David Brooks: The Alternate History

The Democrats could be heading toward a defeat of historic proportions in November, but it is possible to imagine a scenario in which things might have turned out differently:

Since things on planet Earth, or, rather, Eaarth, aren’t going to so well, we’re seeing more people propose counterfactuals.

I don’t buy all of what conservative columnist David Brooks put forward in his NYT column, “The Alternate History” — the Democratic defeat is going to be grim, but unlikely to break historical records for mid-term elections — but the end is mostly dead on:

April [2009] brought the cruelest fight: whether to spend the rest of the year getting health care reform or a new energy policy. Obama decided to do energy first. The economy was uppermost on everybody’s mind. Americans were wondering where new innovations would come from, what new jobs would emerge.


By doing energy first, Democrats were able to spend the entire summer talking about technological advances, private sector growth and breakthrough productivity gains.

Obama toured one small business after another, and got his energy bill. In the fall, he gave a series of major speeches under the heading: “Our Children’s Economy.” He laid out a strategy for a century of growth.

Americans didn’t like all of it. But this wasn’t conventional big government liberalism. The Democrats seemed to be a serious party attending to serious things. When November 2010 rolled around, the unemployment rate was still high, but Democratic leaders had prepared voters for that. In the meantime, America was rebuilding its core, strengthening itself for better days ahead.

If only.

Future generations are likely to view Obama’s choice of health care over energy and climate legislation as a blunder of historic proportions: