan.

“Our political revolution to make America great again will start from the bottom! Yes, you out there you can win a spot on your local school board, or as a judge, or as a sheriff, or in the state house. We'll sweep the lowest rungs of the political system and then we'll go up to Congress, and then up to the Presidency! And then to the Supreme Court!”

The situation got “so bad” (once again, the severity of defections was over emphasized by the press) in the South for the Democrats that Bayh was asked felt if the Democrats were Conservatives or Liberals and replied: “Me? I'm a Liberal.” Conservatives used the phrase as a beating stick against GOP and Democrat holdouts in the South for an entire generation. For whatever reason, it just stuck.

The only important to figure thing out beyond the platform (which was quickly assembled from the long-standing Conservative wish list) was who to nominate as Reagan's running-mate.

Helms, Reagan, Crane, Laxalt, Domenici and several others tabulated several lists among themselves and by the time of the Convention they came up with several names.

Elliot Richardson was #1 on everyone's list but Domenici's list which had Laxalt as his highest choice. Since he stood against Nixon, he was the new Conservative Party's favorite choice. He would help represent the new, clean, uncorrupt Conservatism they preached. However when he was contacted, he turned down the offer politely. He was currently serving as Ambassador to the UK and had little sympathy for the new Conservative Party.

John Connally was another popular choice among the men. He was shot during the JFK assassination and had since switched to the GOP but occasionally endorsed across the aisle. Ultimately his time as the head of “Democrats for Nixon” made him too associated with Nixon. That, including his age and the potential stain of corruption regarding a milk price decision that led to him allegedly pocketing money. No good. He was stricken from the list.

Billy Graham and his close friend Robert H. Schuller were brought up as well. Though ultimately Graham's close association with Nixon put him lower on the list. Schuller's being from California was a black mark against him as the party heads didn't want a West heavy ticket so his name was tossed as well.

James L. Buckley was one of the popular choices as well. His victory as a third party candidate in New York as a member of the Conservative Party of New York made him a celebrity in Conservative circles. Helms in particular thought him to be the second best choice out of “any fella” in America. The fact that he was from New York was also considered attractive. Balancing east and west was an important goal of the big whigs.

Jack Kemp was another popular choice. He was a former professional football player and a young buck who quickly joined the party. Like Buckley, he was from New York. His status as a celebrity outside of politics like Reagan worried the party heads however, not wanting to turn the party into a party of celebrities. He was earmarked in the future as someone to keep watching however.

William Ruckelshaus was another choice. Since Richardson already turned them down, they figured that Ruckelshaus could be a good choice to easily emphasize the anti-Corruption views of the party. He had actually faced Bayh in the past and lost narrowly – perhaps meaning that Ruckelshaus could help turn Indiana against Bayh. His largest issue however was that he had feuded with the Conservative section of the GOP in the past and would have to be cajoled into joining the ticket. Perhaps too much work for a backup Richardson.

Jimmy Carter was also considered briefly considering how hard he pushed against the Democratic Party. His being a Democrat was another plus, but he did not seem very interested as a VP and hadn't even joined the party yet despite being the keynote speaker. If Carter was going to be the VP they decided he had to work for it. At the end of the day he had no interest in the position.

Of course, all of the men also had a slew of other names of various politicos near and far. Though none of their names would be little importance this time around.

When it came time for the running-mate, they party heads were in agreement. William Ruckelhaus would be the pick. Reagan personally called him and Ruckelhaus agreed to be his running-mate. At the Convention he was selected via acclaim, leaving a small crew of Connolly supporters claiming that Connolly had actually won but that little controversy ultimately led to nothing.

And so the general election came around and an unholy mess awaited us all.

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Coming into the General Election, many were not expecting an amazing showing from the Conservative Party. Having formed in the wake the GOP Convention, the Conservative Party was had to work to get its name on ballots, get candidates, and get money for their various elections that were occurring. All at the same time. It was simply too much for the newborn Conservative National Committee (Henceforth known as CNC). Organizing responsibility in the early days fell to Paul Laxalt, a close friend of Reagan and Domenici. He was known as a taskmaster albeit a skilled one.

Seeing the chaos in the CNC, Laxalt made an erudite decision. The Party will focus on the Presidential race before all others. Recruiting candidates will be minimized, and all monies acquired by the CNC directly (not concerning the individual races) will be put in the Reagan/Ruckelhaus war chest. Laxalt believed that much of America was sympathetic to the Party's views and therefore a Presidential win was possible. If Reagan was in the White House, then defections would increase and Congressional races would be easier to fund raise and organize.

Important members of the Conservative Party circa 1976:
- Former Governor Ronald Reagan: Presidential Candidate for the party.

- Senator Paul Laxalt: Close personal friend of Reagan and Demenici's. Unoffical head of the CNC.

- Senator Jesse Helms: The architect of the Party and official Senate parliamentarian leader. He's become known as an domineering leader and has gained some resentment from within the party.

- Senator James L. Buckley: The famous congressman from New York. Chafes under Helms' influence in the senate.

- Representative Phil Crane: The leader of the party in the House of Representatives. Known for his full throated defense of the party split in a speech given in Congress.

- Senator Pete Domenici: Quickly becoming the Party ideologue, Domenici has espoused the 'ground up' doctrine which promotes focusing on local races and moving up, and the 'new pathway' doctrine which promotes proselytizing to suburbanites and other-izing urban parts of the country. Has had tit for tat disputes with Helms.

- Former Governor Jimmy Carter: Has belatedly joined the party, though he remains unimpressed. Surrogate for the Reagan campaign in the South and Midwest.

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The Big 5: The Conservative Party's Powerbrokers and Tacticians

Meanwhile, the GOP focused on getting a respectable result in the election. Ford knew that the pooch was screwed at this point, but he could at least retain his dignity and perhaps even bring the splitters back into the fold. Of course, those two things predicated on the concept that Ford could squeak out a solid 2nd. Ford's pollsters knew that this wasn't happening.

The South and the Midwest almost universally looked grim. The Conservative Party was ascendant in those areas and there was little they could do about it. Out West and in the Mid-Atlantic the Conservative Party was not competitive – but it did nearly cut the Republican Party's base of support in half. The only places Ford polled well was in Maine and Vermont.

The election was a rough affair for the Republicans. Seeing their own party turn on itself was an ugly affair. Congress was a mess of partisan attacks and it wasn't any better on the campaign trail. The election weighed especially hard on Ford. There was no way to reach out to the Democrats. There was no way to reach out to the disgruntled Conservatives. When Ford was out of the spotlights and away from the nosy reporters he spent his time sulking. You won't read it in any history book since it never left Ford's head, but he considered calling Reagan and trying to patch things up personally. He had dreams of reuniting the party and leading it to a great victory over Bayh – though even Ford knew that was a fever dream at that point.

The Democrats focused on furthering their lead. Close states like Michigan and California became major targets for the Democrats and they pushed for victory in those states more than any other. The party itself was ecstatic after the GOP split and the excitement hasn't stopped. 1976 really was their year. They won against Carter, they've basically already won against Ford, and they'll win against Reagan. That's the mantra. That's the chant.

Though Carter supporters, especially in the South weren't happy.

All three sides looked for ways to elevate their profiles above the others. Reagan brought in close movie star friends and other notables as surrogates. Bayh palled around with big name celebrities, Civil Rights leaders, and media darlings. Ford mostly sat and screamed into the ever increasing black void which had taken over his life and political career.

It was no surprise then, when CBS offered a prime time three way televised debate. Now, there had been televised debates before and they were not anything close to being rare like in 1960, but this was to take place only 2 weeks before America would go to the polls. It was billed as THE Presidential debate.

Eugene McCarthy's campaign complained that the debate wasn't including them, but beyond that there was no other complaints. The complaints of the McCarthy campaign, despite being whining, did his campaign a great service and he saw a rise in the polls, much to the chagrin of Bayh.

The debate went about as you would expect. Reagan oozed charisma, Bayh was able to keep up but was of little substance, and Ford tried to show off his Centrist cred but looked more like he was playing both sides. Reagan was able to counter most statements with a pithy remark or comeback. So it's not surprise that Reagan was considered the winner by the majority of audiences across America. It was a particularly helpful boost for Reagan.

It wouldn't be enough though.

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1976 US Presidential Election:
Conservative Party: 252 Electoral Votes
Democratic Party: 233 Electoral Votes
Republican Party: 53 Electoral Votes


With a need of 269 electoral votes for a majority, no candidate held a majority. There would be a contingent election. No matter who was chosen it would be a controversial affair. The 95th Congress was called into an emergency session so as to soothe the transition of power. If they fail to act decisively before January 20th, then the Speaker of the House will become the Acting President until either Congress elects a Vice President or a President.

