With Vietnam over but many conditions worsening in America, the Presidential election season of 1968 gets off to an uneasy start. Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson thinks he’s got the Democratic nomination–and possibly the election–sewn up as a messy fight develops on the Republican side between moderates and conservatives. But the real X factor is the resentful politics of racist segregationists, now leaving the Democratic Party in droves over their concessions to civil rights. As the various dramas of the ’60s come to a head, a tragedy on a Florida launch pad may sway the result one way or another.
In real history, 1968 was a tumultuous year in Presidential politics, marred and skewed by the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, and also by the surprise decision of President Lyndon B. Johnson not to seek a second term. In our alternate timeline none of that happens, but that doesn’t mean that the 1968 election would have been that much less contentious or tumultuous if events had gone differently. This episode seeks to imagine how the turmoil might have played out in our alternate timeline, with Vietnam over but many deep questions still surrounding racial integration and social justice.
The biographies of the various political players in this episode, including George Romney, are accurate to history. Romney’s birth in Mexico, his missionary background and rise to political fame in the 1960s really did happen, and in real life he was (briefly) considered a strong candidate for the Republican nomination. An embarrassing gaffe on the Vietnam War, which was then still going on, ended his candidacy. In our timeline you will also note that Richard Nixon is absent from the national stage. I think a case can be made that if Nixon hadn’t been the frontrunner in 1968, Romney may well have been.
This is the first sustained mention in our story of the Apollo moon program, to which John F. Kennedy committed American policy in May 1961. While we won’t talk much about the space program in upcoming episodes, it at least warrants a mention. In real life, of course, the Apollo program was derailed briefly by the terrible tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad in January 1967. Had that not happened, though, it’s likely that some other misstep or tragedy probably would have occurred, given the breakneck speed with which NASA was charging ahead on the Moon program.
This is the last episode in Season 1. There will be a hiatus between seasons, but a bonus episode will come out during the break.
Next Episode (Bonus, Recap & Explainer): July 19, 2021
Next Regular Episode: August 1, 2021