Once AGAIN, I find myself ensconced in the Best of All Possible Worlds (BOAPW) Convergence, seated upon a bar stool in air-conditioned splendor, in a wondrously ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing building on a heart-achingly beautiful world circling a fantastic star some 450 million light years distance from the planet Earth, here in glorious midsummer of the year 2011CE...
As I work my way through the History of Beer (first with a wonderfully fruity ale, then on to a crisp and clean lager, finally a scientifically mellow pilsner), I jot down a few notes. My reverie takes on a minor tone coloration as I consider of some of the more tragic Divergences.
Oh, not catastrophically tragic ones, the WWIII Divergences, under the likes of a JFK, RFK, Reagan, or Clinton presidencies*. No, I'm talking the tragic ones that are all the more tragic due to the waste of opportunity and the fact that they came so close to the convergence. Those are truly tragic. The ones that almost just made it. The ones that mange to avoid the Lost Decades Divergence of 1970-2019, due to the increasingly conservative politics culminating in the disastrous Rise of the Libertarians.
One such Divergence is the HHH Presidency. The chances of it happening are absurdly small, even by cosmic standards. It would have required for Hubert Humphrey to stop walking that tightrope he was on with regards to the Vietnam War, and between his loyalties to President Lyndon Johnson, and his own conscience. It was never a question of political courage. Hubert had enough of that. It was, as always, a question of expediency. All politicians know that. As we all know, in 1968 Humphrey lost to Nixon by less than 1% of the popular vote. All it would have taken for a Humphrey Presidency were two things:
1) A leak to the press that Nixon aides had persuaded (read bribed) South Vietnamese dictator Thieu from withdrawing from the peace talks with North Vietnam, and
2) A speech by Humphrey on March 31, 1968 declaring his (known) opposition to the Vietnam War.
Had these events occurred, Humphrey would have been elected President.
Many things immediately fall into place for the better. The Great Society programs initiated under Johnson continue. Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance begins a drawdown of US troops from Vietnam. Secretary of State Clark Clifford successfully negotiates a peace accord, and by September of 1970 the Treaty of Paris is signed - ending the US involvement in the conflict of Southeast Asia. With the immense drain of the war taken off of government revenues, Humphrey devotes larger disbursements to the social programs he favored as a senator. Education, nutrition and equal rights being paramount. The Space program gets additional funds for a permanent orbiting station, dubbed Skylab. By 1998, Skylab is an International Space Station, consisting of nearly 2,000 modules in a large simulated gravity wheel, housing nearly 500 astronauts, men and women from all nations.
Literacy rates are up. Poverty rates are down. Humphrey was aided considerably by two rather unlikely allies in the Senate, George McGovern, and Bob Dole. Both farm state Senators, they pushed government food programs which greatly aided the agricultural sector. Humphrey devotes massive funds towards the sciences and engineering, and alternative energy sources such as solar power and nuclear.
He is elected to a second term in 1972 with McGovern as his running mate. They handily defeat the Republican candidate - Ronald Reagan. Nixon astutely runs, and wins, a seat as Senator from California. Nixon will remain as Senator until his death in 2002, is lauded as an accomplished statesman.
Few Americans care about the fall of the government of South Vietnam in 1973. Humphrey's overtures at "detente" towards the Soviet Union resulted in a series of arms control agreements, and a substantial trade package of American wheat and corn being sent to the Soviet Union. Farmers were happy. The stock market continued the Long Boom.
In 1974, relations with China were opened up. Humphrey became the first American president to visit Red China. With the huge government disbursements into basic scientific research, not to mention a very large portion of minorities entering the academic and work force through federal scholarships and educational programs, a rapid development of computer, communications, and energy technologies, cell phones, personal computers, the Genienet, and the electric car and public transportation sent the economy into overdrive.
Also in 1974, the Arab Oil Embargo caused the American public to demand ever more government subsidies and research into alternative energy suppplies. Fortunately, the existing programs were well established.
I could go on but its all just too sad. The era of scientific progress and prosperity that occurs through the remainder of the 20th century is blindingly stellar in its accomplishments.
But it just was never in the cards.
*If you really are one of those gruesome, grisly corpse-licking types that likes to linger over the WWIII Divergences, that information is available in the Library.