Congressional Makeup of the newly elected 95th Congress:

Senate – Democratic Majority
Democratic:
56
Republican: 27
Conservative: 16
Independent: 1 (Caucuses with Democrats)
Vacant: 0


House of Representatives – Democratic Majority
Democratic:
261
Republican: 106
Conservative: 68
Vacant: 0


Naturally the entire process was scandalized by the Conservatives. The primary point of contention was the fact that Reagan won the electoral vote (not the majority, mind you) and had a slim plurality in the popular vote. What made it worse was how close many states were due to the dynamics of a 3-way race. California, Indiana, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania were all within the sub 1% range. This experience in would ultimately put America on the path to further electoral reform.

Reagan and most of the Conservative Party elite stayed silent during the affair, letting the people and their politicians do the attacking. Bayh was quick to point out that he was an advocate for electoral reform towards a popular vote system since the 1960's. Reagan was quick to point out that he won the plurality of the popular vote. The two (and their parties) went back and forth during the process of the contingent election, making the already controversial event even more divisive.

With their majority, the Democrats easily put Bayh and his VP John Glenn through Congress and on January 20th at noon Birch Bayh was sworn in as President of the United States, with John Glenn as his Vice President.

The Democrats had to wonder though, how could Bayh have damn near blown such a lead? What did he say, what did he do, where didn't he go that caused such a muddying of the waters to occur? 1976 was supposed to be a Democratic year. Nixon forced out. GOP splintered. More negative elements of the party wondered if this wasn't really just a sign of things to come...

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Birch Bayh several years before becoming President on a college campus
But Bayh didn't have time to ponder, he had work to do.

------
Alright, that's that.

For those who are interested, the title is a nod to the Strugatsky Brother's Noon Universe and also a reference to the idea that the world is past it's golden age in this TL. It's not dystopian and by the end in 2000 America is still a Democratic state but the world is far less optimistic about the future than in our 2000.

Let me know if you like it so far.
 
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2 - Part 2: Hoosier Hero...?
Part 2: Hoosier Hero...?
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President Birch Bayh, early 1977

It was bitingly cold winter in 1977. The windchill factor made it sting the skin. But it had a hidden benefit – it gave Bayh and his sidekick Glenn an excuse to get real stuck in it. Both of them quickly got acclimated to their roles during that nasty cold snap.

Vice President Glenn, for all the smiles he could manage, was an angry sort. He was quick to anger and didn't like to take no for an answer from anybody. He had wanted to cultivate and image and career similar to that of Johnson, someone who was an implacable advocate for the President's and later his own policy. He had made it to the moon so it wouldn't be unthinkable for him to be President after Bayh.

At least that's what he figured.

In some ways he was that man. But in other ways he wasn't. Johnson could be an angry sonovagun but he was a sly sonovagun. You could hate him but you'd vote how he told you. Glenn, for all he was worth lacked that sly, charismatic style. He was a bulldog. In some circles this gained him respect, to be a 17th century Jesuit priest for Liberalism was a noble thing to some folks. He was a passionate man, who was ready to go to mattresses to defend what he knew what was right.

Or, if you asked Mo Udall he was the angriest damn spaceman he ever met.

Your choice.

Regardless of your opinion of Mr. Glenn, his approach congressional relationships did more to damage President Bayh's outreach attempts to the Republican party in their waning days than help it. Glenn quickly became the administration's attack dog, whether he knew it or not. And whether he knew it or not.

But Bayh was a different sort of guy. He would stand up for his beliefs, you can be sure of that, but he wasn't going to be in your face over an ordeal. He considered himself an exemplary deal maker and rightfully so, considering he was able to snag the nomination from the likes of Jerry Brown. So reaching across the aisle would become something of a forte for Bayh and his relationship with Congress was actually quiet good despite bulldog Glenn and a combative insurgent third party in Congress. At least in the beginning.

Bayh's domestic agenda could roughly be split on 3 major initiatives.

Firstly, was electoral reform. After the contingent election, the first since the early 1800's, it was clear that the electoral system in American needed to be vastly overhauled. This was a fantastic opportunity for reform in Bayh's eyes. Not only had he been in favor of such a reform since the 60's, but the Conservatives made an incredible stink trying to muddy the results and cast doubts on his Presidency. In the end they effectively endorsed the reform by their politicking. Bayh was a more kind man than Glenn, but that doesn't mean he didn't know how the play the political game.

Reagan and Bayh had a meeting in the oval office. Spring had just started to emerge from the cold and color was returning to DC.

Reagan was different from the last time they met. They were in front of TV cameras, dueling it out together with Ford trying to play happy medium between the two. Reagan was at his best then, slick, confident, ready to snap out a witticism that would destroy you right then and there. But now, he seemed...humbled. Like your old Pa might be when you visit for the first time since you go off to college. Bayh wasn't sure totally sure if was an act. It was just them in there, no wiretaps either, so if he was faking it, it was just for him.

Reagan was casual, going off on tangents and casually mentioning that he was mulling a senate challenge to S.I. Hayakawa back home in California.
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I'm not plotting your downfall, I promise. Really. Honest.
“You should try it. Hayakawa's a freshman. Should be easy work.” Bayh wasn't sure why but he was suddenly suggesting he make a challenge against Hayakawa. Hayakawa was a Republican but that didn't make it any less odd. Maybe he thought that if Reagan was in the Senate the rift in the GOP would heal. But would he want something like that? No, certainly that. That much Bayh knew. He knew that for damn sure.

Hell, the split would get brushed over and the GOP would unite eventually. That's what he figured. The last time some folks tried that the Dixiecrats popped up and they joined back up or party switched at the end of the day. They were a nuisance more than anything else. A racist nuisance, but a nuisance all the same. They fade away if you give 'em time. It's just a matter of letting the wounds heal.

Thankfully for us all, the two got back on track. Back to talking about electoral reform.

Bayh laid out his opinions on the subject and why he wanted Reagan to support the reforms alongside him. Reagan wasn't really paying attention to what Bayh was saying and spent more time eyeing the chair he was sitting in than whatever Bayh was going on about.

Reagan cut straight to the chase. “You really have me by my gonads, Birch.” He smiled in that humble 'pa' way. This time it seemed unnatural to Bayh.

“I suppose I do.” And he did, The Conservative Party was whining about the election when they still had a chance to pull something out of it. Now, Conservative Party supporters were and still are often to be more prone ignore these events so that the Conservative Party can say one thing and then do another. But in this case, when the Conservatives were so young and they had argued so strongly for their shot at the Presidency until the last day that they couldn't be so flagrantly hypocritical. They couldn't afford be so. They were supposed to be the party of cleanliness and righteousness. Reagan believed this and Bayh understood this.

So Electoral Reform was the first and most major thing Bayh would set out to accomplish. Albeit with Reagan tagging along as the “Mr. Number 2” for the whole affair. Reagan simply refused to be forgotten in the affair and his name is attached to popular vote as much as Bayh's.

So an amendment was drafted, transforming America from a state that relied on the outdated and reviled electoral college system and changed it into a race based on the popular vote. It was a simple system for an increasingly complex age.

Normally this would be an exceptionally difficult task. One that would likely fail, as it would require more than a few states and statesmen to support a change to a system that favored them. But with Reagan's support, it moved forward. Therefore for Bayh, finding the votes for the amendment was actually quite easy compared to the task's usual difficulty.

For the Conservatives, this was a simple task and required no thought whatsoever on their part. Reagan said they were going to pass the amendment so the everyone fell in line. The old saying is so very true: “Republicans fall in line; Democrats fall in love.” Reagan never needed a senate seat. He had all the power he needed just by virtue of his clout.

Ironically the Democrats were a harder group to sway than the Conservatives. This was more to do with the fact that the Democrats were not centered around a few party big wigs who made the choices but rather big names who could sway undecideds by their actions. If Bayh and Glenn wanted to get the Popular Vote amendment passed they needed to schmooze and bemuse the various No's and Maybe's in the party and make sure that all the influential types remained in line. Everyone else would fall in line once the major players went along with it. While Bayh worked on this, Glenn worked on an equally important program.

The second major policy was rejuvenating the ERA and getting it passed. This was Glenn's task and increasingly his sole responsibility as the Spring wore on further and further until it became the Summer.

The ERA didn't have what it needed though. No matter what the Democrats did. They did not have enough votes outside the party. Never mind votes from the inside. On top of this there certainly was not anything close to enough support from the states themselves to amend the Constitution. This isn't to say that Glenn doomed the project, rather that the project was damn near impossible to begin with. The ERA's original failure and second failure spoke more to the prevailing opinions regarding Women and Liberalism in American society, rather than John Glenn's diplomatic abilities. It was a sad thing.

