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So…about that timeline. I’m afraid that it won’t be completed for some time. As many of you know, my young son Alex was born in late July about two months ahead of term. In early November, he was transferred from Maine (where he was born while my wife and I were on vacation) to Rochester, NY (where we live when we aren’t in Singapore.) After a round of steroids, he improved enough that we were able to finally take him home after almost four months in the hospital since he was born. If that sounds like a reason to be grateful, it surely is. But Alex has a potentially serious lung disease, the exact nature and outlook we aren’t certain of. He’s also coming home on a half-liter of oxygen, an oxymeter that beeps whenever his saturation is low, and an NG feeding tube. In addition to the care that even a healthy child would need, our little guy needs plenty more– and that means my wife and I are working round the clock to take care of him. Until I go back to Singapore in late January, I’m afraid that I won’t have time for much rock hall commentary or alternate universe spelunking.

So– please consult the other very capable Rock Hall watchers for all your latest news and commentary. Until further notice- Alex Voltaire, Sr.– over and out.

In the absence of any recent posts, let me instead make an announcement about future posts. I have been working on my most ambitious timeline of alternate American history yet. It’s called “Each Alike in Dignity.” Its point of departure begins during the War of 1812. The Massacre of New Orleans and the destruction of the new makeshift capital of Harrisburg leads the United States to sue for peace, ceding much of the Louisiana Purchase to Great Britain. As humiliating as this is, it exacerbates an event that did happen in our timeline, the Hartford Convention. New England, with its vulnerable shipping and reliance on international trade, was hit hardest during the war, and was the least invested in “protecting the frontier,” as one of the war’s justifications went. So, a number of leaders of the moribund Federalist Party gathered to consider New England departing from the union.

In real life (IRL), the convention’s demands had the bad fortune of reaching Washington at virtually the same time as news of Andrew Jackson’s resounding victory of in New Orleans. Our Yankee secessionists were thus laughed out of town, and the Federalists were a dead party within five years. But suppose that the privations of war were more severe, and New England severed their ties and formed their own country? And suppose that the Midwest and the Southwest followed suit many years later? That’s four different countries, and four distinct houses. Will they each be alike in dignity?

I’m going to make presidential trading cards for all four countries, in the order of their founding. You’ll see the same events covered from different perspectives and one man’s traitor become another’s freedom fighter.

All told that’s going one 125 different president cards. I won’t spoil too much yet, but I can tell you that this will include:

  • 12 IRL unsuccessful major-party presidential candidates
  • 10 IRL unsuccessful major-party vice-presidential candidates
  • 10 IRL secretaries of state
  • 10 persons in my All-Star Senate project from seven years ago on this blog
  • 8 IRL generals
  • 7 IRL professional actors
  • 6 IRL vice-presidents
  • 4 IRL Supreme Court justices
  • 4 IRL Canadians
  • 3 IRL current presidential candidates

Any guesses who might show up? Remember- some folks fall into more than one category and no IRL presidents or presidents in my previous timelines are eligible.

Let’s put this timeline to bed. We’ve seen a number of presidents posit different visions of what America could be: Burr’s quasi-tyranny, Hamilton and Clay’s mercantile dreams replete with a rich network of internal improvements. We’ve seen Foraker and Sousa’s ambitions for America as a global power, as Wood and Taft preferred to avoid costly intervention abroad. Do you prefer Hutchins’ didactic and teacherly presidency, or Kennan’s realpolitik, or Hatfield’s Christian humanism? We conclude this timeline with four individuals, any of whom could have easily been president in a different set of circumstances. I hope you have enjoyed exploring the possibilities that this timeline offers us.

41. Haley Barbour42. John Edwards43. John Kerry44. Paul Ryan

Designer’s notes: I ended the last two timelines with presidents who I found broadly agreeable. Just to make sure that these projects weren’t empty exercises in wish fulfillment or blatant wankery, I decided to end this one on a conservative note–not unfitting given that the United States is a lot more industrial a lot earlier in Dueling Visions.

I also like juxtaposing Birch Bayh’s selflessness in resigning the presidency to care for his wife dying of cancer with John Edwards resigning the presidency in disgrace after cheating on his wife dying of cancer.

Finally, I considered using a site like Fiverr to manipulate a picture of John Kerry so that he had an eyepatch or a distinct scar or some physical sign of his more McCain-like hardship while serving in the military.

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)
  29. Newton Baker (Democratic, Ohio, 1929-1933)
  30. Robert E. Wood (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1933-1941)
  31. Wendell Willkie (Whig Republican, Indiana, 1941-1942)
  32. Robert A. Taft (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1942-1949)
  33. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Democratic, Illinois, 1949-1957)
  34. George F. Kennan (Democratic, New Jersey, 1957-1961)
  35. Nelson A. Rockefeller (Whig Republican, New York, 1961-1969)
  36. Mark O. Hatfield (Whig Republican, Oregon, 1969-1973)
  37. Birch E. Bayh (Democratic, Indiana, 1973-1976)
  38. Reubin Askew (Democratic, Florida, 1976-1981)
  39. Sandra Day O’Connor (Whig Republican, Baja California, 1981-1989)
  40. Harris Wofford (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1989-1997)
  41. Haley Barbour (Whig Republican, Mississippi, 1997-2005)
  42. John Edwards (Democratic, North Carolina, 2005-2008)
  43. John F. Kerry (Democratic, Massachusetts, 2008-2013)
  44. Paul Ryan (Whig Republican, Wisconsin, 2013- )

 

We’re still in the middle of the “Long Winter” with the Holy Roman Empire in the 1970s. Let’s explore what happens next…

37. Birch Bayh38. Reubin Askew39. Sandra Day Oconnor40. Harris Wofford

Designer’s notes: I love Birch Bayh. And I’m a little upset that he never became president in real life. Several years ago, I met James Armstrong, who was the most prominent Methodist pastor in Indiana back in the 60s. Sen. Bayh asked Armstrong to baptize his son Evan. Armstrong, a classic 60s liberal activist churchman who hated the party’s “Third Way” turn in the 1990s, told me that regretted not having held Evan underwater longer.

Also, Hawaii not being a state in this timeline, Hirono’s relatives ended up in Washington state instead.

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)
  29. Newton Baker (Democratic, Ohio, 1929-1933)
  30. Robert E. Wood (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1933-1941)
  31. Wendell Willkie (Whig Republican, Indiana, 1941-1942)
  32. Robert A. Taft (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1942-1949)
  33. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Democratic, Illinois, 1949-1957)
  34. George F. Kennan (Democratic, New Jersey, 1957-1961)
  35. Nelson A. Rockefeller (Whig Republican, New York, 1961-1969)
  36. Mark O. Hatfield (Whig Republican, Oregon, 1969-1973)
  37. Birch E. Bayh (Democratic, Indiana, 1973-1976)
  38. Reubin Askew (Democratic, Florida, 1976-1981)
  39. Sandra Day O’Connor (Whig Republican, Baja California, 1981-1989)
  40. Harris Wofford (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1989-1997)

 

 

Following an “America First” policy, the U.S. sits out the Second World War, which in this timeline was fought by a despotic conglomerate of France, Germany, and Italy calling itself the Holy Roman Empire. The HRE easily overpowers their opponents, and now spans much of Europe. With an expansive, hostile power across the ocean, this is a grim time for American presidents.

33. Robert Maynard Hutchins34. George Kennan35. Nelson Rockefeller36. Mark Hatfield

Designer’s notes: Perhaps nobody was more responsible for the modern ideal of the American university than Robert Maynard Hutchins. The dude was president of the University of Chicago by the time he was 30. What if he, not Wilson, was our academic in the White House? Click here for a take on why he mattered IRL, although I disagree strongly with the article’s blithe dismissal of trigger warnings and micro-aggressions. Also, my favorite Republican of the 20th century, Mark Hatfield, makes an appearance here. Back when there was an intellectually honest strand in white evangelicalism, Hatfield was the paramount evangelical in American politics. He lent his name, alongside my boy, George McGovern, to an unsuccessful rider that would have cut off funding for the Vietnam War in 1970.

Our updated list of presidents in the Dueling Visions timeline:

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)
  29. Newton Baker (Democratic, Ohio, 1929-1933)
  30. Robert E. Wood (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1933-1941)
  31. Wendell Willkie (Whig Republican, Indiana, 1941-1942)
  32. Robert A. Taft (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1942-1949)
  33. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Democratic, Illinois, 1949-1957)
  34. George F. Kennan (Democratic, New Jersey, 1957-1961)
  35. Nelson A. Rockefeller (Whig Republican, New York, 1961-1969)
  36. Mark O. Hatfield (Whig Republican, Oregon, 1969-1973)

So…by making an enemy of France in the early 1800s, consequences are playing out in the 1930s and 1940s. After their defeat in the First World War, Germany, France, and Italy are renewing their alliance, ignoring the terms of the Treaty of Stockholm, and have unified into a new, expansionist Holy Roman Empire, based on a shared heritage under Charlemagne. In such a global crisis, leadership matters.

29. Newton Baker30. Robert E. Wood31. Wendell Willkie32. Robert A. Taft

Designer’s notes: I’m fascinated by a trio of reformist governors who all served in Ohio in the 1910s: Henry T. Hunt of Cincinnati, Brand Whitlock of Toledo, and Newton Baker of Cleveland. I’ve now given each of them the presidency in one or other of my timelines.

1024px-Mayor_H.T._Hunt_of_Cinncinati,_Brand_Whitlock_of_Toledo,_Newton_Baker_of_Cleveland

Presidents of the United States in this timeline:

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)
  29. Newton Baker (Democratic, Ohio, 1929-1933)
  30. Robert E. Wood (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1933-1941)
  31. Wendell Willkie (Whig Republican, Indiana, 1941-1942)
  32. Robert A. Taft (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1942-1949)

 

What’s this? You thought that I had suspended this series because of all the ado surrounding #RockHall2020? The joke’s on you, suckers. Alex Voltaire can walk and chew gum at the same time. Two of our presidents in this batch were most famous for their endeavors outside of politics in this timeline.

25. William Randolph Hearst26. Harry Lane27. John Philip Sousa28. Alexander M. Palmer

Designer’s notes: I really wanted to put Hearst and Sousa in a timeline at some point. Imagine, for a moment, that Hearst narrowly won some political races that he narrowly lost. Or that the most famous composer of marches in history took to politics instead? How would Sousa’s martial attitudes have changed the outcome of the First World War? How would a composer’s mentality affect grand strategy?

Also, I cannot wait for the day when some lazy high school student finds these cards, thinks they are actually presidents, and writes a report on them!

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)