As a chronic history nerd and a depraved bibliophile, I have long been a shameless sucker for alternate histories. Whether it’s watching the Alternate History Hub Youtube channel (which I highly recommend) or indulging in obscure alternate history short stories, I eat it up. But apparently, telling people that I have read all 11 novels in Harry Turtledove’s “Southern Victory” series, detailing the historical and international socioeconomic impact of a Confederate victory in the Civil War, lowers my chances of finding a fulfilling relationship. Is alternate history just fan fiction for history nerds? Probably. So, I usually avoid bringing this topic up on dates or just out in society in general.
But I also think alternate history serves a purpose in looking forward. While every history teacher and myself alike will (correctly) peddle that knowing history is key to understanding the present and future, I would extend alternate history to be part of this exercise. Not all alternate history serves a purpose, like the Robert Sheckley short story where Michael Dukakis wins the 1988 election despite secretly being an alien, but a lot of it can.
To demonstrate, I created a Hillary Clinton victory scenario to demonstrate why her loss in 2016 is better for the Democratic Party, and by extension, America, in the long term. Not that I didn’t support Hillary Clinton, nor will ever regret avidly doing so, but I take the fairly unpopular opinion that Trump’s victory has rejuvenated and even saved the modern Democratic Party.
When I saw Clinton in the news again recently, she was at UT, and her former advisor Mark Penn casually predicted she would make yet another run for the presidency in 2020. I violently cringed at the possibility, and I think this is an opportune time to set up this alternate timeline.
It’s the morning of November 9, 2016. Liberals across America awaken rejoiced that Hillary Clinton actually campaigned in Wisconsin and Michigan and has been elected as the 45th President of the United States by a margin of 296-242 electoral votes, carrying Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Hampshire, winning the popular vote along the way. Millions of Trump supporters, however, awaken disgusted and angered. They are further agitated when Donald Trump, who has refused to concede, hits Twitter with claims of voter fraud by the Democrats. I’m sure he’d do this — he did it in our timeline where he won.
Many drawn out, miserable legal battles occur throughout November and December. The nation is forced to slam down another glass of scotch while watching the floating heads on CNN endlessly debate over potential recounts and the validity of Republican claims. Trump, who has still not conceded, continues to use his position to rile up his loyal followers. Election conspiracy theories, spouted by Trump’s mouthpieces Kellyanne Conway and Sean Hannity, soon trickle into the right-wing mainstream despite the protests of figures like John McCain and John Kasich.
The Clinton transition team is forced to spend time fighting these claims and increasing president-elect Clinton’s legitimacy in the eyes of the American public. Inauguration Day finally comes, but the mood is ruined by the House Freedom Caucus which has boycotted the event, pro-Trump protesters chanting “Not my president!,” and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). In a show of force, Chaffetz has already filed the Articles of Impeachment. Chaffetz, who had come to prominence investigating Clinton, discussed the idea of a day one impeachment in October 2016, along with several other House Republicans.
Utilizing their two-House majority, Chaffetz, along with Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and Peter King (R-NY) organize a lot of Clinton-oriented House Committees. Here’s an abridged list:
- A renewed Benghazi Committee.
- The Clinton Foundation Committee, investigating pay-for-play allegations within the Clinton Foundation.
- The Obstruction of Justice Committee, subpoenaing Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton for information on their meeting.
- The Wikileaks Forever Committee, investigating Secretary of State John Podesta’s leaked emails.
- The Sore Loser Committee, investigating electoral voter fraud.
- The Monica Lewinsky/Whitewater/Bill Clinton 2: Electric Boogaloo Committee, no explanation needed.
The ensuing impeachment overshadows everything President Clinton does. In the meantime, Donald Trump launches Trump TV with the help of Boris Epshteyn and right-wing news syndicate Sinclair Broadcasting, a Trump-run news network conceived pre-election. Regular contributors such as Kellyanne Conway, Tomi Lahren, and Charlie Kirk stir the pot, oftentimes with fake news, and rally right-wingers for an impeachment showdown.
Clinton easily survives her Senate trial by a largely party line vote of 49 in favor of removal to 51 against (all Democrats joined by Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain), as two-thirds is required for removal. But this episode destroys her credibility. Unlike her husband, whose popularity increased and whose party gained seats following his own impeachment, Hillary Clinton’s name alone is toxic and her popularity dips to 35 percent. Would she resign? Probably not, but I only say that because I shudder to think about the monstrosity of a Tim Kaine presidency.
President Clinton nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. He very narrowly makes it through, by a vote of 51-49. Justice Kennedy decides not to retire, not wanting to be replaced on the court by a liberal. Her successful appointment of Garland — and I’m being generous here because in that climate, even this might have been denied — would prove to be the only domestic accomplishment of the Clinton administration. While Congressional Republicans can’t touch the Affordable Care Act and tax policy, they impede her in any other way possible, grounding any legislation she introduces into dust.
The NRA and Republicans strike down attempts made in gun control, despite mass shootings in Las Vegas and at Stoneman Douglas High School, and subsequent youth activism. Forces on the left push Clinton to introduce living wages and paid leave legislation which go absolutely nowhere. Any attempts made at hurricane relief in 2017 will be scrutinized and probably lead to creating yet another House committee. Legislation combating climate change, voter suppression, or other problems never make it out of committee.
The economy continues to be fine. But who cares? Trump’s barrage from Trump TV convinces millions otherwise, despite Press Secretary Jennifer Palmieri’s insistence that it is “fake news.” The nation is more divided than ever in recent history. The alt-right, even more organized because of Trump’s defeat, are empowered to march in the streets of cities like Charlottesville and others and may even take more drastic action. They see President Clinton as an anti-Christ who must be stopped at all costs.