The renewed ERA failed on the floor, but the Popular Vote Amendment passed. With Conservatives got behind it, it was enough to pass the mandatory 2/3rds in both houses of Congress and it moved onto the states to ratify the amendment. Smaller states claimed that it would take away their voice and as a result, were very unlikely to be voting to ratify an amendment like that.

In the end, the recent events that occurred make a solid argument for removing what most consider to be a wholly artificial barrier that merely exists to complicate a system that was initially meant to make easier for candidates to compete.

States ratifying, 38 needed (listed until 2/3rds):

1. Texas, 2. Ohio, 3. New York, 4. New Jersey, 5. California, 6. Indiana, 7. Illinois, 8. Massachusetts, 9. Virginia, 10. North Carolina, 11. Florida, 12. Georgia, 13. Louisiana, 14. Arizona, 15. New Mexico, 16. Oregon, 17. Washington, 18. Wisconsin, 19. Minnesota, 20. Michigan, 21. Pennsylvania, 22. Kentucky, 23. Tennessee, 24. Maryland, 25. Delaware, 26. Connecticut, 27. Rhode Island, 28. Maine, 29. Mississippi, 30. Alabama, 31. Nevada, 32. Missouri, 33. Hawaii, 34. Alaska, 35. West Virginia, 36. Kansas, 37. Iowa, 38. Utah.

Without the support of the Conservatives the amendment would have failed. Bayh was cognizant of that fact and tried his best to reach across the aisle as much as possible. For better or for worse.

The third and final major initiative from Bayh was Universal Healthcare. It was a long shot, it would be a long shot in any year. Yet still the concept of starting the march towards UHC was a fight that very much attracted President Bayh as well as a number of other leading Democrats. It was a hill they were really ready to die on if need be. With a solid approval rating in the positives, a constitutional amendment to show for his effort, people figured that they could perhaps even gain seats in the midterms and pass major legislation regarding heath care. Sadly, outside forces beyond America's control had ideas of their own.

Around the world, things seemed to fall off their hinges and indeed in America itself things were rough. The economy never fully recovered from Ford's economic woes and so the buck was passed onto Bayh. A particularly nasty issue was stagflation, an economic woe that haunted the Bayh administration. It was a portmeanteau of inflation and stagnation. Meaning that the economy suffered heavily from inflation as well as the effects of a general economic stagnation.

Whatever positive press Bayh had was shot down by bad economic news more often than not. His successes sometimes outshined the poor economic news, meaning much to few and few to many.

Another major economic issue that took hold was the energy crisis of 1979. In the wake of civil strife in the Middle East, oil output dropped and the world's oil supply dropped by about only 5%. Despite the small drop in output, it sent a fear into the market and the price of oil quickly catapulted beyond reason into prices like 40 USD per barrel.

The panic set in and the long lines that were once hallmarks of the 1973 oil crisis. Despite the wishes of Bayh and his administration the world was only getting crazier and gas prices would not return to pre-crisis lows until the early 1990's. The Conservatives quickly added the runaway gas prices and lines to their repertoire of attacks on Bayh. They were ready and waiting for the next election, even despite their earlier cooperation.

It was politics after all.

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"We shall not forget the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini!"

It was as though the maws of chaos opened themselves unto the world.

Bayh was to be a domestic President. The mess in Vietnam was finally over, and now America could focus on it self. At least that was the prevailing line of thought. That's what the plan was. But the world does not stand still and the world is seldom a peaceful place. Even in these modern times: he with the biggest club wins.

As 1978 rolled around, the quiet period following the collapse of South Vietnam ended with roars across the Muslim world.

Before Bayh's term was over, a major conflagration was to erupt in the Middle East. Resulting not only the definitive end of the 5th party system but a serious change in US foreign policy up to that point.

The matches which lit the proverbial powder keg were of four sources.

Firstly, was a general sense of anti-imperialist and anti-American thought in the Middle East. Indeed the Vietnam War as well as other interventions and coups did little to enhance America's reputation abroad. This led to a general rejection of American Liberal Capitalism in the Middle East. While the Middle East was generally not a locale that was famed for its support of bog-standard American Capitalism, the various aggressive actions against nations pushed many into either supporting Communism or finding themselves supporting even Ba'athism and maybe perhaps something else entirely. There was still those that supported Liberal Capitalism, but their voices grew ever quieter in a sea of radical voices that demanded change from a broken system.

Secondly, was the rejection of secularization and modernization efforts by various regimes in the Middle East. The nations of the Middle East, realizing that they often ruled over diverse groups of people by virtue of how the Imperial powers drew borders, came to the conclusion that a secular administration was better off more often than not. It allowed the various ethnic groups and religious groups to each take part in the government and to each reap the benefits thereof.

Thirdly, was general governmental failures. Whether it is corruption, a lack of economic growth and opportunity, suppression of freedoms, etc. No matter what the failures were, some governments in the Middle East began to suffer legitimacy issues among the populace.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, was the failure of Arab Nationalism. After the Six Day War in which Israel crush her Arab foes, it destroyed whatever momentum was left in the movement. So there was no more reason to try to form a grand pan-Arab state, no reason to struggle for secularization and modernization beyond the sake of sheer bureaucractism The reasoning for Arab Nationalism died because of its continual failures and it's corpse remained as the specter known as Ba'athism. But with that death, there was a new vacancy, one beyond Arab Fascism. And whatever managed to take hold in that vacancy would no doubt become the region's zeitgeist.

That zeitgeist was to be Islamism.

It all started when the Iranian Revolution erupted, sending the Shahdom into a dizzying whirlwind. An odd collective of Islamists, Leftists, and Liberals overthrew the Iranian Shah after a series of controversial events and government mismanagement made the government deeply unpopular. The Monarchy had previously held the nation under an iron grip but the government's reactions to protests lead to radicalization among the anti-government groups and martial law was declared. The situation quickly deteriorated to an untenable low and a nationwide strike was at hand. The Shahdom was on it's last legs and it was desperate to end the resistance.

SAVAK agents were dispatched on an urgent mission to Iraq where the Ayatollah Khomeini promoted his Islamist opposition to the Shah. The heads of the Shahdom figured that if Khomeini was gone, then the Islamists would peter out without a uniting figure. And then the Communists could just be shot. The Anglo-American coup in the 50's taught them that. Therefore the Islamists took precedence over the Communists.

The SAVAK agents spent about a week sleuthing about Iraq, looking to find where the Ayatollah laid his head.

They found a tasteful compound in the Iraqi city of Basra that seemed to have no legal owner but was occupied despite that. They launched an attack after identifying several of the compound guards as close Khomeini supporters who had spent time in jails in Iran. After a siege at his compound, Khomeini was shot dead – but at a heavy price. Domestically any chance the regime had for reconciliation with the opposition was done as soon as that was Khomeini took his last breath. The assassination of Khomeini and the later massacres on Black Friday sealed the Monarchy's fate. The regime had made martyrs and that was a mistake they could not take back.

But more worrying for regional peace, Iraq was not eager to allow SAVAK free reign in their country and looked for a way to hit back at its neighbor. Saddam took the SAVAK incursion as a major offense and saw it as an affront to his authority on a personal level. This was especially the case as it seemed to imply that the Ba'athist government did not have as much control and power as they let on. Saddam would not allow it to go unanswered for.

Though he did not have total and full control of Iraq, he was able to order a response unilaterally at that point. Arab rebels were funded through the IIS in and around the province of Khuzestan which Iraq claimed for itself. The conflict was a low intensity one at the time, as martial law provided the authorities with more than enough methods of dealing with the situation. But once Iran was aflame it soon became a zone of hostilities just like other separatist regions in Iran. In the Iraqi dictator's head, Khuzestan was but a stepping stone in a larger plan to dominate the region. The discord in the Middle East would be particularly advantageous to him in the future and he would take full advantage of it.

The situation in Iran naturally degraded even further despite Washington's futile attempts to strike a bargain with the Shah and the opposition. Knowing their days were numbered in their Tehran palace, the Shah and his family finally fled into exile. They first stopped in Egypt but they were forced to leave the Islamic world as assassination attempts became more and more frequent. The family arrived in France in 1981 and proceeded to eek out a private existence, afraid that radicals would come for them.

