Nixon's victory in the 1968 US Presidential election is known as one of the great comebacks in American political history: after narrowly losing to JFK in 1960 and being humiliated by Pat Brown in 1962, Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and became the 37th US President. But Nixon won only narrowly, and Humphrey overcame a 17 point polling deficit to almost beat his Republican opponent on election day. Any number of alternative decisions on Humphrey's part, such as revealing Nixon's interference in the Vietnam Peace Talks (which he fatefully decided not to do), could've swung the election to the Democrats.

What would Nixon's legacy be if he'd lost in both 1960 and 1968?
 
Yeah, without a presidency and Watergate he would be footnote in history.

Joking aside, though, I think he would do something noteworthy eventually. His foreign policy credentials were strong in the GOP. He might end up as Ronald Reagan's secretary of state in 1972 or 76. But as far as a political legacy? He will always be Dick Nixon, sore loser.
 
Something similar to how Hillary Clinton is seen today. Someone who came close twice, but couldn't quite go all the way. Hillary would actually be remembered more in history, as the first female Presidential candidate of a major party. Nixon? Not so much. Just another two time male loser. Former Vice President known for "red baiting" but who nevertheless had a memorable "kitchen debate" with then Soviet leader Khrushchev. That's about it. Largely forgotten by 2019, except by history nerds (like us).
 
Something similar to how Hillary Clinton is seen today. Someone who came close twice, but couldn't quite go all the way. Hillary would actually be remembered more in history, as the first female Presidential candidate of a major party. Nixon? Not so much. Just another two time male loser. Former Vice President known for "red baiting" but who nevertheless had a memorable "kitchen debate" with then Soviet leader Khrushchev. That's about it. Largely forgotten by 2019, except by history nerds (like us).

I have a feeling this is already turning into a chat thread. Mods, please feel free to move it if you wish.
 
It depends on what he does after his defeat. I think it's fairly likely that he comes back as a Secretary of State under a future Republican president - even IOTL post-presidency he was well-regarded as a source of advice on world affairs and foreign policy, even by non-Republicans. Given his age in 1968, it's conceivable he could end up in such a role ITTL as late as the eighties. He could end up being regarded as sort of a higher-visibility George Schultz, and one of the great presidential misses.
 
Last edited:
Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey and Adlai Stevenson all have the distinction of being a major party nominee multiple times and of losing multiple presidential elections. Actually all four have pretty favorable historical reputations. All except Stevenson are topics of AH.com discussions about what would have happened if they had become President.
 
Also very different career paths of figures in his OTL administration, particularly Kissinger. Kissinger probably would have been secretary of state for another Republican president or be ambassador to China .
 
Nixon's victory in the 1968 US Presidential election is known as one of the great comebacks in American political history: after narrowly losing to JFK in 1960 and being humiliated by Pat Brown in 1962, Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and became the 37th US President. But Nixon won only narrowly, and Humphrey overcame a 17 point polling deficit to almost beat his Republican opponent on election day. Any number of alternative decisions on Humphrey's part, such as revealing Nixon's interference in the Vietnam Peace Talks (which he fatefully decided not to do), could've swung the election to the Democrats.

What would Nixon's legacy be if he'd lost in both 1960 and 1968?

TTL's equivalent of a Wikipedia stub: a former VP, a guy who once successfully debated with a Soviet leader (Khrushchev), a two time white male loser in the Presidential elections, a subject of alternate history discussions and possibly somebody's Secretary of State. That's unless somebody else in the White House screws up Vietnam and Tricky Dick rides into the White House at this third attempt on a peace platform somewhere in the 70s. If that happened, he'd be remembered like Carter given the economy and Iran. The only question then if he'd be a two termer or not, which depends on if he gets elected in 1972 or in '76. He could also run in '80, but would he given his age? IMHO, I prefer Nixon over Reagan despite the former's shenanigans. I dislike Reaganomics and the evangelism Reagan introduced into politics, but that's my personal opinion.
 
Last edited:
he'd up being a secretary of state or the like. 1980 is also possible, but unlikely. It really depends on when and how he loses '68
 
He’d probably be a popular subject on Alternate History Internet forums.

