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Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan
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Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  782 ratings  ·  139 reviews
A brilliant and brilliantly entertaining tour de force of American politics from one of journalism's most acclaimed commentators.

History turns on a dime. A missed meeting, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically. Nowhere is this truer than in the field where Jeff Greenfield has spent most of his working life, American politics, and in three
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published January 28th 2011)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Matt Mitrovich
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've made no secret on how I disprove of America presidential alternate histories. Next to the American Civil War, it is one of the easiest alternate histories to get wrong. When an alternate historian changes the results of an election they are doing one of two things: either the world will be a utopia when the loser wins or the world will be a dystopia when the loser wins. There is rarely any middle ground.

Then I read Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
History turns on a dime. It is dynamic, not static. A missed meeting, a chance encounter, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically (from the inside flap).

In Then Everything Changed, political analyst Jeff Greenfield gives us three events in 20th century American politics and presents the 'what might have been' scenarios. First is a little known attempt on John F Kennedy's life in December 1960, after election day but before the Electoral College met to confirm the
Nov 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
I finished THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED quickly but I grew more and more annoyed with it as I did so. I'm up for a good counter-factual, and the scenarios explored in the book are not your standard what-if-JFK-had-lived scenario, but Greenfield's narratives feature a number of bad habits that writers of alternate history often fall into: anachronistic jokes, awkwardly shoe-horning in famous people (and famous quotes) into the story, and active wish fulfillment (in this case of the boomer high ...more
Noah Gittell
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Asking the question - "what if?" - is a serious and delicate proposition. Looking at back at one's life to wonder what would have happened if a few key moments had turned out differently can lead to an innocent fantasy or a darker path of regret. Would I still be alive? Would I be happier? What would I be doing with my life? These questions are no simple matter. Greenfield respects this notion by crafting both a serious alternative-narrative of key moments in recent Presidential history, while ...more
Mal Warwick
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: trade-fiction
There is a subspecies of the human race that is afflicted, usually from birth, with an insatiable thirst for politics. This book was written for them — and, to this political junkie, what a book it is!

Here we see one perspective on what might have happened had a little known but all too real would-be-assassin succeeded in killing John F. Kennedy in 1960, after the election but even before the Electoral College met to certify his winning the Presidency. With Lyndon Johnson ascending to the White
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Gives you a lot to think about...what if JFK had been assassinated before the electoral college had cast its votes? How would that constitutional problem been solved? What if RFK hadn't been assassinated in California and he won the presidency? What social programs would we have today? Would we have gotten out of Vietnam earlier? The most interesting segment was on Carter and Ford. What if Ford hadn't flubbed the debate question about Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and had beaten Carter? ...more
Billy Roper
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author is a real political insider with an intimate knowledge and understanding of Presidential politics, and the mechanisms by which D.C. functions. This book is highly recommended for any political junkie or fan of alternate history.
Matthew Kresal
Dec 20, 2019 rated it liked it
It's easy to believe that historical events are inevitable. That events both in the distant past and within living memory had to happen. Of course, that isn't the case as books such as writer Jeff Greenfield's Then Everything Changed remind us.

Across three novellas/essays, Greenfield postulates scenarios where recent American presidencies could have been very different. Imagine a world where a suicide bomber killed JFK days before the Electoral College confirmed the 1960 election, leading to
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Then everything changed, or not. The first section (JFK/LBJ) did change everything in a dramatic and OMG way.

The second section (RFK) was mostly nothing but backroom politics in a “who cares” way. And, unfortunately, this section was much longer. The third section looked to be more of the same so I returned the book to my bookshelf.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, bs-pabluim
I had no idea Jeff Greenfield was this stupid. But, he is.

First, the style is interesting. Novellas rather than short essays allow for much more depth.

The first one was fairly good, on Richard Pavlick actually killing Jack Kennedy. There was little in the way of counterfactual history beyond the first part. A limited nuclear war over Cuba after the U2 shutdown is possible. And, LBJ never overcoming a sympathy for Jack is possible. OTOH, we saw what LBJ did with Jack’s actual death. So, who
Orville Jenkins
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent, well-written, even riveting, analysis of American political history in the last half of the 20th century.

This work represents a new, productive and insightful approach to history, called Alternate History. The approach is to review a key event or factor and develop what might have happened if one important event had turned out differently.