The former government of the Shah then folded to the Opposition without bloodshed, but the revolution was far from over. A new interim government was formed and staffed primarily by Liberals and Moderates. Washington anxiously watched and waited with baited breath before coming to the conclusion that the worst had already occurred, but in reality the new government rarely represented the “will of the crowd” in many areas, even the urban areas that should be strongholds to such intellectual types. The Republic of Iran was doomed from day 1.

The Bayh government proceeded to restart relations with the new regime and provide assistance in maintaining control until the new elections. The government was still not stable however. It had limited reach outside the Tehran and increasingly militant Islamist and Communist groups began to take what they wanted from armories. Soldiers of the old regime took what they wanted and went home or to new friends in extralegal paramilitary bases across Iran. The government's control quickly dissipated from the pitiful authority they had before and soon they could seldom carry out commands outside of certain segments of Tehran.

Soon after the Iranian interim regime would suffer a final, decisive defeat. Militants aligned to the People's Mujaheddin of Iran stormed Tehran in a frenzy. A new Socialist Republic was declared. A small force of militants loyal to the Liberals and Moderates aided by took to the streets to defend what they had left. It was little work for the experienced fighters of the People's Mujaheddin. They cut through the untrained and demoralized militias with ease.

The former government was almost immediately liquidated or forced underground by the gunmen and the situation swirled out of control as the Iranian government simply stopped existing. The Communists and Islamists were in open combat, even among themselves. Now it was a Civil War. But it was the beginning of the Islamic Awakening.​

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People's Mujaheddin fighters threaten to overrun the American embassy in Tehran

Afghanistan too, saw a breakdown. Just like Iran, the old Monarchy was toppled. The major difference however was that instead of being brought down by popular discontent, the monarchy was brought down by a former Prime Minister and a handful of sympathetic military officers. Daoud Khan led an effective but also expansionist government and quickly made enemies of close neighbor Pakistan. Soon though, the Afghan Republic that was established following the coup would be overthrown. This time however by Communists who were helped along once again by sympathetic military officers.

The Communists were hardly a united front in Afghanistan. The Khalq and Parcham factions often fought among themselves to wrangle influence from the other and the situation was dangerously unstable. But still, with support from the military, they managed to establish a Socialist Republic closely based off the Soviet State-Socialism model. Pakistan and Iran (at that time still a monarchy) reacted poorly to the Saur Revolution and the previous republic's issues with Pakistan would cause the new regime to largely follow in their older foreign policy footsteps, that of subversion. Pakistan had previously helped initiate an uprising against the Daoud government, but this initial uprising blossomed into a larger opposition to the central secular government in general. The new government's reforms aimed at “uprooting feudalism” only served to engender further chaos and resentment in rural areas. The debate was to be solved by force of arms.

In early 1979, as a result of continued and constant calls from the Afghani government, the Soviets decided to send in troops. The situation was predicted to “only get worse once our troops arrive” by Kosygin who assessed that the Afghani government needed to do more to build a broad base of support. Unsurprisingly it did in fact get worse. It truly became dreadful, especially when the Bayh administration contacted the Pakistani government and American aid to the anti-government forces soon flooded into Afghanistan. Bayh simply could not allow the Soviets to do whatever they wanted in the region, lest they be spurred on to conquering Iran which American intelligence believed was ripe for the taking.

The Soviets weren't idiots and they smelled a potential for success in Iran. No matter how many arms and explosives you shipped into Afghanistan, the Soviets knew a good situation for revolution when they saw one.

So, naturally, Iranian Communists began receiving arms and funds straight from Moscow. If Iran went Pro-Soviet, then they could put a serious strain on Oil shipments and according to Brezhnev, sink the Capitalists. That was part of a larger strategy drawn up by Brezhnev on one to many alcoholic drinks. It was just a matter of winning. But the Soviets were playing with fire. Even if they didn't know it at the time.

Yemen saw a burst of violence as well. One that would start to so-called “Arab War” which would encourage the conflagration that was the Islamic Awakening.

Yemen was split into two separate countries at the time because of Nasser's meddling and the chaos of decolonization. In a ironic twist, the South was Pro-Soviet whereas the North was Capitalist. Despite this theoretically massive difference of policy, the two sides had friendly relations with each other. But, like most governments they had occasionally irrational periods that would lead to a breakdown in relations.

One of these incidents, a rumor that the South Yemen was funding rebels in the North, led to the Arab War.

The North and the South began to fire at one another, though neither side crossed the border across initially. They knew what that would mean. Throwing caution aside, radical officers from the North led a contingent of men into the South and soon the South and North were at war. This spat would be put on hold after several months after the Arab League intervened and both sides found that peace (even despite the massive amounts of foreign military aid) was better to their liking.

This didn't hold.

In February 1980 forces loyal to the South flooded into the North, smelling an easy victory. Despite sporting a larger military in terms of size, the North's Air Force and Army had been decimated during the previous conflict. The South knew this and decided to take a chance, figuring that the world was more focused on Iran and Afghanistan. Yet it wasn't the world or the UN they had to worry about, it was the regional powers of the Middle East.

The Saudis who had been supporting North Yemen did not take the invasion well. Nor did any of Saudi Arabia's close partners in the region. Additionally, to make sure he looked strong against Reagan in the months before America went to the polls Bayh promised to take an aggressive stand against the Communists in South Yemen. The US began funding opposition in the South and increased funding to allies in the region. The Soviets and Libya quickly returned the favor. And so began the Arab War.

Saddam's Iraq also made their move. With their insurgency in Khuzestan going well and Iran fighting itself, the Iraqis figured it was as good as ever to begin a war of conquest. To ensure further control of the Gulf and to stoke the fires of Nationalist fervor Iraq invaded Iran. In the Middle East the best military (except Israel) was that of Iraq's and so the Iranian Islamists and Communists were quickly pushed out of the region and Saddam was able to declare victory with little effort. An insurgency would persist in the region but there was little in the way of serious resistance to Iraq's actions.

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Saddam Hussein makes his case for Iraqi Khuzestan, early 1980's.

Diplomatic situation of the Arab War as of 1980:

- America: Providing aid to native Jihadists in Afghanistan, and the governments of North Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Pakistan. Wondering what the hell to do with the mess that's been made.

- South Yemen: Fighting a war against the North. Winning the fight. Aligned with the Soviets.

- North Yemen: Fighting a war against the South. Losing. Aligned with the Americans.

- Saudi Arabia: Fighting alongside North Yemen. Militarily ineffective. Funding Jihadists in Afghanistan.

- Egypt: Providing aid to North Yemen. Begining to prepare for military action against South Yemen.

- Jordan: Not interested in taking part in the war or helping out. Still remains close to the US regardless.

- Israel: Not interested in taking part in the war or helping out. Currently mucking about in Lebanon though they haven't intervened officially yet.

- Lebanon: In a Civil War between various religious factions. Uneasy ceasefire being enforced.

- Syria: Has invaded Lebanon and is enforcing peace there. Is providing military aid to South Yemen but hasn't gone any further. Hates Iraq as per usual. Seriously considering deepening ties with the Soviets after Iraq's invasion of Iran.

- Iraq: Considering further options in the conflict. They have traditionally been more Pro-Soviet but the Yemen conflict and the invasion of Iran puts them at odds with the Soviets. Providing some supplies to North Yemen. Will probably tell the Soviets to shove it.

- Iran: In the middle of a bloody Civil War. The Islamists have the upper hand but the Communists are nothing if not tenacious.

- Afghanistan: Dealing with Islamist uprising across the country. Soviet forces have come to support the regime but the situation is only getting worse.

- Pakistan: Funding Islamists in Afghanistan. Worried about what's happening in Iran.

- Libya: Giving military aid to South Yemen but wholly uninterested in joining in on the military conflict itself.

The chaos in the Middle East, as well as Bayh's pushing of the SALT II treaty and the Panama Canal treaty would cause much consternation in the Democratic Party. The interventionist wing led by Scoop Jackson was enraged and Jackson's proteges like Jeane Kirkpatrick watched from the sidelines with baited breath. They knew that there had to be another way. Something would have to give. Sooner or later.

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Coming into 1980, even with all the chaos in the world the Republicans were still inert. They lacked the enthusiasm, they lacked the votes, they lacked the momentum. They lacked anything they needed to win. There were questions regarding who Republicans were now that the Conservatives have jettisoned themselves from the Party. These were questions that had to be answered definitively before the Republican Party could hope to move forward. What was their ideology? Who was their base? Where was their coalition? Did they HAVE a coalition? What made them different from moderate Democrats or Conservatives? These internal questions regarding the Republican Party's status in American politics as well as the ascension of the new Conservative Party in politics led to a slow trickle of desertions following the general election in '76.

It would lead to their destruction in the end.

By 1979, the Republicans lost over half of their Congressmen to desertions and took similar beatings in states across the nation. In 1980 it was likely to get even worse. The Conservatives eyed the formerly solid ruby red districts across America. A candidate could desert the old GOP or they could go down with the ship. Only the strongest of candidates could survive such a challenge. The Conservatives knew this and exploited it as much as possible.

The 1980 Primaries and Convention were an odd affair for the Republicans. It was like watching a shambling corpse wander about. It was merely a shadow of its former self. The 'Grand Old Party' as it is sometimes called was little more than a collection of hasbeens and nobodies come 1980. But they could still put together a final ticket, a last hurrah, a final hail mary.

From the start, there were only two serious candidates. Representative John B. Anderson from Illinois, and Senator Charles Mathias from Maryland. Outside of their names and faces, the two were fairly similar. Much like the Party itself, both candidates were not totally sure how to define themselves or what their goals even were beyond general platitudes and generic reformism. It would appear that suburban Centrism was not an inspiring ideology.

Anderson's campaign was less focused on Centrism and more on reform. He was in favor of cutting superfluous spending on programs across the board, trying to acquire a budget surplus, and electoral reform. It wasn't an inspiring platform by any measure, but still it gained him the respect of many middle class suburbanites and other Liberal intellectuals who still tagged along with the GOP. Some folks welcomed this new Center-Right approach. Even Nixon did, though he didn't say so out loud. He was a political unperson at this point.

Mathias' campaign was more focused on combating Conservatism and promoting moderate Liberalism more than Anderson's campaign. Like Anderson, he too was in favor of fiscal responsibility, but what he lacked in reformism he made up in dramatic crusaderism against the Conservative Party. He claimed that they were an insurgent faction of Goldwater-types, Racists, and economic illiterates. To him, their leaving the Republican Party was a good thing. Now the party, according to Mathias, could rebuild itself from the bottom in the wake of Nixon's corruption. Now it could be the party of Lincoln.

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Senator Charles Mathias: "The American People must chose the responsible, sensible choice."

It was apocalyptic drivel but it played well with the remaining supporters of the party. Especially those who really hated Reagan for striking it out alone.

There was also a third campaign that was mounted, though it was not a totally serious venture. Bob Dole of Kansas had his name on various ballots during the primaries and indeed won some delegates by virtue of the popularity of his proposal. Dole promoted the idea that the Conservatives could be invited back into the party. If he was selected as the nominee for the party he vowed to bow out immediately and endorse Reagan for President in the hope that it would allow the rift to be healed. This naturally made him Mathias' arch-rival during the primaries.

There were obviously other campaigns but they were often from unimportant or otherwise unworthy figures who had only been afforded the chance to run for President by virtue of the Republican Party's lack of big name legislators and governors. Their campaigns were of little note and therefore go unmentioned.

Anderson got off to an early lead with a victory in Iowa, but before the end of the primaries Anderson would drop out after seeing a drop in support and running out of campaign funds during the Texas primaries. Anderson would endorse Mathias later on that month, hoping for a VP nod. At the homely Convention in Cleveland, Charles Mathias was selected to be the nominee for the Republican Party. Anderson wouldn't get the VP nod he was looking for however. The governor of Michigan, William Milliken managed to catch Mathias' eyes. He was a solid Republican who was firmly against the new Conservative Party even despite the electoral risks of doing so.

Anderson was angry, but it wasn't like he had much recourse. The convention was already decided before the first ballot and he wasn't interested in damaging the party any further for the sake of getting a spot on the ticket. So he dropped the issue, hoping that he could get his chance in 1984.

The Platform of the GOP in 1980 was one of moderation and accusation. The platform was based partially around Mathias' personal views, some of Anderson's reformism, and a whole lot of anti-Conservative Party rhetoric. The Conservatives were simultaneously accused of splitting the party and also being Far-Right entryists, closer to the Klan than Republicans.

The Republicans decided to hold their ground rather than go quiet into the night. Mathias and the last of the Republican Party made their stand in 1980, for better or worse.

Lincoln, Freedom, Moderation!



Hello, is there anybody listening? Is this thing on?

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Major electoral changes already! Oooh. If I managed to somehow mess up the math or how the Constitution works I'll fix it when I get around to it.

Okay, consider this post this week's update. There's likely going to be 1 or 2 more updates before Christmas. 2 being the absolute most.

Oh, and a question: More or less pictures in the posts?
 
I like the stuff on the home front, though I would think that the Gop could linger on over time and figure itself out. Especially with that major reform to the system their is the chance at least to be relevant in Presidential elections.

The foreign front I do not know enough about to say how realistic it is but I do enjoy reading it.
 
Really good! The only thing is that I fear that it could end with an OTL situation, only with the right-wing party calling Conservative Party instead of Republican Party.
 
This is very good indeed. I find it interesting that the GOP won the two states that they managed to hold on to in 1912 - Utah and Vermont.
 
This is awesome. I want to thank you for doing a rather different timeline to most.
Thanks for the compliment. It can be hard to find an interesting POD and even harder to take the story in an interesting direction.

I like the stuff on the home front, though I would think that the Gop could linger on over time and figure itself out. Especially with that major reform to the system their is the chance at least to be relevant in Presidential elections.

The foreign front I do not know enough about to say how realistic it is but I do enjoy reading it.
Good to hear you're enjoying it.

As far as the GOP goes, they're really on their last legs going into 1980. We'll have to wait and see how they do in '80.

Really good! The only thing is that I fear that it could end with an OTL situation, only with the right-wing party calling Conservative Party instead of Republican Party.
Well, in some ways that's bound to happen because of how FPTP systems work. But there's some pretty serious changes in the US and abroad.

If you compare the Conservative Party wikibox and Republican Party from our OTL's box on Wikipedia, you'll note that the Ideology section is lacking one ideological group from its ranks. It's a wikibox from the our time in 2017 so it isn't totally in tune with the Reagan administration's foreign policy (which does deviate on a few major issues from OTL) but it does tell you what direction the Conservative Party is moving towards post-Reagan.

There's also a lot more Congressional penetration by the Conservatives as a result of Domenici's initiatives on the ground.

This is very good indeed. I find it interesting that the GOP won the two states that they managed to hold on to in 1912 - Utah and Vermont.
Thanks for the response. Great to hear you're enjoying it so far.

As far as 1912, it wasn't really something I planned on emulating but I can see similarities now, having Reagan as some sort of Teddy expy. Puts an interesting dynamic on the story, now that I think about it.
 
If you compare the Conservative Party wikibox and Republican Party from our OTL's box on Wikipedia, you'll note that the Ideology section is lacking one ideological group from its ranks. It's a wikibox from the our time in 2017 so it isn't totally in tune with the Reagan administration's foreign policy (which does deviate on a few major issues from OTL) but it does tell you what direction the Conservative Party is moving towards post-Reagan.
No NeoCons and a major State's Rights support...
 
Democrats can’t ever catch a break from 1976-1980. This is really good though.
Unfortunately with a POD in 1976 there's not much anyone can do to butterfly that stuff away. Most of the issues any President will suffer from 1976-1980 will be mostly as a result of policies already made in the past. That's not to say that OTL Carter or TTL Bayh never made mistakes or forced errors, but rather the main issues of their Presidency (the economy, Iran) were going to happen regardless of their intervention. Just how it played out and it's how I think Ford or Reagan would have been if they had won in 1976.

Anyway, for the rest of you the next post will be out probably Friday or Saturday of this week. Whenever I finish going over editing. During the week I work on a different project so this relegated to weekend+Friday work. Sometimes I do editing and sometimes I write new material. This past Sunday for example I finished up writing part 10 and I've now written us into the 90's.
 
3 - Part 3: Win one for the Gipper!
Because I'm a nice guy I edited part 3 of the TL instead of what I should have been doing. Also it's 3 in the morning now... Now that I check the clock, actually closer to 4. Wasn't expecting to be up this late. Oh well.

Here ya go:

------

Part 3: Win one for the Gipper!

It's no surprise that both Bayh and Reagan won their respective nominations with ease. No one wanted to challenge a sitting President and the Conservative Party WAS Reagan's Party at that point. No serious challengers materialized and both coasted through the primaries. The Conventions were not the drama filled rage-fest of the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1976. They were what they were intended to be in the modern age: advertisements.

Bayh kept with Glenn, there was no reason to drop him. But Reagan made a change from his earlier ticket. As the wounds from Watergate started to fade away he decided to change it up with someone that could bring more to the ticket. The Conservative's Big 5 got together and in the end opted to place Reagan with Jay Hammond, Governor of Alaska. An odd choice, since being Governor of Alaska didn't pull much regional weight on a ticket and Hammond wasn't particularly charismatic.

