Newshound Notes: American Presidents

This is the first part of what will be an irregular series of posts about the larger world of Newshound, expanding on certain aspects of the worldbuilding that might not be examined as closely in-story. It is, essentially, a snippet of my worldbuilding notes, heavily edited for readability and spoilers.

In this installment of Newshound Notes, we’re going to discuss American Presidents. Some readers may have already realized, based on some of the off-handed references to current events that the characters make, that Newshound takes place in an alternate history. (If you hadn’t realized this, I regret to inform you that Yugoslavia hasn’t been a country for over a decade, and you should really update your history textbooks.) This alternate history is the incidental and logical result of things like werewolves, vampires, faeries, and wizards existing and being public knowledge in-universe.

Today, we’re going to look at how that affected American politics, specifically Presidential politics.

First, a list of Presidents:

  1. George Washington (1789 – 1797)
  2. John Adams (1797 – 1801)
  3. Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809)
  4. James Madison (1809 – 1817)
  5. James Monroe (1817 – 1825)
  6. John Quincy Adams (1825 – 1829)
  7. Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)
  8. Martin Van Buren (1837 – 1841)
  9. William Henry Harrison (1841 – 1841)
  10. John Tyler (1841 – 1845)
  11. James K. Polk (1845 – 1849)
  12. Zachary Taylor (1849 – 1850)
  13. Millard Fillmore (1850 – 1853)
  14. Franklin Pierce (1853 – 1857)
  15. John C. Fremont (1857 – 1861)
  16. Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1869)
  17. Ulysses S. Grant (1869 – 1877)
  18. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877 – 1881)
  19. James A. Garfield (1881 – 1881)
  20. Chester A. Arthur (1881 – 1885)
  21. Grover Cleveland (1885 – 1889)
  22. Benjamin Harrison (1889 – 1893)
  23. Grover Cleveland (1893 – 1897)
  24. William McKinley (1897 – 1901)
  25. Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909)
  26. William Howard Taft (1909 – 1913)
  27. Theodore Roosevelt (1913 – 1919)
  28. Hiram Johnson (1919 – 1929)
  29. Herbert Hoover (1929 – 1933)
  30. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)
  31. Harry Truman (1945 – 1953)
  32. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953 – 1961)
  33. Richard M. Nixon (1961 – 1969)
  34. Nelson Rockefeller (1969 – 1977)
  35. Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981)
  36. Ronald Reagan (1981 – 1981)
  37. George H. W. Bush (1981 – 1989)
  38. Jesse Jackson (1989 – 1993)
  39. Ross Perot (1993 – 2001)
  40. Al Gore (2001 – 2005)
  41. John McCain (2005 – 2013)
  42. John Kerry (2013 – 2017)
  43. Joseph Kidd (2017 – )

This list of Presidents starts out essentially identical to our own, but rapidly goes off the rails as it approaches the modern day. Let’s take a closer look.

The very first noticeable divergence occurs in 1856, when John C. Fremont is elected to become the 15th President of the United States. In our timeline, Fremont ran as the very first Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, campaigning on the then radical platform of anti-slavery, but lost to Democratic candidate James Buchanan due to the American Party (aka the “Know-Nothing” Party), represented by former President Millard Fillmore, splitting the vote.

In the world of Newshound, Fillmore declined to run, choosing instead to prolong his overseas trip to Europe indefinitely (which lasted from 1855 to 1856 in our timeline), leaving the American Party fractured and leaderless. Without a strong candidate, the Know-Nothings were unable to run any viable opposition to Fremont or Buchanan, allowing Fremont to win a majority in the electoral college. The tipping point state was Pennsylvania, Buchanan’s home state, which Fremont was able to narrowly win by mobilizing the sizable faerie minority that had settled there after the Faerie Diaspora.

Fremont’s election resulted in the mass secession of the southern states in 1857, leading to a protracted civil war that lasted until 1863. Fremont declined to run for re-election in 1860, instead endorsing the campaign of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican Senator from Illinois who had been a vocal critic of Fremont’s war policy. Lincoln succeeded in bringing about the end of the war and went on to serve two full terms, narrowly avoiding an assassination attempt by Confederate sympathizers in 1865.

