Tales Of The Gore Administration

Most Americans think the world would be pretty similar if Al Gore had become president:

I find that a lot of progressives, in some kind of denial about how terrible the outcome of the 2000 election was, tend to think that 9/11 would have been a political fiasco for the Gore administration. I’m pretty sure this is dead wrong. 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.

Post-election, you’d have finally had some legislative dealmaking and gotten something resembling No Child Left Behind and some kind of prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Also probably some incremental stuff on health insurance — a patients’ bill of rights, a big SCHIP expansion, etc. By 2004, low interest rates and the housing boom are good enough to let Gore get re-elected over John McCain. In his second term, he appoints a staggering four Supreme Court justice to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter, securing what proves to be his most important legacy. But by late 2007, the economy is sliding into recession and Republicans hungry for victory nominate moderate Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (after a timely conversion to the anti-abortion cause). When the recession turns into a full-blown financial panic in the fall of 2008, Romney trounces Vice President Lieberman and shows that moderation is the GOP path to victory. The huge “lockbox” surpluses are expended in a massive counter-cyclical payroll tax cut such that unemployment peaks at 8.5 percent and starts slowly falling. Meanwhile, President Romney spends most of 2009 wrangling with congressional leaders, eventually agreeing to a major universal health care initiative modeled on the CommonWealth Care plan. Nevertheless, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (the Gore administration never launches the investigation of Gov. Spitzer that led to his downfall) plans to sue, arguing that an “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional given the non-availability of a public option.