What Hammond did bring to the ticket was his image.

Hammond cultivated an image of a self-reliant man, something the Conservatives wanted to hold up. He was also a firm supporter of Reagan, a fiscal conservative, and he also had undertaken the interesting Alaska Permanent Fund as Governor which provided dividends to Alaska's residents. The program gave Conservatives ideas regarding welfare, as it was in some ways similar to Milton Friedman's Guaranteed Income and made them lick their chops at the concept of a negative income tax. He was also a Conservationist however which presented a downside to choosing him, but at the time the Conservatives weren't too sure about things like the environment. Nowadays such a position would be an automatic disqualifyer for any position on the ticket. In the end, they decided he brought more to the ticket than he took away and Hammond was selected as Reagan's running-mate.

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Former Governor Hammond: A different kind of man for a different kind of Washington

Polling throughout the lead up to the fateful day was memorably inconsistent. The Democrats and the Conservatives were always the top two in polling, but what caused issues was the inclusion of the Republican Party in many polls. The people who supported the GOP were suburban types and liberal intellectuals who made their homes most in the North East and Pacific West. Polls specific to those regions typically varied wildly due to the capricious nature of the new GOP base. Reagan was too much for them but Bayh was too Liberal. But maybe even Mathias was too Liberal then? It made many a poll worthless and it fed into a general atmosphere that even with the incumbency, the Presidency was up for grabs. Anything was possible in 1980 now that the electoral college was gone. The American dream was alive, at least for a few people.

The Bayh campaign was deeply aware of the new political arena they helped unleash and they expected it to be so. Now without the electoral college, campaigns were unleashed to figure out how to win on a totally new battlefield. Now strategies that once favored the few in far flung and unimportant states were tossed aside for whatever would garner the most votes. It really was a new ballgame. Democrats embraced this idea to the fullest, looking to use the benefits of the inner city and the suburbs to give the Conservatives a bloody nose. The most votes win so areas outside of where your base resides doesn't matter. This was the sort of race to the bottom critics of the electoral reforms derided but the Bayh campaign embraced it.

The Reagan campaign was content to stick to the fundamentals. They focused on pushing the advantage in close states, they picked a running-mate who made a good side kick and foil to the nominee, they didn't waste resources in unwinnable states. Would the tried and true methods prevail over the new methods?

Their platform was a Conservative dream. It was the kind of ideas that Conservatives in the Republican Party had been salivating over since Goldwater first won them over. Taxes to be slashed and simplified substantially. State's Rights over that of the Federal Government. A Right-to-Life amendment. A hard stance on crime and criminality. Criticisms to the UN and Bayh's weak dove foreign policy. Promotion of an American-centric foreign policy, putting America and American's interests above all else. Slashing regulations across the board. An increase in nuclear armaments. It was red meat for the red base and by Jove did they eat it up.

After convention season, the race was relatively quiet. There was no big October surprise or any major scandal to effect either side.

Reagan suffered an early debate loss to Bayh after confusing a country with another, leading to a minor kerfuffle over Reagan's age but he was quick to put that to bed. Beyond that, there was no major events. Things were quiet and the average person was thankful. The world was going crazy, so to have America at least remain a little sane was truly a gift.

But the winds of change are a capricious beast indeed.

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Ronald Reagan/Jay Hammond (Conservative Party): 47.8%
Birch Bayh/John Glenn (Democratic Party): 42.4%
Charles Mathias/William Milliken (Republican Party): 7.7%
Other and Write-Ins: 2.1%

Ronald Reagan was the first President elected via popular vote.

In the immediate aftermath, Bayh and his campaign were wondering what happened. They understood that the economy was having issues and that America looked weak on foreign policy, but to be defeated as the incumbent! It was embarrassing. It was horrible. It was unthinkable. It wasn't supposed to happen.

Mainstream academics nowadays consider Bayh's electoral loss to be the result of 3 major issues and numerous smaller mistakes that the Democrats made that added up over time.

The first was that Mathias' campaign was a vote spoiler for Bayh. While the average GOP voter was a capricious thing, the vast majority had not totally written off Bayh like they had with Reagan. The issue was ultimately that Mathias turned out likely Bayh voters – but they voted for Mathias. After 1980 the situation was not duplicated and the North East would remain a major Democratic vote pool however. Reagan's peak was in '80.

The second was the Bayh campaign's eagerness to throw old political thought to the wind. While Reagan and Bayh both ushered in the post-electoral college era, Bayh was the true believer in the program. He and his campaign incorrectly believed that without electoral votes that most established political thought was not set in stone. The largest error was the assumption that an urban-centric policy would be best. No matter how many times electoral votes were dismantled, it wouldn't change the political reality that it was hard to get urban constituents out to vote. It was tough to get them registered, it was tough to get them to the polls when they had work or kids to take care of, it was tough to get them to stand in line all damn day because the polling station services an immense number of people. No matter how many Harlems Bayh had it couldn't change the political realities that made suburban voters easier to get and easier to keep. The system of racial inequality and racial suppression made turning the urban minority vote out often difficult.

The third and final was Bayh's performance as President. Much of the issues he would face in his term were not his of his doing. They had their start in long-standing American policy or mistakes made by the Nixon administration. No matter who was President in 1976 they would have went through much of the same that Bayh would go through domestically and in the foreign field. If Reagan had won in 1976 he likely would have been a one term President in the same manner as Bayh. The Conservative revolution could have died in the womb if Reagan got his way just a little bit earlier.

Regardless of whatever alternate history or counterfactual you wish to prater on about, Reagan was President in 1980. Bayh was a one term President.

The GOP saw its last days in the months following the election. The Mathias campaign had almost entirely emptied their coffers and the RNC itself was deeply in debt. In the early days of 1981 the RNC sold most of its remaining its remaining assets to pay off its debts. After that the Republican Party was no longer an entity on a national scale. Some local Republicans would find success into the 90's as a third party in the suburban north east, but the national ambitions of the party ended there.

And so began the reign of President Ronald Reagan.

------

It was 1980 and the year of the Conservative Revolution had just begun.

Congressional Makeup of the newly elected 97th Congress:
Changes in seats measure since the most recent Congressional Makeup section...

Senate – Conservative Majority
Conservative:
52 (+36)
Democratic: 43 (-13)
Independent Republican: 3 (-24)
Independent Conservative Republican: 1 (+1) (Caucuses with Conservative)
Independent: 1 (+0) (Caucuses with Democrats)
Vacant: 0


House of Representatives – Democratic Majority
Democratic:
238 (-23)
Conservative: 183 (+117)
Independent Republican: 13 (-93)
Independent: 1 (+1) (Caucuses with Democrats)
Vacant: 0


Though the takeover of Congress was not complete, it was a major gain for the Conservatives. With the GOP effectively finished as a national party, Republicans had a choice of either staying on as one of the last Republicans in Congress (noted as “Independent Republican”) or joining the Conservatives. One in the senate even stayed as a Republican but caucused with the Conservatives. Times were odd for Republicans. The last Republicans would slowly come around or voted out of office. By 1996 there was not a single Republican left in Congress.

Even with a Democratic majority in the House, the Conservatives effectively had the trifecta. In the Senate Democrats were in the minority and most of their most senior members were stay-behinds like Eastland who controlled powerful committees and did more to enable the Conservatives than work for the Democratic Party. In both houses of Congress however, due to Reagan's win, some Democrats were anxious and were willing to at least contemplate a good portion of the new Presidential agenda. Reagan was more than able to move forward with his domestic legislative agenda and his foreign policy agenda with only minor resistance.

Still though, many Democrats were willing to simply go along with the domestic plans of the Conservatives without a moderation of their policy. Some even took a strong critical stance on Reagan and the Conservatives in general, not just in their domestic policy. Democrats like Ron Dellums, John Murtha, and Tom Daschle were noted to be the earliest of the so-called Hardliners group, a collection of Congress members who opposed Reagan and the Conservatives fully and stood firm in their Liberal convictions. Those who were not moderates or Hardliners and preferred to take a moderate, reform-centric tone in response to Reagan became known as the Reformists. Reformists and moderates were the powerful ones in Congress and so the Hardliners would remain a vocal but mostly ineffective crew in Democratic politics until the 90's.

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Congressman Ron Dellums: "Why do I have to be the one to stand up here and remind y'all that spending billions on bombs and squat on welfare will get us nowhere?"

Democrats, regardless of their being a Reformist or a Hardliner, were confounded by Reagan's upset. They were not quite sure about how the Reagan Coalition had come to be, especially so quickly. The Conservatives managed to uproot the 5th Party system in a single election. For every Democrat, for every media pundit and analyst, simply incredible.