With the election of Ulysses S. Grant, the list of Presidents realigns with our own until 1913. In real life, Theodore Roosevelt attempted to secure the Republican nomination in 1912, contesting the candidacy of his former Vice President, one-time protege, and incumbent President William Howard Taft. However, he lost this bid for the Republican nomination (allegedly as a result of Taft’s supporters rigging the convention), and instead formed his own party, the Progressive Party. He ended up splitting the Republican vote between himself and Taft, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win.

In Newshound’s world, Roosevelt succeeded in his bid for the Republican nomination, easily defeating Wilson in the general election. Roosevelt pursued a progressive domestic agenda and advocated for intervention in foreign affairs. His influence led to the United States entering World War 1 on the side of the Entente Powers in 1915, resulting in an Entente victory in 1916. He ran for, and won, reelection in 1916, but died in 1919 due to medical complications caused by malaria. Vice President Hiram Johnson acceded to the Presidency, and revealed at Roosevelt’s funeral that the President had secretly been a werewolf. Johnson used this revelation, along with Roosevelt’s extreme popularity, to push through legislation expanding and protecting parahuman rights, most importantly the Parahuman Protection Acts. Johnson served an additional two terms, but declined to run for reelection in 1928.

The timelines once again roughly realign with the election of Herbert Hoover in 1928, and the Presidents remain the same until we reach 1960. The 1960 Presidential election is one of those moments in history where even the slightest nudge could have altered the outcome, and the setting of Newshound provides more than just a slight nudge. So instead of John F. Kennedy winning by an extremely slim margin, Richard M. Nixon won by an extremely slim margin, assisted by Kennedy’s Catholicism making him unpopular among parahumans.

(Ironically, Nixon would later go on to roll back several major protections for parahumans, and placed hiring restrictions on the employment of parahumans by the federal government. While some of these protections would later be restored by successive presidents, the hiring restrictions remained in place until 2013.)

This is the point where the timelines irreparably diverge. The Soviet Union has by now split with both China and Yugoslavia, both of which have formed their own, independent communist blocs. Meanwhile, Western Europe’s skepticism of the United States, fueled by fears of American imperialism and interventionism, led to the collapse of NATO and the formation of an independent European power bloc that remains unaligned. It is these conditions that lead to a detente between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the eventual formation of a Soviet-American Axis to serve as a check against the growing power of an expansionist China.

(Further examination of the geopolitics of Newshound will, unfortunately, have to be left for another post.)

Following after Nixon was Nelson Rockefeller, who promoted a more moderate brand of conservatism and continued rapprochement with the Soviet Union. Throughout his two terms in office, Rockefeller’s administration was plagued by scandal, reaching a climax in 1973 when Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign after Washington Post reporters revealed that he engaged in bribery and extortion.

Things seem to realign again when Jimmy Carter is elected in 1976, followed by Ronald Reagan in 1980. However, Reagan was assassinated shortly into his term by John Hinckley Jr., before he could implement any of the major policy changes he had campaigned on (which included a massive rollback of parahuman rights and protections). While the official investigation named Hinckley as the sole assassin, conspiracy theories abound that claim Reagan’s assassination was orchestrated, or even performed, by vampires, and that Hinckley was merely a fall guy.

Such theories are, of course, ridiculous.

Reagan was replaced by Vice President George H.W. Bush, who followed what can best be described as a holding pattern, continuing on in the policy example set by Rockefeller. He was succeeded by Jesse Jackson, a Great Society-style liberal who worked to push back the decades of entrenched Republican conservatism, with mixed success.

Ross Perot won the 1992 election as an independent candidate running on a platform of reducing the national debt and furthering economic ties with the Soviet Union. He oversaw several major trade deals with the Soviets, including an agreement to construct a rail tunnel connecting the two countries underneath the Bering Sea. He also presided over the joint US-USSR invasion of North Korea in 1997, which began the Second Korean War.

Al Gore was elected in 2000, defeating Texas governor George W. Bush in a landslide. Gore scaled back American involvement in the Korean peninsula, leaving the occupation and reconstruction effort largely in the hands of the South Koreans and the Soviets (granting the Soviets several major trade concessions in exchange).

John McCain, running with John Kerry as his Vice Presidential pick, won the 2004 election. His administration pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at subverting Chinese hegemony in Southeast Asia, providing significant financial and material support to Tibetan independence fighters and joining the Soviet Union and India in enforcing a no fly zone over war-torn Indochina. Work on the Bering Tunnel also began under his administration.

John Kerry followed after McCain in 2012, with a policy agenda that was largely the same. However, Kerry focused more on domestic affairs, most notably attempting to push through greater protections for parahumans. Although there was very little strong opposition to these reforms, there was also very little strong support, and Kerry’s agenda remained largely unfulfilled. The one area where he was successful was in relaxing federal employment restrictions, leading to a rapid increase in the number of parahumans employed by executive agencies (mostly in law enforcement).

The 2016 election was, to put it mildly, a clusterfuck. Kerry lost the Democratic nomination to Senator Elizabeth Warren, but continued to run as an independent. Meanwhile, the Republican nomination was won by John Kasich in a contested convention. Dissatisfied with a ballot of two centrists and a leftist, Republican Congressman Joseph Kidd from Utah also entered the race as an independent. Also on the ballot were Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and former President Al Gore, running as the Green Party candidate.

With the vote split four to six ways in every state, no candidate was able to win the 275 electoral votes necessary for a majority in the electoral college, and the race went to the House of Representatives to be decided. Of the four candidates who succeeded in securing at least one electoral vote (Warren, Kerry, Kasich, and Kidd), Warren was quickly eliminated from consideration by the Republican-dominated House delegations. Still unable to secure a majority, and concerned that moderate Republicans would defect to Kidd, Kerry pulled out of the race and endorsed Kasich. However, enough Democrats refused to support Kasich that he was unable to obtain a majority, and the moderate Republicans ended up backing Kidd anyways. Joseph Kidd, who only won the state of Utah, becomes the President of the United States.

Lacking a mandate, and facing the obstacles of a Senate controlled by Democrats and a House dominated by moderates, Kidd’s initial policy goals – as outlined in his inauguration speech – are relatively modest. During his campaign, Kidd promised to end American reliance on Soviet oil by increasing domestic production, expand American economic influence in the South Pacific through free trade agreements, escalate US involvement in the Indochina War, and rollback Kerry’s expansion of parahuman protections. However, in his inauguration speech, Kidd only made a passing mention of increasing American oil production, and didn’t even reference the other issues. It remains to be seen what his administration’s real policy goals will be.

5 comments

  1. I feel a little bit guilty making so many off-handed references to other major sections of worldbuilding like the Faerie Diaspora without actually going into more detail about them. But such things will have to wait for another time.

    There’s a lot of really major differences between our own world and the world of Newshound that Heather does not remark upon in-story, because there is a loose framing device of Newshound being her memoirs. And when was the last time someone went into a segue about the Irish Potato Famine or the inner workings of cell phones in their memoirs?

    I will say, right now, that anything actually relevant to the plot of the story will be explained/mentioned in-story. These notes are basically just bonus fluff to show off all the stuff beneath the surface that you’d never get to see otherwise.

  2. What about Australia? You mention every other land mass. What about us down under? On another note are certain parahumans more prevalent in certain places or have were(insert animal here) and the fae been, historically everywhere

    P.s. awesome story

    1. I will admit to a bit of a Northern Hemisphere bias in my world building, since most of my alt-history work has been focused on the US, Europe, and Asia. I do have a few things in mind for the other continents, Australia in particular, and I’ll probably do a few Notes posts focused on just the alt-history geopolitics. There are a lot of things that will probably be left as blanks for the reader to fill-in though, because the core focus of the story is on events in the US, so inevitably that’s going to get the most worldbuilding attention. Could be ripe ground for some spin-offs though.

      In terms of parahuman distribution, it really depends. Vampires, for example, are pretty evenly distributed, whereas werecreatures tend to roughly follow real life predator ranges. So, there’s not many weredingos in South America. (This is also why werewolves and werepanthers are the two most common types of therianthropes, since wolves and big cats have essentially a global distribution.) Faeries tend to be clumped around 1800s migration patterns out of Europe because of the Faerie Diaspora. (Which is a big enough event that it’ll get its own Notes treatment, and more than a few mentions in-story.)

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