Welcome to the Oval Office, President Gore

Matthew Yglesias gives us a scarily detailed alternate history of the Gore presidency.

The first few months of the Gore administration would have been dominated by everyone remarking on how stupid it was of Vice President Lieberman to have insisted on staying on the ballot in the Connecticut Senate race, thus meaning that would could easily have been a 50-50 Democratic Senate was instead a 51-49 Republican Senate. Various efforts to entice Jim Jeffords into switching parties would fail and you’d have largely seen gridlock until 9/11 produced a massive rally ’round the flag effect. Lots of voices would argue in favor of invading Iraq, but other voices would urge against it. Ultimately, the path of least resistance would prove to be putting a ton of boots on the ground in Afghanistan (hawkish) in a way that made an invasion of Iraq logistically infeasible (dovish) thus sort of splitting the baby. November 2002 would have been a debacle for Republicans who’d have been badly divided between a Gore-hating base and Gore-loving swing voters.

And so on. Yglesias dodges a really wince-inducing counterfactual twist: What if Gore’s national security apparatus, with its continuity from the Clinton team, had prevented 9/11? In that case you still have the 2000-2002 recession, albeit one we pull out of faster. You have a little meddling with tax rates but nothing like the Bush tax cuts. Lower defense spending, higher tax rates – the national debt probably gets reduced before 2004, when Gore wins re-election over John McCain by a 50-47 margin. (An angry left keeps the momentum going for a third party, knowing that sure, life would be better if these venal Democrats were punished for their centrism.) And then you get an even worse housing crisis, because Gore’s economic team and HUD act much like Bush’s did, with more emphasis on home ownership.

Interesting to think about. I’d also recommend Tim Noah’s fantasy of a Reconstruction wherein Andrew Johnson is removed from office.