Democrats were especially perturbed by the concept of Reagan Democrats. Former Democrats, typically aligned with organized labor or the old Dixiecrats, who felt that the Democrats no longer represented them adequately. Thousands upon thousands of words were written on them following the 1980 election. Why did these folks feel ill represented? How could these folks be won back? The question was a fundamental one as it would potentially be the key in breaking apart Reagan's coalition and winning back the White House. Ron Dellums, the leftmost member of the House of Representatives, figured that the issue was that labor unions were being pushed to the wayside and that only pro-Union policies could win them back. Most of the Hardliners embraced this, whereas the Reformers (and therefore most Democrats) figured that it was because the Democrats had simply move too far left. Many discussions and arguments were had over the question but there was never any definitive answer gained from it.

In addition to the Reagan Democrats the Moral Majority was another thing that Democrats considered in their informal postmortems. This new group of moralistic Christians were the final nail in the coffin for any Democratic dreams of a blue South. The Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell and many other preachers strongly endorsed Reagan, saying that only he and the Conservatives could save the nation from its moral decline. Some Democrats wondered if it would be possible to pivot to the right and maybe peel them away, but that would take a seriously large pivot. Too large of a pivot to remain in the Democratic Party. And so outside of several old patrician stay-behinds, the Deep South was almost totally bereft of Democratic representation. Floridians and the occasional oddball notwithstanding.

Naturally the news media was quick to discuss these new political developments. Most outlets picked up on how the general opinion of people had shifted away from liberalism. Reagan was popular, he still had to prove himself, but he was popular. From the Reagan Democrats, to the Moral Majority, the news media took their time interviewing and going over the various groups that made up the new Reagan Coalition.

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BEHOLD: Suburbia!

The reporter was in front of the camera, out in suburban neighborhood. His thick glasses and ugly brown suit looked more at home in the wood paneling of the 70's than in Reagan's new world 80's but no one wanted to say it to his face. The reporter held up his mic up to the mouth of some schlub who looks like who bullied you in High School.

“So you're a member of the local?”

“Ya godda-. I'm sorry. I mean, yes sir I am.” The interviewee held out a little off-white card with some electrician's union logo and gave a smile.

“And who did you support this past election?” said the reporter, leaning in awkwardly. He wanted to make sure he was in the shot.

“Are you allowed to ask that?”

“You can say if you want to.” the reporter said, prodding him to answer.

“Well I supported Mr. Reagan! He's a good guy. He's a good guy and he's gonna help save America from the mess that goof Bayh put us in. You can be damn sure of that.” the interviewee was indignant just from the mention of Bayh's name and just as he began to launch into a rant the feed cut to a b-roll shot of an Indianapolis street with the reporter giving a voice over.

“For better or for worse, John Daly says he's voting Conservative next time too. He even says that everyone in his local voted for Reagan. Ain't that something? Looks like Indiana is Reagan country! Chuck Gordon, Indianapolis EyeWitness News!”

It was these sorts of stories. Stories that the liberal was an animal on the verge of extinction, that the worst it would ever get was that “small l” kind of liberalism that shows up sometimes in the suburbs among bored housewives. Even analysts and political scientists got into the fever and pieces like “The end of Liberalism?” and “The Reagan Revolution” were common titles of work from wanna-be intellectuals in Reagan's new American.

The decaying print media put on their own show as well. National Review had 2 issues just filled with the concept that the Democrats were out of step and out of touch. Some were quick to dismiss the analyses of writers like Buchanan and hacks like Chuck Gordon but if you looked outside you'd see a whole hell of a lot of Reagan/Hammod '80 signs outside. Some of the things they said were true.

It was morning in America. A new America.

Reagan pulled an upset on a sitting President and killed a political party, it was a new America. He was a major change to the American political system in a way that someone like Nixon hoped and prayed to be. Indeed major parts of the old FDR coalition just evaporated in 1980. It had been outright limping after Johnson, and in the 70's it was on its death bed. But it was the good 'ole Gipper just gave the final push and did it in.

Maybe the Democrats really WERE out of step. Maybe the Democrats WERE out of touch. You don't need to be a genius to know which way the wind's blowing.

Is Liberalism dead in America, or is it just resting? Only time and voter turnout will tell.

------

Ronnie set straight to work, getting together with Congressmen to begin his legislative campaign. It was now time for his race to Berlin. The Big 5 were not sure, even with all the press puffing them up, that the Democrats and Republicans were dead in the water. In politics you can never know when your opponent is done for. Nixon's return from the wilderness is the ever present reminder that nothing is ever really over in politics. So they had to move quick to get some accomplishments under their belt.

The economy was in a rough state and it was one of Reagan's prime interests. If he could prove the economic viability of Supply-Side economics it would really put a dent in the Democrats. And every dent in a Democrat is a damn good dent. 'Least that's what the Conservatives thought.

But of course there were more considerations than just proving an economic theory and sticking it to political opponents. No one would undertake policy just for the sake of making the other side angry. The fact of the matter was that to engage in vigorous oppositions around the globe (centered in the Middle East obviously) Americans would need to have some level of trust in the economy before they would be willing to devote themselves to bombing enemies abroad.

As Donald Rumsfeld once put it: “You can't bomb the Soviets on a budget.”

The lion's share of Reagan's economic reform was centered around Supply-Side economics and Monetarism, the mixture of which you likely know as “Reaganomics” today. Reaganomics was and still is a free-market Capitalist fiscal policy of which mostly centers around broad tax cuts and lessening regulations. It was at odds with the establishment Keynesian system, though the seemingly unending economic milieu had given the concept an major opening. At the time it looked more like something Calvin Coolidge thought up way back when, but it quickly became the Conservative's pet policy on economics.

Democrats still had a majority in the House, but there were enough Democrats willing to bend for Reagan to go through with his domestic plans. The House Democrats were mostly up north or out west, but there were still some lingering about the south or midwest. Most of them in the south were damn near Conservatives already, but they didn't change their party affiliation for one reason another. So while Reagan spent a great deal of time meeting and chatting Congressmen, the grand personality offensive Reagan undertook was perhaps not needed. Tax cuts were popular broadly among the average person so it was hard to deny even for those on the fence.

Obviously the policy wonks and die-hard Liberals never bought onto the program. Indeed, during the 1980 campaign Bayh hit Reagan hard on his economic theories. He called it “Roulette Economics” both because it was an untested gamble and also because it favored the wealthiest and because the Conservatives had little interest in letting the deficit grow unchecked so something was getting cut. And Lord knows the Conservatives never considered cutting the military budget.

Before even getting to tax cuts, Reagan had something especially important to proceed with. An executive order was drafted up. Informally titled the “Drill! Act” by critics, Reagan's first executive order was an attempt to solve or at least mitigate the issue of high gas prices and the shortages of gas all over the US. Due to the Iranian Civil War and the budding Arab War, oil prices soared and America lacked gas. The executive order itself opened up large swaths of previously protected areas of Alaska for oil speculation and drilling. This new policy paid its dues within a few years and the ensuing oil glut in the mid 80's did America well.

The order provided ill needed White House drama in the early days of the new administration. Jay Hammond naturally took the executive order poorly at first. It wasn't something he could prevent or realistically protest but it still hurt, damaging relations between the two men and preventing the two from even having a relationship deeper than an office friendship. But Hammond never dared to complain or get noticeably angry over it, he could see the lines at the pump practically every time he went out into public. People wanted to pay for affordable gas and they wanted to do it quickly. It was a bad state of affairs and it would take a great amount of time for the situation in the Middle East to be fully resolved.

It was after the executive order that tax cuts came to the table, and in mid 1981 the “Tax Relief Act of 1981” went into the House. It had to be moderated on a few issues here or there, but it passed easily and then promptly passed the Conservative Senate as well. The new law provided for a 25% cut for individual taxes over three years, several new exemptions and several reworked ones, and it also replaced depreciation system with the new ACRS system. Naturally this was not the final tax related law for the Reagan White House to push, but it was the first. To this day the Tax Relief Act of 1981 remains the steepest cut in taxes in American history.

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Reagan's triumph: President Reagan signs the Tax Relief Act of 1981

Early on there was also a debate relating to New Federalism. New Federalism is a policy promoting a devolution of federal power to the states, particularly regarding social spending. Instead such issues are believed to be addressed by the states directly and any funding from the government would be via block grants, if at all. There is also the belief that something like education should be handled by the state individually and the Department of Education (Established under Bayh) would then be on the chopping block.