Greenfield analyzes these Presidencies this way. What if John F Kennedy had been assassinated after his election, but before he was
Tony Heyl
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a lot of fun for a history/politics junkie like me. Greenfield, a CNN contributor, takes three actual instances of major events that nearly happened and then alters history. Instead of being shot in 1963, JFK is killed by a suicide bomber in the late fall of 1960, after his election but before the inauguration, making LBJ President for the Cuban Missile Crisis and very much altering how the civil rights struggles happened. (There had been a bomber in 1960, but he stopped himself at the ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
One for the political junkies but also an interesting take on alt-history. Small differences may make a difference.
Greenfield certainly knows his modern American politics. This could well be read as a primer on modern politics in the U.S..
He can certainly tell a story and tell it very well.
Zachary Anderson
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. It took on three what if events and used historical data to justify certain paths political avenues took. I loved the arguments presented, though some of the endings took much suspension of disbelief. A fun read.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
In the end, it feels like an entire book of speculation arranged just to end with a weird and mean Clinton joke.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Because I am such a sucker for “what if?” types of books, “Then Everything Changed” is right up my alley. I heard the author interviewed on the radio…a few months ago? The idea of a book about what MIGHT have happened if a few key events had/had not taken place in the political arena was fascinating to me.

I found myself absolutely engrossed in the well researched and well supported alternate political realities that author Jeff Greenfield laid out. Instead of taking some obvious “What ifs?” like
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoy alternate history; in fact, I write it. I sure don't write it like this, though. Mr. Greenfield offers a very well researched book that contains three separate sections, each starting with a minor point of divergence and examining the effect on history, addressing many aspects.

In the first section, an assassin kills John F. Kennedy after the election but before he takes office. In the second, Robert Kennedy doesn't get assassinated. In the third, Gerald Ford adeptly recovers from a
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Let's get the elephant out of the way first: I'm shelving this as nonfiction because of the volumes of research used to create these alternate histories, and because it read more like a nonfiction work than a novel. That said, obviously, there are liberties taken here with history that make it entirely fictional.

What if JFK had been assassinated as president-elect? What if Robert Kennedy had been saved? What if Ford had handled just one question better in the debate?

For someone interested in but
Debbie J
I think Then Everything Changed resembles a history textbook, but with fantasy mixed in. The problem is, if you don’t know what truly happened, you may at times have trouble separating the fiction from the facts.

Author Jeff Greenfield shows here a rich writing style and one which includes some stylistic choices I saw as annoying. First he takes real game-changing events and both has them happen in different time frames and involve other people.

Next he has noted D.C. insiders posit the absurdity
Michael Turashoff
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting interpretation of what might've happened had history been turned in the other direction at a few pivotal moments in regards to the president of the United States. An interesting read, however, in some cases I think it dragged on.

Maybe it would be more enjoyable for people who have lived through the era. An era that mainly began with JFK as president. My parents' generation.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: wplc-holdings
Political events - alternate history - sounds like a great combo, and the first of 3 situations held my rapt attention, even the dilemma about how the electoral college works if the person with the most electoral votes dies before the electors actually vote. The latter two are more political maneuvering without significant historical change - other than the Iran / Iraq / Israel changes.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting look at what could have happened if specific historical atrocities hadn't occurred. The insight that Jeff Greenfield provides makes you almost believe that his alternative history actually happened.
Jim Kinkead
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too long

Good book on alternative history but too long for my tastes. Too much back story and not enough front story
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Was really looking forward to this. Turned out to be boring.
Danilo DiPietro
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intriguing and very credible alternate scenarios for some key historical events. And you learn a lot about the politics of the times along the way.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Greenfield creates a wonderful piece of alternate history meant to entertain the history and political buff alike. His three novellas posit that a single change in history can greatly alter everything that happens thereafter, leaving the ‘new truth’ totally unrecognizable from the known reality that history birthed. With a strong cast of historically accurate characters and plausible scenarios, Greenfield uses his experience in the political world and his smooth writing style to create ‘what if’ ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was prepared to give this 5 stars until the inexcusably weak ending. Great idea and almost great execution though.
I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program, and thank you very much for that. I'm not sure what prompted me to enter the drawing, as I generally prefer reading fiction. I do remember watching Mr. Greenfield do political commentary on television when I was a teenager, and I remember being impressed by his command of the language. Upon winning a copy of the book, I became alarmed that I was about to read a book written in overly academic and esoteric language, thereby making ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Most of us are aware of how much life can change in a minute: A gunshot kills someone. A gun shot misses killing someone. A person says the wrong thing and damages a relationship. A person says or explains everything correctly. Using fact and fiction in THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED, Jeff Greenfield puts this to a test by exploring how the United States might have been different if the actual scenarios had differed.
In the first incident, an extremist planned to run a car filled with explosives into
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Jeff Greenfield (b. 1943) is one of the most prominent political writers in the United States. Born in New York City, he went to college in Wisconsin, and received a law degree from Yale. He entered politics in the late 1960s, as a speechwriter for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and has covered the beltway ever since, contributing to Time, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and, in a lighter vein, ...more
“There is no such thing as political science, but there are tenancies so strong that they might as well be called laws of nature.” 6 likes
“In politics, Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck. Daffy's always going berserk, jumping up and down, yelling. Bugs's got that sly smile, like he always knows what's up, like nothing can ruffle him.” 6 likes
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