The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), the States or simply America, is a federal nation consisting of 51 American states. Located geographically in North America, between the countries of Canada (to the north) and Mexico (to the south), it is one of the largest and most populous nations in the world. The geography of the United States also includes the Pacific Ocean island chain of Hawaii and Alaska, which borders the northwest region of Canada, along with the province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. Since 1985 the country includes Vietnam as a state.
Information in Timeline.
World War III
By 1992, Robert Redford has been elected as President of the United States. As part of a government investigation, he revealed to the world on November 2, 1992 the true intent and nature of the New York City Massacre perpetrated by Adrian Veidt. While this investigation was ostensibly done to bring about closure to disquiet surrounding the events of 1985, it instead led to a collapse of the global order. By November 22, riots had broken out in most major American cities, to the point that the Vice President appeared to have suffered a nervous breakdown and was holding the Israeli Prime Minister hostage. In response to an invasion of Poland by Russia, Redford authorizes the launching of nuclear missiles at Russia, triggering World War III. In response, New York City, and many other cities across the United States, are destroyed.
Following the events of 11/2 (also known as the Dimensional Incursion Event, or D.I.E.), the United States made peace with the Soviet Union and it seemed that a new golden age of political and technological prosperity was at hand. In 1992, Robert Redford was elected President of the United States, having capitalized on funding from Veidt Enterprises as part of a larger "blue wave" that empowered the Democratic Party. However, a rift between Adrian Veidt and Redford apparently developed, which culminated in the Campaign Finance Reform and Donor Disclosure Act of 1993, which restricted private lobbying to political individuals or groups within the US Government.
Redford's tenure as President, which lasted well into the early 21st Century thanks to the repeal of the 22nd Amendment under President Nixon, was marked by a wave of (controversial) new liberal movements and legislation, such as the implementation of the Victims of Racial Violence Act (derogatorily referred to as "Redfordations"), which saw reparations handed out to survivors and direct descendants of 50 incidents of “certifiable atrocity perpetrated by structures or agents of white supremacy” in the form of a lifetime tax exemption. While ostensibly done to aid racial reconciliation, it made many white citizens resentful, and spurred the creation of white supremacist groups such as the Seventh Kavalry in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which began a violent campaign of disruption against both the government and black citizens in order to seek retribution. The rise of violent white supremacist activity led to the passage of the Defense of Police Act resulting in the creation of masked police forces in the United States under the Redford administration, especially following an event known as White Night, where members of the Seventh Kavalry invaded the homes of police officers of Tulsa P.D., killing them en masse.
Redford's term also saw a rise in Luddite-like trends in the United States, spurred by paranoia stemming from claims that Doctor Manhattan-based technologies, such as lithium batteries in cars, could be carcinogenic. This severely hampered the growth of any equivalent to the Internet or social media in Watchmen's alternate United States. However, as of 2019, some aspects of this technological suspicion seem to have died down--electric car usage (and the use of airships) came back to the public eye.
The paranoia of the post-11/2 years would not be limited solely to technology--indeed, it seemed as if the events of the D.I.E., "squid storms" that deposited miniature versions of the Alien Monster all over the US and the world became common. Given the nature of post-D.I.E.-related trauma, special doomsday shelters, colloquially referred to as "Squid Shelters", were built across the USA in response to these events.
In the TV series, sometime after the events of 11/2 the country changed the design of its flag, changing the blue field of stars from a square in the upper left to a large circle in the middle. This alteration most likely occurred in July 1986 since Federal law specifies that new flag designs become official on the first 4th of July following the admission of a state (Vietnam became a state in October 1985). The old design can be seen in the Nixonville trailer park, and appears to have taken on some kind of a symbolic meaning for white nationalists.
Differences from OTL
Because Watchmen takes place in an alternate history of United States society, much of its 20th Century history has been altered by the author. The United States has won the Vietnam War, due largely to the intervention of Dr. Manhattan. Additionally, Richard Nixon has been elected to more than two terms as President after a change in the United States Constitution, specifically the 22nd Amendment that limited a president to no more than two four year terms. Most vehicles, cars, trucks, etc, are powered by lithium batteries, a process that was unfeasible in the past before Dr. Manhattan was able to synthesize lithium on a large scale.
The United States of America in the Watchmen universe follows an alternate history from Our Timeline (OTL). The defining feature of this divergence is that superheroes - "costumed vigilantes" - actually existed, starting in the 1930s. Almost all did not have super-powers, with the drastic exception of Dr. Manhattan, part of the second generation of superheroes who emerged in the 1960s. There was no single, crucial Point of Divergence from OTL, but gradual changes accumulated over time - ultimately leading to drastic ripple-effects by the present day of the graphic novel in 1985.
While the Timeline article covers differences from OTL in more detail, broad cultural/social/political differences include:
- The first generation of costumed vigilantes began to appear in the late 1930s. The main vigilantes in New York City coalesced as the Minutemen. Because they were just normal humans with no super-powers, their large-scale geo-political impact was minimal. The group was active from 1939 until they split up in 1949. Some individual members remained active into the 1950s but were feeling their age, and facing pressure from the HUAC in Congress.
- Because the exploits of these real-life superheroes were so famous, the entire genre of superhero comics never caught on: Superman #1 was published, along with a few other Golden Age titles, but after the 1940s they all faded into obscurity. Instead of superhero comics, since the 1950s or so to the present, the main popular genre of comic books are swashbuckling pirate adventure stories, such as Tales of the Black Freighter.
