Not-Normal, To Be Sure. But How Normal Is That?

by John Holbo on February 18, 2017

Trump is not normal. He should not be treated as normal. I quite agree. But how normal has it been in US politics for a not-normal possibility to loom, as a real possibility?

We don’t write histories of the New Deal as “The Period When, But For An Assassin’s Bullet, Huey Long Might Have Changed Everything”. We call that period: The New Deal.

We don’t write histories of the Clinton Era as “The Period When, If He Hadn’t Dropped Out, Before Getting Back In, Ross Perot Might Have Been President”. We call those years: The Clinton Years.

If Trump had lost in 2016, I don’t know what era we would be in but it wouldn’t be “The Almost-Trump Years”.

We don’t do Almost Black Swan, when it comes to labeling eras. But, as in horseshoes and hand-grenades, ‘almost’ ought to count for something. Huey Long and Ross Perot are the populist ringers that occur to me as obvious Trump analogs. How many radical ‘almosts’ have their been, over the years? Suppose you went back through your US history textbook, reheading all the chapters. What are the biggest, craziest ‘almosts’ that barely weren’t?

This is, to repeat, not an argument for regarding Trump as normal.



Paul wexler 02.18.17 at 5:04 am

Assuming the question is not rhetorical (and in no particular order)

What I usually don’t see in alt-history tomes is (and to get really crazy, the Lincoln plotters actually succeed in killing Andrew Johnson as well (Killing William Seward too would have complicated the legal process around succesion, but the Sec of State was not in line of succession in those days. )Apparently, next in line was one Lafayette Sabine Foster of Connecticut.

Lots of these are murder related. Or non- murder.

FDR gets assassinated in Miami and John Nance Garner becomes President.

for that matter, Ronald Reagan dies after John Hinckley shoots him, and George Bush becomes President in 1981

or Teddy Roosevelt is murdered in 1912, and Taft gets reelected.

There are any number of Presidential elections (1916, 1960, 1968 to stick with the 20th centur) ) where if enough votes changed in only a few states we end up with the popular vote runner up winning the election-

One non-murder one. The Bricker Amendment significantly limiting the Presidential power to sign treaties passes.


Dwight Cramer 02.18.17 at 5:06 am

Well, the 20th century would have set up a bit differently if William Jennings Bryan had beaten McKinley in 1896. Not sure I’d call Bryan crazy, but I think as ‘almosts’ go, it’s a biggie, for sure. Ditto if FDR hadn’t dumped Wallace for Truman as VP in 1944.


Alan White 02.18.17 at 5:06 am

Cuban missile crisis.

The fraction of an inch of Hinckley’s devastator bullet from Reagan’s pericardium.

The number of people that would only fill Lambeau Field that gave Trump the office he is in turn incompetent to fill.


Alan White 02.18.17 at 5:20 am

So–my almosts are

Nuclear destruction.

The First Bush White House without Morning in America.

The first Madam President.


Howard Frant 02.18.17 at 6:29 am

How about if Nixon hadn’t sabotaged the Vietnam peace talks?


Ben Alpers 02.18.17 at 6:36 am

Dewey beats Truman in 1948. Earl Warren ends up as VP and not Chief Justice.


bad Jim 02.18.17 at 8:35 am

Isn’t this backwards? Twice in recent memory, 2000 and 2016, we barely dodged normal and got crazy instead. This is actually fairly normal for California politics; we used to think washed-up actors are plausible politicians: George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger. So much more vivid and convincing than the real thing!

Not so much now. We’ve gotten into recycling.


John Holbo 02.18.17 at 9:14 am

“Isn’t this backwards? Twice in recent memory, 2000 and 2016, we barely dodged normal and got crazy instead.”

Yes, that’s probably right.


SusanC 02.18.17 at 9:53 am

Well, respectable historians tend to avoid counterfactual history. But once you’ve decided you’re going to publish as science fiction ratherthan in a peer reviewed journal, you can go the full Harry Turtledove. (See also: Pavanne; The Man in the High Castle etc. etc.)