The debate was centered around Guaranteed Income and how/could it would relate to New Federalism. Ironically not a major supporter of Guaranteed Income, Vice President Hammond came around to the idea of a guaranteed income via the small movement that his place on the Presidential ticket caused. Guaranteed Income as a concept was one of major welfare reform. All welfare would be scrapped and replaced with a baseline of income. All people below this baseline of income would receive a cash payment. This acted as a “halfway” step for Conservatives who wanted to minimize welfare but who did not wish to or who understood the societal ramifications of doing away with it entirely. The concept of Guaranteed Income and its popularization to a debate regarding how such monies acquired and distributed within the ideological framework of New Federalism that was not solved under President Reagan and it persisted as a split in the party for the Conservatives for the time being.

The debate fell out of vogue when President Reagan looked towards the Middle East and began to stir up trouble on a more full-time basis towards the end of 1981. He got his tax cut. Now he wanted to get to bombing Soviets.

------

By the time Reagan got settled into office Iran was already in the midst of a bloody civil war. In his first days he sent out feelers via some of his close advisers like Pete Williams and Donald Rumsfeld to the region to get an understanding of how things were on the ground. It wasn't going to be an easy task to undertake and therefore most of the Reagan White House's major actions in the region took place after the tax cuts.

The Reagan Administration wasn't sure exactly what path to take regarding the conflict. Both sides were fairly ugly. One were Communists, and therefore no good. Then there were the Islamists, who were by all accounts, fairly ugly people with firm anti-Israeli views. America considered Israel to be a close friend, at least the policy wonks did. Sometimes the relationship between Israel and America could be complicated however. Previously America backed Israel as the Arab states largely embraced Nasserism which was viewed as Pro-Soviet. But with Nasserism dead, perhaps it was time to reconsider certain aspects of American foreign policy? Reagan himself wasn't sure and would spend a great deal of time meeting with various foreign policy policy theorists before he came to a decision.

Regardless of what Reagan did or did not do, the conflict in Iran continued without them. The world never stops spinning for anyone. By the time Reagan was in charge and ready to act, the situation on the ground had changed decisively from where it had been in the later stages of Bayh's Presidency.

Since the People's Mujaheddin, a pseudo-Islamic Marxist guerrilla group, descended upon the capital atop pick-up trucks the communists' luck had turned for the better. While the Communists were very much fragmentary and fighting themselves almost as often as the Islamists, they had the benefit of the Soviet Union's patronage. Most communist organizations (The People's Mujaheddin not included) and secessionist rebels received the best the Soviet Union had to offer for proxy wars. With a steady supply of weapons, ammo, supplies, and vehicles, the Communist factions were able to put a strong defense against the ill-supplied Islamists.

The Islamists lacked the patronage of outside sources and were forced to rely on their own funds and procurement to obtain weaponry in the early days of the conflict. This was a major issue for the already embattled Islamist factions and jockeying for outside help did little to keep infighting under wraps. Indeed, not only were they under supplied and outfitted, they were also lacking a central leader. The vast majority of Islamist factions in the Civil War in one way were originally loyal to the martyr Ayatollah Khomeini and his Vilyet-e Faqih (government by Islamic jurists) ideology. But with Khomeini dead at the hands of SAVAK, there was a major power void with Islamists.

Most Islamist factions in the early stages in the war were led or dedicated to a particular religious scholar, typically one close to Khomeini. As a result, the ability for one faction to get along with another was entirely dependent on if the two scholars were able to work together or if they hated each other. Even the smallest of disagreements could result in bloodshed. For us it seems silly this was how it was done, but for this was a battle for influence, funding, and power. It was a game of life and death and no one was willing to accept defeat so easily.

8yAMCNP.png

The Iranian Civil War in 1981
Red is controlled by militant groups aligned to the Soviet backed National Salvation Government
Maroon is controlled by the People's Mujaheddin of Iran and other elements of the Iranian People's Republic
Green is controlled by various Islamist opposition factions
Brown is controlled by secessionist or nationalist groups
Blue is controlled by the Iraqi Armed forces

It would take time and centralization between the various factions before the Islamists would be able to create a developed fund raising and supply mechanism for themselves. The militants in Afghanistan's funding model was looked at as the long term goal of many factions. They had outside help from other parts of the Islamic world as well as a developed supply chain and fund raising mechanism on behalf of the Pakistanis and Americans. It was the goal most looked for since stealing from banks and paying troops in goods was a poor way to wage war.

The one thing that the Islamists did have over the communists, was that outside of cities and the two secessionist regions (Iranian Kurdistan and Iranian Baluchistan), the Islamists had the popular opinion on their side in rural areas and the vast majority of Iran in general. If the Islamists could find a way to form a front against the communists, the Civil War would end in less than a year due to a sheer difference in number. This was impossible so early though, militia conflicts tended to run deep and there was no dominant faction to order people around. It would take time for America to come around and sort things out.

Meanwhile, the Arab world watched as the situation began to be exported into other countries. Groups inspired by the Islamist factions in Iran made their own groups to influence their governments if not overthrow it outright. These groups were Shia at first and were primarily in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan at first, though even Sunni would find themselves inspired by the revolutionary spirit in Iran. It did not take long for the secular governments to notice these groups and attempt to reign them in. The Saudis gave out death sentences, the Iraqis cleaned out entire families. But it was never enough to stop them, not totally.

The first violent effects of this abroad were felt when a small group of Shia hardliners who left the Amal Movement in Lebanon launched a surprise attack on Syrian peacekeepers in the North, killing and capturing over 200 in a single night. This new faction took up the mantle Lions of Al-Libnaniyyah and they quickly became a thorn in the side of the practically every faction until their destruction in 1989.

It would not take long for Shia all over to embrace this violent form of Jihadism. One way or another they were going to topple their government, that much they were determined to do. But just as the Shia were becoming inspired, so were the Sunni. It would not take long for the Sunni and the Shia to be at each other's throats once the shooting started. They all knew this but it was considered a part of the struggle. To overthrow the secular governments, they would need to destroy the heretics as well.

The earliest Sunni led attacks inspired by the revolutionary wave occurred in Syria, early in 1982. Syria was a diverse country, but dominated by an Alawite minority. The Sunni majority resented this fact and it did not take long for the ideals of anti-secular jihad and anti-heretical jihad to find a home in the minds of Syria's Sunnis. A group of Islamist inspired militants who were officers in the Syrian army got together with other Sunni troops and round up all of the base's non-Sunni soldiers. The captives dug their own graves and were then shot. The military was called in and the militants were killed all killed by the loyalists, but it would not take long for groups to become inspired by the works of these terrorist forerunners both inside Iran and across the Middle East.

The Islamic Awakening was starting to spread and it would kill thousands before it was through. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it now. Pandora's box has been opened.

Just as the Islamic Awakening was beginning to boil over, so did the Arab War. Egypt had decided to join in the conflict and soon Egyptian boots would be on Yemenese soil. But only if the North Yemenese managed to hold out for long enough. They were barely holding on, with a lack of not supremacy on the ground and in the air. Soon North Yemen would cease to exist unless something saved them.

North Yemen had been on its last legs, but now with Reagan in White House and the Islamic Awakening about to explode onto the scene, they were going to see a reversal of their fortunes before the end of the war.

------

For those wondering Pete Williams is made up and no, Donald Rumsfeld never said that.

Now I'm not sure if I'll be able to put out another post for this week. If I get the chance to do so, I will. In Part 4 (which is entitled "Boiling Point" as writing this) we'll get our first update on the situation in the Soviet Union, so maybe I can get it out sometime before Christmas as a "present" or something like that. We'll have to see.
 
This is going to be a fantastic timeline, and writing is indeed a strong point of yours. It's sad though to see the liberal Republicans fade away. Perhaps they could have found a niche as a centrist third party, but we'll never know.

What were the candidates' percentages in the 1976 election?
 
This is going to be a fantastic timeline, and writing is indeed a strong point of yours. It's sad though to see the liberal Republicans fade away. Perhaps they could have found a niche as a centrist third party, but we'll never know.

What were the candidates' percentages in the 1976 election?
I wish it could have stayed as well. If the US electoral system was different and not prone to creating a 2 party system the GOP would have remained around as something akin to the Liberal Democratic Party in the UK or the FDP in Germany.

No Bill Buckley?
Bill's on TV or writing articles or something.

If you mean his younger brother, James L. Buckley, he's been out of the game since '76 and likely has some sort of position in the Reagan Administration. I considered having him as VP for a bit when I was first planning this TL out but I decided on Hammond because he was sort of out of left field and made for some interesting conflict in the party. I like using "hipster" choices for President and VP when possible.
 
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