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President Bill Douglas

 by Scott Palter

Author says: what if FDR had selected Bill Douglas as his Veep? muses Scott Palter. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s). Final Sword Productions 2010

April 12th 1945,

the sad, single term Presidency of Bill Douglas which began on this day was born in a smear that ended in a debacle.

The sad, single term presidency of Bill DouglasFDR had sent two names to the Chicago convention in 1944 - he would take either Truman or Douglas in place of the discredited Wallace. Douglas's liberal backers solved the problem by leaking supposed police reports showing that rather than being associated with the Pendergast machine but clean, Truman had in fact been a bag man for the mobbed up KC Democrats. It was a lie. Truman had been put up to keep an exurban office in friendly hands but was himself clean [the same could not be said of his friends and associates]. However with liberal prodding the Chicago papers ran with the story long enough to sink him at the convention. Needless to say he never forgave Douglas or the liberals, remaining a persistent critic from his Senate seat.

"In actuality, of course, the Japanese were seeking peace as far back as the spring of 1945. Truman, however, was dogmatic on the issue of unconditional surrender--until, ironically, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when he decided he could afford to drop what had earlier been a non-negotiable demand: the abolition of the Japanese imperial system. Hirohito would keep his throne, albeit as a figurehead (he largely was one anyway) and eventually pass it to his son Akihito. As for China, even inout history, aftr the fall of Peking/Beijing/Peiping (take your pick), Republicans bellowed that Truman had "abandoned" Chiang and "lost" China and that there had to be a pony in there somewhere (treason, that is). And it's unlikely that a President Douglas, armed with the Bomb, would have accepted partitions of Iran and Norway. In the case of Iran, in 1946 Truman explicitly threatened the Soviets with nuiclear attack if they attempted to enforce a partition. Douglas might not have been so blunt, but I don't doubt the threat would be there. By '46, Douglas would have had more reason to fear the right than the left in domestic politics" - reader's commentsClick to promote the site by sharing this article with your friends on Facebook.The US public may not have realized that in reelecting FDR in 1944 they were electing a walking corpse but the key players in the Democratic party were quite aware. Labor and the liberals knew they could work with Douglas. The urban bosses and Dixie had preferred Truman. When Douglas's presidency turned sour this split would manifest itself. Douglas offered milder terms to Japan at Potsdam breaking with FDR's Unconditional Surrender. He was still not mild enough to get the Japanese militarists to face reality. It took two atom bombs for them to see the light. Dougals's liberal supporters never fully forgave him for using those weapons. Wallace from his perch in the Commerce Department led the critics.

"Truman never changed the Japanese terms. Japan did so unilaterally. When the US public went wild for joy at hearing the news Truman let it slide. It was negotiation by radio broadcast. Truman's problem was he felt he lacked the political strength to change FDR's terms. He knew quite well he was an accidental President with no mandate. Douglas was to the left of Truman and to the right of Wallace but closer to Wallace which is where I hypothesized his positions from - two thirds of the way from Truman to Wallace 1945-46 and half and half after the 1946 elections. The Republicans were going to have a cow over China policy, over every attempt at appeasement and over South Korea [Rhee was plugged into the coalition of missionaries and anti-Communists that we call the China Lobby]. However the US public mostly didn't care. Public didn't like Communists, foreign or domestic. That said there was zero appetite 1945-47 for a larger military much less any risk of war. Public wanted demobilization and a return to a civilian economy so after 16 years [1929-45] they could get on with their lives in peace and prosperity. Stalin had to work hard at changing their minds and this took years. It took the Czech coup and Berlin Blockade to really change public opinion [and a big part of the change was that the last of the WW2 vets had been demobilized]." - author's response to left panel commentThe postwar demobilization and conversion to civilian production was a debacle. The unions ran wild with the country repeatedly paralyzed by strikes. Truman called for decisive presidential action, especially against the railroad strike. Douglas would not break with the unions. Inflation skyrocketed and the piecemeal removal of controls made matters worse. Douglas's attempts to keep Lend Lease going took a good part of the blame for the mess. The UK was bankrupt and Europe and Japan were starving. So the need was there but the American public begrudged the expense. The war was over and they wanted to forget the world existed.

Douglas's policy towards Communism exacerbated matters. Trying to avoid a break with the Democratic Party's left, Douglas abandoned Chiang, accepted partitions of Iran and Norway, allowed the Soviets to force Turkey to part with territory and bases and watched Greece torn apart by civil war. He kept trying to find a way to work with his old left allies internally and refused to accept that many Americans regarded domestic Communists as traitors.

