The 1944 thread is starting to get off topic, so I figured I’d start a new thread on the subject of LBJ staying out of Vietnam.
So in this alternate history LBJ stays out of Vietnam, runs in 1968, and wins. What changes? Does the Reagan Revolution still happen? Does LBJ get more stuff enacted? Does he accomplish the SALT treaty like Nixon did? Does he open up relations with China, or could only a Republican do that?
Assuming that most Americans wouldn’t have wanted to change horses in mid-stream (removing a sitting President during wartime) Johnson could have squeaked out a win in 1968. Hubert Humphrey really didn’t ignite the imagination and that was part of the reason that he lost.
While Johnson’s Great Society would have continued, it’s possible that Johnson himself wouldn’t have. He still continued to smoke after his heart attack and he died a little over four years after leaving office from another heart attack still. It can be presumed that the strains of the war and the growing civilian unrest would have taken its toll.
Plus a popular LBJ with political capital could expand on it. ALthough I’m skeptical it would have ever been fully accepted by the public. Welfare spending was never particularly popular even in LBJ’s time. And I do think the Great Society leads directly to Ronald Reagan’s election.
If LBJ stays out of war AND limits his social programs to Medicare, maybe Reagan never gets close to the White House.
The situation Vietnam after the assassination of Diem and his brother had deteriorated to the point where anyone sitting in the White House would have been forced to expand the US involvement in the conflict. Avoiding the war, given the rhetoric of the era (The Domino Theory the being chief culprit) precluded a 1960s without a conflict in SE Asia.
What is also largely forgotten now is that the US/South Korea and North Korea fought a low-intensity conflict during the 1960s. Had Vietnam not arose as a distraction this easily could have become “hot”.
I’m thinking that for this hypothetical, the point-of-divergence would have to be a bit further back, e.g., Eisenhower implements the Geneva Accords and allows an all-Vietnam election despite the fact that Ho is sure to win it.
The war on poverty. Welfare was a big political issue pretty much from inception until it was reformed in 1996. Reagan rode the welfare queen legend into office as part of his overall narrative about government spending being wasteful.
LBJ was also a classic tax and spend Democrat. He had to be given the laws he was passing. That led directly to the tax revolts of the 1970s.
If the taxes were going up just to pay for popular programs like Medicare, then that might have been fine, but welfare for able-bodied young people has never been popular.
Maybe. I’m not convinced that LBJ HAD to slowly escalate. There comes a point where you cut your losses. For LBJ, that was after committing 500,000 troops. I don’t think you can safely say that any President would have done the same thing.
If that’s the case, then we could also presume a Kennedy loss in 1960 which would have never allowed LBJ to become President. After all, a Southerner had not been elected to the White House for almost 100 years (Woodrow Wilson was from Virginia but almost certainly not been elected had he not been Governor of New Jersey. Eisenhower was born in Texas, but raised in Kansas) and the region’s stance on civil rights would have precluded a Southerner’s election until it changed.Kennedy barely won in 1960 and that would have meant no Johnson.
Also, after France’s (a NATO ally) humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, it’s unclear how Ike could have ( or would have) allowed North Vietnam to have won an election in the South. Ike was even more anti-Communist than Johnson.
I think we can assume LBJ loses Vietnam and takes some heat for it. Truman lost China, after all. He COULD have committed 500,000 troops to China to help Chiang, and the Chiang government was probably a lot stronger and more stable than Diem’s. With that big a commitment, I think Mao probably would have been held out of power for as long as the US was willing to stay.
And without a foreign sanctuary, US forces might have eventually hunted Mao down. We’re talking battle hardened WWII vets here, too.
Yeah, but with 500,000 troops in China supporting Chiang’s already formidable forces, there’s no path to victory for Mao unless the US loses its will.
My point isn’t to say that Truman SHOULD have taken that path, only that like LBJ, he was faced with a choice of taking action or letting a domino fall. And China was much more significant than Vietnam. LBJ did not have to make the choices he did.
Without Vietnam, Johnson probably would have kept his lying within the normal levels of politics. And with Nixon not an incumbent President, there wouldn’t have been a Watergate break-in. So people would probably have more trust in the White House.
Nixon barely lost in 1960.
We are assuming a past which didn’t have the US become involved in Vietnam which means that everything related to the war so we can assume anything including that Kennedy may not have run at all or that Adlai Stevenson might have tried a third unsuccessful run.