- Around 1960, a massive famine struck southern India - this is vaguely attributed to wars being different in the divergent timeline. International famine relief efforts continue in India through at least the early 1980s, as tattered posters of Ozymandias performing for India famine relief charities can still be seen on New York City streets at late as 1985. Since 1960 this resulted in a massive diaspora from the Indian subcontinent, with so many immigrating to the USA that by 1985, Indian restaurants and fast-food franchises (such as Gunga Diner) are much more common than the comparable Chinese take-out restaurants of OTL.
- A second generation of costumed vigilantes rises from 1958 to 1962, and continues to operate until the Keene Act of 1977 outlaws masked adventurers, at which point most of them retire. This new generation briefly tries to come together as a new iteration of the Minutemen called the Crimebusters, but it falls apart after its first meeting.
- Doctor Manhattan emerges in 1960 as the world's first truly super-powered individual, the result of a million-in-one physics test accident involving an intrinsic field separator. The resulting being has essentially god-like powers of telekinesis, transportation, and transmutation, as well as prescience (of his own future, not omniscient knowledge of everyone's future). Dr. Manhattan's arrival is an exaggerated parallel to the impact of the post-war atomic power revolution in OTL, particularly its acceleration in the 1960s.
- Because of the existence of Doctor Manhattan, genetics, quantum physics, engineering, and other sciences, start to leap forward from that year on. Due to Dr. Manhattan using his transmutation powers to create vast new amounts of lithium, electric-battery powered cars are rapidly adopted and become the new society-wide standard by at least the 1980s. This also diminishes the USA's reliance on foreign oil. New technologies also allow for practical airships, so dirigibles become a common sight in major cities.
- Paralleling the era of the second generation costumed adventurers is the Vietnam War, gradually escalating from 1955 onward. Unlike OTL, in Watchmen President Richard Nixon makes the unprecedented move of requesting that Dr. Manhattan personally intervene to end the bloody conflict. In 1971 Dr. Manhattan is deployed to Vietnam in "Operation Wrath of God", resulting in the total defeat of North Vietnamese forces within only two months. Soon afterward, Vietnam is officially incorporated into the USA as the 51st state (somewhat like earlier colonial efforts in the Pacific, in Hawaii and the Philippines).
- Vietnam's incorporation into the USA may have also contributed to the relatively low number of Asian immigrants in the mainland 48 states by 1985: there were no waves of refugees from Vietnam to North America, and refugees from communist China would go to nearby Vietnam instead of cross the Pacific.
- The existence of Dr. Manhattan does not shock the Soviet Union into submission: instead it makes it feel backed into a corner, heightening Cold War tensions, and increasing nuclear brinkmanship. The United States' victory in Vietnam in 1971 exacerbates these tensions even further.
- Symptoms of these tensions and heightened fears of nuclear war are seen in several aspects of pop culture, as as the popular brand of candy called "Mmeltdowns".
- With a massive swell of popular support after achieving victory in Vietnam, Nixon successfully campaigns to abolish Presidential term limits, and is re-elected to third and fourth terms, and eventually an unprecedented fifth term after the 1984 election. Eddie Blake, the masked vigilante known as the Comedian, works with the US government and is frequently deployed overseas to knock over third world socialist governments. Privately, Blake is also deployed to quietly eliminate Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, thus the Watergate Scandal never occurred and did not end Nixon's political career as it did in OTL.
- By the late 1970s through 1985, society in the United States became increasingly stagnant and depressed, as people felt locked in the inevitable march towards nuclear confrontation. Unlike this period in OTL, where communist victories ultimately led to a period of détente, the polar opposite happened: widespread communist defeats led to constant nuclear brinkmanship and saber-rattling. Emblematic of this it the cosmetics and perfume ad campaign for Nostalgia-brand products, symbolizing how society had become disillusioned with the future compared to the past.
- In 1977, a widespread police strike led to passage of the Keene Act, outlawing costumed vigilantes who did not register with the US Government. Most retired into obscurity or went public, while Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian registered (as they were already working for the government). Only Rorschach continued to operate as an outlaw vigilante.
- The repeal of the 22nd Amendment resulted in Richard Nixon running for six consecutive terms, while Robert Redford ran on seven consecutive terms. Subsequently, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump never become President of the United States in the Watchmen universe.
- Since 1985 the country includes Vietnam as a state and Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand as commonwealths, also giving the country a land border with China, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia because of these 'Asiatic Americas'.
- The admission of Vietnam as a state, and Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand as commonwealths would mean that the US population (minus the 3 million who died on 11/2) would be approximately 572.05 million in 2020, as opposed to the 329.5 million in OTL. 261.45 million American citizens would be of Asian decent (mostly those in the Southeast Asian commonwealths and Vietnam), making up 45.7% of the country's population.
- As of 2019, Vietnam is still a state of the US, but is shown to be strained under terrorist attacks committed by the pro-independence Vietnamese Liberation Front (VLF).
- The alternate United States of the mainstream post-Flashpoint DC Universe is also shown in Doomsday Clock, under the presidency of Donald Trump.
- The region comprising the State of Vietnam and the Commonwealths of Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand, is referred to as ‘The Asiatic Americas’. https://www.hbo.com/content/dam/hbodata/series/watchmen/peteypedia/06/lady-trieu-fact-or-fiction.pdf