True, there would be a lot of "WI Nixon won in 68 or 60" threads, with a few "should he have ran in 64" threads, both here and on other AH sites. But for the vast majority of the voting public, he'd be a forgotten figure, much as Adlai Stevenson or William Jennings Bryan are today.
 
Something similar to how Hillary Clinton is seen today. Someone who came close twice, but couldn't quite go all the way. Hillary would actually be remembered more in history, as the first female Presidential candidate of a major party. Nixon? Not so much. Just another two time male loser. Former Vice President known for "red baiting" but who nevertheless had a memorable "kitchen debate" with then Soviet leader Khrushchev. That's about it. Largely forgotten by 2019, except by history nerds (like us).

Most people (really, almost everyone outside of Americans 2014-now), digest history outside of the exclusive lenses of race and gender. William Jennings Bryan was probably a more influential presidential candidate than Hillary Clinton (and probably almost every other unsuccessful candidate except maybe Goldwater), despite being a "white male loser." And he lost three times!

A defeated Nixon would have been remembered at least just for Spiro Agnew - trying to turn 1968 into a huge culture wars referendum on the various New Left movements of the 1960's. It would particularly contrast with his 1960 run, where there wasn't this gaping cultural divide.
 
One idea I have for a post 1968 election loss Nixon is that he runs successfully for Mayor of New York. Its kind of out there, but it would be a fun timeline.

One thing to remember is that the USA gets a Humphrey Administration, at least for four years, and the Great Society continues or is advanced. Humphrey also makes a number of Supreme Court appointments. He will at a minimum select the replacements for Harlan and Black (Rehnquist and Powell IOTL), likely for Warren and Fortas depending on what happens with the Fortas confirmation/ scandal ITTL (Burger and Blackmun IOTL), also likely for Douglas (Stevens IOTL) either due to getting a second term or Douglas moving up his departure. You also have a completely different set of cabinet appointments. Some of the Nixon cabinet members would run for elective office. As the administration party, the Democrats due worse in the 1970 elections and a lot worse in 1974.

At some point a Republican will be elected President, either due to Humphrey losing his bid for a second term, or more likely in 1976 due to a feeling that 16 years of Democratic administrations are enough. But its not clear if the Republicans will move to the right and go with Reagan, or to the left and go with Rockefeller or someone like him. The Great Society will have been vindicated in 1968. The Carter Administration is completely butterflied away. Probably also the GHW Bush administration, though ITTL Bush could well win his Senate race in 1970.

IOTL, Nixon was the most successful of the post World War 2 presidential runner-ups, running for the office later and getting elected. Looking at what the other post World War 2 losing candidates did afterwards, there seems to be two groups:

1. Senators: Goldwater, Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dole, Gore, Kerry, McCain, Romney. With the exceptions of Mondale, Dole and Gore, this group either continued to serve in the Senate or, in the case of Goldwater, Humphrey, and Romney, ran for the Senate later and got elected. Also Kerry was Secretary of State and Mondale Ambassador to Japan. Dole and Gore left politics.

2. Everyone else. Dewey was re-elected Governor of New York. Stevenson ran again in 1956 and 1960 and was UN Ambassador.
Dewey re-elected Governor of New York in 1950, then retired. Dukakis left politics. The three presidents who lost re-election did ex-president stuff.

Its not clear which group Nixon would fall into, though if he goes back to the Senate the 1970 New York Senate election would be the best opportunity. And he might be re-elected in 1876 since its more likely a Republican year ITTL.
 
One question is how close the result is in 1968. Clay lost three times, but came close only once. Bryan lost decisively all three times. So did Stevenson, twice. Nixon lost very narrowly in 1960. It is even arguable that he won the popular vote (as reported, disregarding allegations of fraud). If 1968 is comparable, that puts him in a unique position.
 
Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey and Adlai Stevenson all have the distinction of being a major party nominee multiple times and of losing multiple presidential elections. Actually all four have pretty favorable historical reputations. All except Stevenson are topics of AH.com discussions about what would have happened if they had become President.

I could see Nixon being the source of a lot of counter-factual speculation by historians. O
Could he end up getting elected to the Senate?

Potentially, but after three defeats (1960, 1962, and 1968) I doubt that many Republicans will want anything to do with Nixon outside of his advice on foreign policy.
 
Top