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How Would History Have Been Different if Richard Nixon Had Won the 1960 Presidential Election?

Posted: 05/23/2012 9:00 pm

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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By David Hood, Quora User

An interesting question for sure! This is the stuff that comes to mind, in no real order. But really, after '76 all bets are off.

Positives:

  • Vietnam would not have happened for the U.S., as Nixon would have continued the previous administrations policies that he was part of creating.
  • Watergate would not have happened because Nixon would have been the standard barrier for the party. In the '70s, Reagan was in the wings and things were changing, feeding his paranoia.
  • Perhaps connecting with China would have happened sooner, blunting some of the negative effects of China's rise because it would have been more staged.
  • I don't think the Bay of Pigs would have happened at all, but rather just a continuation of trying to engage Cuba while slowly isolating it, which Nixon was instrumental in setting up in 1959.
  • Reagan would have become president in '68 instead of '80 thanks to Ford/Nixon being out of the way. This makes his presidency drastically different due to a totally different set of circumstances and being in much better health with a much different group of people around him.
  • Goldwater would have never happened in '64.
  • The Democrats wouldn't have had a credible chance to take the White House until '76, but likely would have had considerable power in Congress if not outright majorities led by the Kennedys. Due to this, I think Nixon and later Reagan would have moved forward with robust legislation on Civil Rights because it would have brought the Democrats to the table on other issues.
  • Neither Bobby nor Jack Kennedy would have been assassinated because they did't get into the position to be real targets during the turmoil of the era.
  • The Bush dynasty would have been unlikely because if Reagan won in '68, he likely picked a different VP -- probably Rockefeller to balance his ticket.
  • The Cold War would have ended sooner without all the proxy fights happening. I can see Nixon, and later Reagan, using China as a proxy to kill the USSR either via military action or economic action.
  • The Supreme Court would look radically different today.
  • There would never have been the political will to overturn our banking and investment regulations.

Neutral:

  • Ford never would have become president -- maybe senator, but not president.
  • Due to a likely second term for Nixon, LBJ never would have become president either, as he would have been too ill in '68 to run.
  • Our history would have been drastically different after '76, to the point that it is unrecognizable.
  • Either Bobby or Ted Kennedy would have been elected president in '76 with either Carter or Jerry Brown as VP.
  • Ross Perot possibly becomes president as a Republican in the 1980s.
  • I think both Clinton and Gore would have still happened -- just much differently.

Negatives:

  • Jack Kennedy never would have become president and the country would have watched as he had to leave the Senate and die a horrible death from Addison's disease or complications from it.
  • Marilyn Monroe never would have reached the level of notoriety she had because there was no scandal with JFK and no "happy birthday" event. She probably still would have taken her own life at some point though.
  • Neither Medicaid nor HMO's would have ever happened, likely resulting in us being a backwater of medical science.
  • Though there would have been many gains for civil rights, the Black Power movement would have been crushed, resulting in those gains not really meaning anything to average folks for a long time.
  • We probably never would have gone to the moon -- space yes; moon, no.
  • Due to its more robust involvement in the Cold War, China would have risen and overshadowed us faster -- if not handled well, that could have been very bad.
  • Due to there being no Vietnam, we would still have a draft that can be used at any time instead of the ghost of one that we have now.
  • Because our banking and investment regulations stayed mostly intact, the huge growth we saw in the 1990s would not have been possible.

More questions on historical "what-ifs":

 

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