In the realm of foreign policy, President Clinton ups sanctions against the Russians for election influence, despite the protests of Donald Trump. She keeps the U.S. in the Paris Accord and does not undermine our NAFTA or NATO allies. Though promoting an American foreign policy typical post-WWII, she only gives ammunition to the idea of a globalist, leftist cabal. However, Clinton backs out of the TPP as Trump did in our timeline. She had already retracted her support for the deal during the campaign to appease those to her left. President Clinton follows through in the White House to avoid alienating any more of her dwindling political allies.
The 2018 midterms come, and the long-forecasted “red wave” turns into a “red tsunami.” Mobilized by the impeachment proceedings and sheer vitriol for President Clinton, the Republicans move in full force. They capture 35 new House seats, giving them a demoralizing 271-164 seats over the Democrats. Pre-Clinton, Republican operatives salivated over their 242-193 lead after 2010 but never figured that such a margin as 271-164 would be possible.
In the Senate, they take six more seats, holding onto every incumbent and knocking off Democrats Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly, Sherrod Brown, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Tammy Baldwin, and whatever Democrat who holds Vice President Kaine’s old seat. The worst is seen in Texas, where “exciting” Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke receives only 38% of the vote against Ted Cruz. Additionally, across the country, local offices, state legislature, and gubernatorial seats are stacked in favor of Republicans. With redistricting on its way soon enough, the infrastructure would be in place for twenty years of Republican control of the House…
It is now 2020. Donald Trump may run. But if not, the seeds of his revolution have already been sown. Maybe someone forged from the Trump fire runs. The time is ripe for a “Trumpet,” as the Republican base would be more Trumpian than ever. Imagine a Trump in Reagan’s clothing emerging. Scary thought if you’re a Democrat, right? Whoever runs, be it a Nikki Haley supporting a border wall and Muslim ban, or Trump himself, the Republicans are unstoppable against President Clinton.
President Clinton loses even on her most positive front: the economy. She claims “jobs not mobs,” citing economic success, but like actual 2016 she does not convey a cohesive economic platform. Unlike in 2016 when she could have effectively made economics the center of her campaign, this time around it would be politically impossible. With so many holes in the sinking Clinton ship and so few pieces of gum to plug them, the campaign would once again be consumed by dealing with the petty, tabloid issues.
Moreover, even if she was able to make economics the centerpiece, would the American public listen with all the external noise? No way. As LBJ crudely but correctly put it, in the midst of the anxious 1960s, “making a speech on economics is like p*ssing down your leg — it seems hot to you, but not to anybody else.” Further adding to her economic policy problems is right-wing media, which downplay and even decry job numbers. No matter how good the Clinton economy actually is, Fox and Trump TV find a way to turn it around in the eyes of the American voter.
The Republicans win every state Trump won in our timeline plus Nevada and New Hampshire, along with the popular vote. The dumpster fire that was the Clinton presidency has now met a swift end. With one party rule plus a wide margin in Congress, the Affordable Care Act would be repealed along with any outstanding vestiges of an Obama presidency. Every Trump policy of the present day would be enacted, albeit more effectively. The Republican dream of privatizing most everything would probably come true, and it would take a miracle for the Democrats to end one party rule in the 2022 midterms or 2024.
This, of course, is an entirely unprovable theory, and I could be completely wrong. It’s probably too early to even be analyzing such recent history. I’ll admit, I’m being pretty academically irresponsible by making an argument about the effects of the 2016 election on American politics without significant time passing. But I think my analysis is a useful model in exhibiting the liberal silver-lining found in Trump’s election — his positive effect on the direction of the Democratic Party.
Not only do the Democrats stand an actual chance at gaining power and have a check on the Republicans, their party has once again become the umbrella party it claims to be. Countless women, veterans, and previously disenfranchised people ran for office, many of them winning. Take Lucy McBath for example, a former flight attendant and mother of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old African-American murdered by a white man for “playing his music too loud,” who defeated a Republican incumbent in the conservative-heavy Georgia 6th, a seat once held by Newt Gingrich.
The gerontocracy of Congress has taken a hit. Pre-election, the average representative was 59, but now that number will be significantly lower, largely due to new Democratic blood. Millennials and Generation Z’ers like myself, appalled by Trump and the Republican Party in general, voted at a 500% increase in Texas alone. This, combined with the vast grassroots efforts of everyday individuals, helped Democrats beat Trump-supporting candidates in districts like VA-7, where Trump won by 15 points. Even in this “ruby red” state, Democrats almost knocked off Ted Cruz, arguably the most well-known U.S. senator, and produced a new national figure in Beto O’Rourke.
Though a Trump presidency is certainly not ideal for anybody in my camp, it has built a whole new class of Democrats to replace the current, geriatric faces of the Party and gave us the infrastructure to be successful in the long term. And while the great ideological battle between the establishment Democrats and democratic socialists is indeed brewing, it won’t fully occur until after Donald Trump, whenever that is. Much like the Republicans united by their collective disdain of Hillary Clinton in my alternate timeline, the real Democratic Party bonds over its contempt of Trump, and our coalition shows no signs of falling apart.
I never thought I would ever say this in any universe, but I am legitimately thankful for Donald Trump. His presence has united my party and set the stage for future Democratic success. Without him, young and fresh voices would not have been acquired, and we wouldn’t have had a chance at victory in 2020 — or maybe even throughout the next decade. Though I don’t think highly of him and neither will historians, he certainly beats the alternative.
Categories: Domestic Affairs