This video suggests that the only certain impact if John F. Kennedy lived beyond November 22, 1963 would have been a delay in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing segregation, which was stalled in Congress when Kennedy was alive. The national desire to make meaning out of the tragedy of JFK's assassination led President Lyndon Johnson to link social justice, civil rights, outlawing segregation and eliminating poverty to the unfinished legacy of the the martyred Kennedy.
While it is true the Civil Rights Act probably would not have passed as quickly as June 1964, if Kennedy lived, the legislation almost certainly would have become law, perhaps not until after JFK's likely landslide victory over Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election.
Many Kennedy fans believe JFK would not have dramatically escalated the war in Vietnam as Johnson did in 1965, with hundreds of thousands of ground troops and a quagmire until the United States experienced ignominious defeat in the 1970s. Instead, Kennedy might well have cut his losses and withdrawn from Vietnam, and tried to brace the United States for an eventual victory by the Vietnamese nationalist forces of Ho Chi Minh, who with economic aid he would have hoped to flip from alliances with the Soviet Union and Communist China.
Among ardent anti-communists, this would have created a backlash in the United States, a "Who Lost Vietnam?" campaign blaming Kennedy for weakness in the face of a global communist threat. But the failure of the domino theory, which predicted that once Vietnam fell to the communists, the rest of Southeast Asia -- including Thailand and the Philippines -- would also turn communist -- might have lent credibility to JFK's position that Vietnam was not central to America's strategic security interests or to the global struggle against communism.
"If JFK lived" has been the subject of many books, both fiction and non-fiction. An article in The Wire, a publication of Atlantic Media, called it "history's favorite guessing game."
No escalation in Vietnam; no counter-culture, no generation gap and no hippies; a successful war on poverty in the US, establishing a guaranteed annual income; a host of civil rights and gun control legislation; no race riots but large-scale racial reconciliation; rapprochement with Cuba and detente with the Soviet Union; no public disillusionment with government resulting from Vietnam and the Watergate scandal that didn't occur are some of the positive counter-factuals that might have occurred if Kennedy lived.
Or, scandalous revelations of Kennedy's reckless sexual behavior; he is implicated in the murder of Marilyn Monroe and his mafia ties are revealed (neither one of these connections has been proven); he is defeated in 1964 or impeached in 1965-67; no civil rights legislation is enacted; Vietnam becomes a quagmire (as it did. The space program is cancelled and the Soviets land the first man on the moon (Kennedy wasn't actually that confident the goal of landing a man on the moon could be met); acrimonious public divorce from Jackie; JFK's early death from Addison's Disease; and right-wing oppression in reaction to racial riots sparked by the lack of civil rights legislation are among the negative counter-factuals authors have tried to make credible if Kennedy lived.
One of the best or most credible alternate histories on JFK is by Jeff Greenfield, a journalist and former aide to Robert Kennedy: "If JFK Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy."
- "If JFK Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy," by Jeff Greenfield
- domino theory
- If JFK Lived, an article in The Wire, on "history's favorite guessing game."
- Google search: If JFK Lived?