Hidari 02.18.17 at 11:11 am

As I have tirelessly and tediously pointed out, Trump only seems ‘not-normal’ if you assume the United States popped into existence in 1948. If one looks back before WW2 (and look at, e.g. Huey Long and Father Coughlin (Coughlin admittedly not being a politician)) and even further back into the 19th century, he seems a lot less weird. In the 19th century you had the Know-nothings, you had the Southern Gentry who caused the Civil War, you had the slave-raper Thomas Jefferson, etc. etc. etc. All of these people were batshit crazy and/or evil by ‘our’ standards. But ‘our’ standards may not be the only standards for much longer.

Which goes to prove a point that cannot be made enough: it is the post-war period (now coming to an end) which was the ‘outlier’ in world history. We only think people like Trump and Farage are weird because they would have fitted into almost any period of time between, say, 1800 and 1939, and would have been successes then. They would probably have not been successes in the Golden Age of Capitalism (and that’s why we think they are not ‘normal’) but the Golden Age of Capitalism is coming to a close (for many people it is already over), and they are likely to be a harbinger of what is to come, regardless of whether or not Trump’s Presidency is a success or even whether or not he is impeached (Nixon was impeached, or nearly. So what. 5 years later you got Reagan).


Albrecht 02.18.17 at 2:43 pm

Having read all those examples: With the exception of Huey Long (who was way before my time) I remember all examples mentioned in the post and/or comments: And I say:
You are right; they were all crazy (Nixon was too BTW). But: there is crazy and then there is Donald Trump.


divelly 02.18.17 at 3:25 pm

Trump is demented,not crazy.
1.Limited vocabulary
2. Inappropriate anger
3. Reversion to infantalism


Frank Wilhoit 02.18.17 at 3:29 pm

Why are you apologizing for the correct use of English words? Typical doesn’t imply normal; abnormal doesn’t imply unprecedented. This is a back foot that you should not allow yourself to be placed on.

Much more importantly, what is abnormal about the present situation is not the person of Donald J. Trump, God help him; it is the Republican Party, in naming which one must include its constituencies. And it did not become abnormal within the past month or the past year, but the past four decades or longer.


Thomas Beale 02.18.17 at 3:55 pm

I remain mystified as to why Trump is characterised as crazy or other such epithets. It’s pretty clear that his psychology is that of a young adolescent, with a reasonably strong narcissistic personality disorder (ICD10 F60.8). He has only the most basic critical thinking capabilities, is emotionally immature (hence his ‘thin-skinned’ persona), and has made his way not by attaining competence in any intellectual discipline, but by bluffing, bullying and obfuscating.

What does it mean to say ‘Trump is not normal’? He’s perfectly normal, for an infantile narcissist. What is not normal is the fact that the US voting public (or at least that fraction that bothers to vote) elected him despite the very visible evidence of his psychological unfitness and lack of professional competency (arguably shared with many other presidents) for office.

The only judgments that can be meaningfully made are of the behaviour of the overall democracy, which generates more or less meaningful outcomes depending on levels of engagement with politics. Do we regard as ‘normal’ a fully informed electorate that carefully weighs up platforms and policies in order to vote? Clearly not.


Murray Reiss 02.18.17 at 4:00 pm

“Normal” gave us the war in Vietnam. “Normal” gave us the invasion of Iraq. “Normal” is catastrophe enough. And as Bruce Cockburn sings, “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.”


Anarcissie 02.18.17 at 4:21 pm

Trump is a flower on a long stem.


Heliopause 02.18.17 at 4:56 pm

Well, in 2016 we almost got a soulless pathologically lying warmonger who favors confrontation with a country that has 7000 nuclear warheads as POTUS, there’s that. Whether that’s better or worse than a soulless narcissistic delusional xenophobe I’ll leave up to the history books.


bianca steele 02.18.17 at 5:20 pm

Scott Brown wins reelection in 2012 over Elizabeth Warren.

