Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72

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An Alternate History timeline written by user "Drew" on the site AlternateHistory.com. The title is obviously a reference to the famous Hunter S. Thompson work Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, and concerns the same events...with a twist. It can be read here.

In Real Life ("Our Timeline", OTL) the 1972 American presidential election pitted incumbent Republican Richard Nixon against Democrat George McGovern. McGovern was the candidate of the radical anti-Vietnam war far left, and at a time when Nixon's policies seemed to be turning the Vietnam situation around, he failed to woo moderates and the result was a landslide for Nixon. Then came Watergate and everything that ensued with that. But, what if...?

In Fear, Loathing and Gumbo John Julian McKeithen, a former governor of Louisiana, decides to stand for the Democratic nomination. He's a more moderate figure than McGovern and can appeal to a wider audience, and crucially also comes from a political background that has acquainted him quite as much with dirty tricks as Nixon. He wins the candidacy.

Now it's worth pointing out that there are a lot of timelines out there in which that would be that: McKeithen, the Mary Sue alternative candidate, would trounce Nixon and then proceed to have an Alternate History Wank presidency in which all the mistakes that happened in OTL are avoided.

Fear, Loathing and Gumbo is not like that.

The full story will not be given here due to the timeline turning on shocking twists, but thanks to McGovern refusing to step down and standing as a 'Peace' candidate, as well as George Wallace staying in the race, the result is a hung electoral congress with no majority for any candidate. And then it gets worse. And worse. And worse...

Be wary of spoilers below as the timeline contains some shocking twists.

Tropes used in Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72 include:
  • Alliteration: Spiro Agnew is fond of using this, most commonly describing his political enemies as "the nattering nabobs of negativity".
  • Allohistorical Allusion: A fair few. For example, George W. Bush becoming a science fiction actor after his release by the North Vietnamese is probably a reference to how Enterprise`s Trip Tucker was described as 'George W. Bush in Space'.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Briefly mentioned in the timeline and recently brought up in the discussion was a piece of legislation introduced with the intent to criminalise homosexuality. The author has suggested that it might be important in the future.
    • The killer of Kelsey Grammer's sister is killed in a police shoot-out, instead of being arrested and brought to trial. In frustration at justice denied, Grammer abandons acting and studies law, eventually becoming a junior District Attorney. Considering that, in the U.S. at least, the DA's office is often a first step to higher political office...
  • Dystopia Is Hard: The main reason why the Lesser Mao's China and his rule fall apart in less than one decade.
  • Enemy Mine: Despite continuing Cold War brinksmanship, the USA and the Soviet Union join forces to defeat the Bayanouni Islamist regime in Syria, and later collaborate on a nuclear attack on the Lesser Mao's own nuclear programme.
    • North and South Vietnam team up to resist the Lesser Mao's China.
  • Hope Spot: After months of wrangling, Nixon decides to withdraw for the good of the country and allow McKeithen to become President. Then McKeithen dies in a plane crash.
    • Also, ironically through President Agnew blundering back into the Vietnam War and President Gavin being forced to send more troops to shore up their position, the US has more or less won the war, albeit at a bloody cost.
    • One good thing that has come out of the political chaos is a limit on campaign funding and advertising, which will at least prevent some of the excesses that American politics has reached today in OTL.
  • Knight Templar: The "Democrat Killer". Claims that his actions are guided by God. Eventually shoots and injures the Democratic nominee for Vice-President in 1976 and turns out to be Mark David Chapman.
  • Not So Different: Ron Dellums wonders about this in regards to George Wallace.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Agnew is an alloy of President Jerkass and President Lunatic. President Gavin is closest to President Personable.
    • And now we have President Wallace, who will likely be a President Schemer.
  • Red Scare: President Agnew's policies are predicated on the idea that the world still works like it did in the McCarthyite 1950s.
  • Serial Killer: One stalks Washington, DC and targets Democratic politicians.
  • Shown Their Work: Drew did his research on this timeline, and it shows. Big time.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: Given by George Wallace, of all people, to Spiro Agnew on the latter's show. Arguably, a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Take a Third Option: Some British voters in 1977 are disgusted with the Heath government's catalogue of catastrophe but are unconvinced about Denis Healey's Labour Party. The result is that the Liberal Party has a massive surge from just nine seats to over fifty.
    • For similar reasons, third parties such as the Libertarians become increasingly important in the American political landscape.
  • Talk Show: Spiro Agnew gets one after his impeachment. Gets high ratings even though he seems to spend most of the time ranting about "the ludicrous liberals". Compared on the boards to Glenn Beck without a capacity for self deprecation.
  • The Troubles: Worse than our timeline, not helped by the re-election of Edward Heath's Conservative government in 1974 and him putting a hardliner in charge of counter-terrorism - Margaret Thatcher.
    • And now, the you-know-what has hit the fan, as one of the splinter groups has killed Queen Elizabeth II (shades of Gordon Banks).
  • The Vietnam War: Drags on for longer with no American pullout. However, though even more bloody and devastating, now appears to be ending with South Vietnam's independence preserved
  • Wham! Episode: When the Lesser Mao nukes his own rebelling troops, and then Wallace nukes with the consent of the USSR his main nuclear facility in response.
  • Young Future Famous People: Constantly. For example -
    • George W. Bush is a fighter pilot held in a North Vietnamese prison camp (having been unable to avoid the draft) and has, since his release following the end of the Vietnam War, become an actor; his brother Jeb followed him into the Air Force.
    • At the same time, Al Gore is an embedded journalist in Syria who is captured by the regime there and held in similar circumstances.
    • Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham serve as interns in one of the legal cases surrounding the disputed 1972 election, and Clinton is later posted as a legal officer in the army to Syria.
    • David Petraeus is a lieutenant who leads a stand against Syrian insurgents (which ends up killing Private Bruce Willis).
    • Barack Obama has not featured in person, but he is the author of some of the books quoted in the timeline and is apparently a history professor, as is Newt Gingrich, whose own obviouslly offer the opposing slant on certain topics.
    • Dan Quayle is an NCO in Vietnam who earns commendations as a war hero and subsequently becomes the face of a campaign highlighting the poor treatment of soldiers and veterans.