The new U.S. President George Romney, elected by a razor-thin margin in 1968, takes office in early 1969 amidst a welter of problems. The economy is tanking, his own party hates him, and the Soviets won’t talk about anything. Romney struggles to find his footing as President in the midst of these challenges, but his own legislative priorities and political missteps begin to suggest he’s in over his head. Will he get on track, or will the country continue to decline?
The year 1969 would have provided ample challenges to whoever had been elected President the previous year. In our story the Vietnam War is over by this point, and in real life that did dominate the early administration of the new President (Richard Nixon), but in this alternate history Republican George W. Romney, had he been narrowly elected in 1968, would’ve found plenty of problems to deal with. The working thesis of this section of Age of Confusion is that Romney, and honest and affable politician, could conceivably have been elected, but the changing tone of American domestic and global politics would probably have quickly outstripped his country-club-Republican capacity to deal with changed circumstances.
A part of this episode involves climate change, or what was called in the 1960s and ’70s the “greenhouse problem.” Although the auto industry confab in which the issue comes to Romney’s attention in this episode is fictional, the historical background of climate change as stated here is accurate: it was known as early as 1896 and struggled onto the public radar by the mid-1960s. It was uncontroversial at the time, meaning, large campaigns of climate change denial had not yet begun. In real life Lyndon B. Johnson was briefed on global warming in 1965 and predictions of a White House report out that year have proven eerily prescient in the 56 years since.
Next Episode: August 15, 2021