The English decide female succession is a bad idea after all.


nastywoman 02.18.17 at 6:13 pm

– like a lot of American dudes you meet on Spring Break somewhere in Panama Beach -(but not so much in Miami Beach – as there are ‘the cool dudes’) Trump is completely ‘normal’.

It’s only a bit strange that such a dude – can – and has become a so called ‘President’.
-(but on the other hand didn’t once some dudes become ‘President’ who thought that ‘slavery’ was… acceptable?)


max 02.18.17 at 7:14 pm

I’m with Hidari. The issue at hand shouldn’t be Trump himself, but that Trump represents a particular part of public opinion that has gone somewhat crazy. Public opinion went batshit in the late 1790’s, the 1840-50’s and wasn’t exactly stable in the 20’s and 30’s.

All that said, a real Trumpian outlier presidency would’ve involved FDR dying sooner and Henry Wallace becoming President.

[‘That’s the only one that seems to fit.’]


DBW 02.18.17 at 8:29 pm

We don’t have to go back very far. John McCain wins in 2008, promptly dies, and we’ve got Sarah Palin. Without Palin as a vice presidential candidate, I think, no Trump anyway. And, while Palin was governor of a state and so could be said to have political experience, temperamentally she seems a lot like Trump. Surprised no one has mentioned that Spiro Agnew could have been president if not forced out prior to Nixon’s resignation. Aaron Burr killed Hamilton while he (Burr) was Vice President–we haven’t seen anybody do that lately! And Burr’s later career was marked by accusations of treason, to boot. And, of course, John C. Calhoun (“the Marx of the Master Class,” as Richard Hofstadter called him), recently scrubbed from Yale, was also Vice President, so very close.


PatinIowa 02.18.17 at 10:37 pm

This from #13:

Much more importantly, what is abnormal about the present situation is not the person of Donald J. Trump, God help him; it is the Republican Party, in naming which one must include its constituencies. And it did not become abnormal within the past month or the past year, but the past four decades or longer.

So much yes.


mjfgates 02.18.17 at 10:46 pm

The Iraq invasion, at least, was an earlier edition of “crazy.” Not as extreme as this one, but the same voters, the same “post-truth” nonsense, the same lack of respect for the law. Bush 43 is right along the line between Trump and Nixon.


Sebastian H 02.18.17 at 10:55 pm

“He’s perfectly normal, for an infantile narcissist. What is not normal is the fact that the US voting public (or at least that fraction that bothers to vote) elected him despite the very visible evidence of his psychological unfitness and lack of professional competency (arguably shared with many other presidents) for office.”

This is a well stated version of something that has been bouncing around in my head for quite a while.

There are racist demagogues and other potentially scary semi-charismatic crazies running for office all the time. The question is really “what increases the number of voters susceptible to their charms at certain times but not at other times”.

People are racists all the time. But for the last few decades, most of West has been able to keep the ever present racial demagogues from successfully fanning the flames. Now, all across the Western world we are seeing signs that whatever it was that was doing it seems to not be working.

John’s point is that there were always quite a few close calls. Which is true. But if you empower the racist demagogues by an extra 2 or 4 or 6% the close calls happen with greater frequency and occasional disasters.

So what was the key to keeping the overtly racist demagogues from gaining traction? Why can’t we do it any more?

That isn’t a rhetorical question. I don’t know the answer, though I have some vague stabs in what I think might be the right direction, but I’m always wary of it just being self-confirming bias.


Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 02.19.17 at 2:16 am

Sebastian H,

I think the answer is that (1) the atomization of mass communication meant that the way popular opinion is shaped by elites became less effective and (2) members of the elite consensus decided gradually that they would rather win outside the consensus than lose within it. That’s why we can’t stop it any more.

I think there’s another question, which is why people are so upset. I think the answer there is that the financial crisis proved that the postwar expansion and relative position of the West is not coming back. We should note that only sustained above-normal economic growth has enabled stable multicultural democracy.


Suzanne 02.19.17 at 2:34 am

I would have mentioned FDR and Henry Wallace if max @ 20 hadn’t already done so.