This crystallized in the 1946 elections. Douglas campaigned for his party on conciliation with the Soviets, an end to segregation and extension on the New Deal. The Republicans captured both houses of Congress and a host of state legislatures. Most of the south walked out of the party to form independent state Democratic parties dedicated to segregation and white supremacy. The victorious Republican slogan was ?had enough'.

"This would hand the Soviets much higher ground in the Cold War. If they threw around the extra weight, America in its impotent position would either bow and get rolled over or make a firm stand, possibly leading to war." - reader's commentsFaced with a heavily Republican Congress Douglas was forced to make some compromises. He was forced to break with the Soviets. The Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe was launched. "Actually the Cold War changes from Stalin's extra territory are marginal.  Giving Stalin Yugoslavia, Albania, Norwegian Lapland, north Iran, northeastern Turkey, north Greece, South Korea and a few bases at the Dardanelles simply doesn't change much.  These were marginal territories at best.  The big tokens on the board at the end of WW2 were Western Europe and Japan.  We got them both and held them 1945-48 against a fairly large pro-Soviet internal movement in those countries [well armed in the case of France and Italy] plus the US public's complete disinterest in anything beyond bringing the boys home and getting rid of economic controls/back to normalcy.  At the margin Stalin's forces are a bit better placed for a new war but again at the margin the Western European publics more directly see that this is their fight.  One could make a case in OTL that Stalin only held what the Red Army took in battle and the whole Cold War was American hysteria.  Postwar advances such as north Greece and the northeast of Turkey more clearly shows the Soviets are directly expansionist. " - author's response to left panel commentChiang was supported on Taiwan. Greece was partitioned and the rump of Turkey was given large scale US aid although the Soviet bases at Gallipoli remained.A German Federal Republic was formed out of the allied occupation zones in Germany and Austria but at the price of giving up the allied sectors of Berlin and Vienna. Macarthur was replaced in Japan by Collins and the semi-New Deal experiments were ended. Instead Japan was rebuilt as a bulwark against Soviet power. Several million Korean refugees fled there when Kim destroyed South Korea [Douglas had evacuated the US occupation force rather than sully his hands dealing with the authoritarian and unpleasant Rhee regime]. Douglas also danced on Palestine. The UN proved unable to approve either partition or an extension of the British mandate so the British withdrew and the place descended into chaos out of which an Israeli state was born with little international recognition beyond the Soviet Block.

Domestically the high points of the new Congress were an anti-lynching bill [which in turn required a large force of US marshals to enforce] and Douglas's desegregation of the armed forces.The cost of these advances were major race riots in several dozen cities as the white public rebelled against being pushed and the newly empowered blacks pushed back. The Taft-Hartley Act was met by another round of massive strikes, these overtly political. Douglas sealed his political fate by always siding with the unions.

"I never heard of this guy. I wonder what would have happened if the real truth about the God-King's health had gotten out to the US public? " - reader's commentsThe 1948 election was an anti-climax. Despite all the coddling, Wallace ran for President anyway. Strom Thurmond ran a regional states rights campaign in Dixie. Douglas and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota ran as avid New Dealers but the public had had enough. Thurmond carried 14 southern and border states. Dewey carried the rest with 50 percent of the vote.

The icing on the cake came two weeks before the election when Stalin's armies marched into Belgrade to bring Yugoslavia back into the Soviet orbit.

Exposed as impotent at home and abroad, Douglas went off into retirement leaving the Democratic Party to wish they had chosen Truman.

Author says in our timeline: When, in early 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided not to actively support the renomination of Vice President Henry A. Wallace at the party's national convention, a shortlist of possible replacements was drafted. The names on the list included former Senator and Supreme Court Justice James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, former Senator (and future Supreme Court justice) Sherman Minton and former Governor and High Commissioner to the Philippines Paul McNutt of Indiana, House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas, Senator Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky, Senator Harry S Truman of Missouri, and Douglas. Five days before the vice presidential nominee was to be chosen at the convention, July 15, Committee Chairman Robert E. Hannegan received a letter from Roosevelt stating that his choice for the nominee would be either "Harry Truman or Bill Douglas". After releasing the letter to the convention on July 20, the nomination went without incident, and Truman was nominated on the second ballot..
To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

Scott Palter, Guest Historian of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Final Sword Productions 201078

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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