The OP insults the memory of the Kingfish by bracketing him with Perot and Trump.

@17: Rubbish.


engels 02.19.17 at 2:38 am


Jerry R Hamrick 02.19.17 at 9:20 am

“Normal” vs. “Not Normal.” In 1973 at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association those present were asked to vote on whether homosexuality was a mental disorder. About 60% voted “No.” How is that for science? At the time, there was no definition of a “normal” mental condition. If you did not have one of the many conditions listed in the APA’s diagnostic manual, then you were, I suppose, considered to be “normal.” In the world of politics, which is a place for actions that affect lives from day-to-day problems to the destruction of our species, “normal” or “not normal” are not very useful terms because they tend to sidetrack what passes for our national conversations about important hypotheses.

Better terms are “works for the common good” vs. “works against the common good.” We can shorten these terms to “democrato” and “tyranno” respectively. Ross Perot is a “democratus,” he naturally works for the common good. Donald Trump is a “tyrannus,” he naturally works against it. We have tyranno political parties and democrato parties. We have the STEM institutions which, at bottom, work for the common good and are, therefore, democrato-institutions. The GREEB institutions (government, religion, economics, education, and business) currently work, at bottom, against the common good and are, therefore, tyranno-institutions.

The STEM institutions are rational, the GREEB institutions are irrational. Irrational institutions are governed by ideologies which I define thusly: “ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true, but which are not supported by rational argument, and which give exact rules, directions, or instructions about how one should do some-thing.”

Democrati and tyranni are natural varieties of our species. As you recall, Charles Darwin told us that a given species can produce varieties that differ from the parent life form. These varieties naturally are subject to evolution by natural selection and may survive and thrive and ultimately become new species—or not. We are engaged in a Darwinian struggle between tyranni and democrati and the struggle is carried out through the institutions they each control. In short we are engaged in a struggle between rationality and irrationality. If irrationality should triumph all will be lost.

With respect to global warming, it matters not if Donald Trump is or is not “normal.” What matters is whether or not his policies concerning global warming will work for the common good or work against it. I think he is naturally inclined to work against the common good. On the other hand, I am confident that Ross Perot, at least the one who ran for president, would follow policies that would work for the common good. Furthermore, Perot would be better organized, vastly more coherent is his public pronouncements, and he would focus, laser-like, on the most important tasks before him. In fact, to bring in Mark Twain, the difference between Ross Perot and Donald Trump is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

If Ross Perot were President, global warming would be at the top of his list of priorities, and he would forcefully hold the polluting industries accountable.


Underpaid Propagandist 02.19.17 at 8:29 pm

17. So proud you’re on the same side of child-pornography fan Scott Ritter and Confederate apologist Morris Berman. Perhaps you can find out if your evil nemesis bakes matzoh from the blood of Christian children and further enlighten us.


nastywoman 02.19.17 at 11:08 pm

‘Whether that’s better or worse than a soulless narcissistic delusional xenophobe I’ll leave up to the history books.’

You don’t have to -(leave up to the history books) – as I once read a history book and it said that soulless narcissistic delusional xenophobes who are at the same time soulless pathologically lying warmongers too – are much much worst than just soulless pathologically lying warmongers – but what I’m really curious about? – are you sure that F…face von Clownstick is really a ‘soulless narcissistic delusional xenophobes’ –

That is a lot of bigly words for what for sure is a ‘baby man’?

And I know that he is a ‘baby man’ – because when I was younger -(and very blond) – a lot of these baby men (wo were much much older than me) – tried to date me – and it never worked out because they really had these… how should we call it?… ‘strange’…souls.

Like really really… small and sad…


engels 02.20.17 at 1:01 am

I very much dislike using child/baby as a term of abuse for people like Trump—it feeds into patriarchal stereotypes (re manliness etc) and is inaccurate (children/babies don’t act in the objectionable ways he does).

There’s nowt wrong with children (read some fucking Blake, as they say on Twitter).


engels 02.20.17 at 1:09 am

Trump represents a particular part of public opinion that has gone somewhat crazy

If you ask me, he represents American capitalism.


Heliopause 02.20.17 at 1:59 am

Do I dare ask what this even means?

“are you sure that F…face von Clownstick is really a ‘soulless narcissistic delusional xenophobes’”

On this blog that’s kind of giving him the benefit of the doubt, isn’t it?


mjfgates 02.20.17 at 3:03 am

engels@31: You’re not thinking about young enough children. The tantrums, the babbling for attention, the lying about things that are right there… this is all standard three-year-old stuff.


engels 02.20.17 at 3:33 am

To be clear, I’m not really with the concept of infantile narcissism. Babies are dependent on adults, there’s nothing wrong with that. Trying to blame them for it is actually pretty fucked up ino…


Val 02.20.17 at 4:17 am

Yay for engels. Well said and a good reminder to us all.


Val 02.20.17 at 4:24 am

Little children fight sometimes, want more attention than adults want to give sometimes, and often seem disinclined to help with tidying up. But if they have been cared for, they are also honest, generous, empathetic, funny and loving – not really things one would say about Trump.


dr ngo 02.20.17 at 5:20 am

WRT Trump having “narcisstic personality disorder” (cf. #14 above), it seems that the man who wrote the definition of that disorder does not agree:

He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill because he does not suffer from the stress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.” (Trump isn’t crazy; he makes other people crazy.)

“He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers,” Frances wrote. But, he added, “The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”

IANAP[sychiatrist], but this makes sense to me. Suggesting Trump is crazy takes us down the wrong trail. Figuring out why so many Americans voted for such a sorry [expletive of your choice], and how to reverse or overcome this, is the way to go.

(I was going to say something about figuring out why the GOP seems liplocked to his nether regions, but that doesn’t really require explanation, alas.)


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 8:00 am

‘Trying to blame them for it is actually pretty fucked up ino…’

If a comedian like Jon Stewart identifies F…face von Clownstick rightly as a ‘Baby Man’ – he isn’t trying to blame Babys ‘for it’ – and if a ‘nastywoman’ is expecting that such a identification by Americas (once) most trusted Newscaster should be widely known -(and especially by commenters on a blog like ‘crooked Timber) – responses like:’ I very much dislike using child/baby as a term of abuse for people like Trump—it feeds into patriarchal stereotypes (re manliness etc) and is inaccurate (children/babies don’t act in the objectionable ways he does) – are very funny.


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 8:11 am

– and about:

‘If you ask me, he represents American capitalism.’

Could be?
But if you ask my Italian boyfriend, he (Trump) represents the American High School kid he once got into a fight with – and that’s the thing -(for me) – all this talk about F…face von Clownstick ‘not being normal’?

What is more ‘normal’ than a spoiled loudmouthed brat from Queens?


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 8:24 am

– and after the latest presser from F…face von Clownstick – shouldn’t it be obvious that the ‘Baby-Man’ actually is a ‘Baby-Man’ -(in the poetic definition of a very sensible grown up man like Jon Stewart) – and that most of these very grown up and often very ambitious characterizations of the F…face are just… subscribing some higher form of a philosophic meaning to subjects where there is none?


Faustusnotes 02.20.17 at 10:39 am

Nastywoman, if you are going to call someone “fuckface” can you please just do it, instead of putting the dots there? When you put the dots there you just make us say it on your behalf, when we read your unintelligible posts. If the word is too rude to say, don’t make other people say it for you – say it yourself or find a different epithet.


engels 02.20.17 at 2:02 pm

He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill because he does not suffer from the stress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.”

Did Hannibal Lecter suffer from ‘stress and impairment’?


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 2:31 pm

‘say it yourself or find a different epithet’.

Why? –
as you might be right – and I like very much ‘us saying it’ –
not on my behalf – but on behalf of Jon Stewart – the man who created these perfect (‘unintelligible’?) names for a unintelligible ‘Man Baby’.

And there is this video on the Internet how Jon Stewart found the name: F…face von Clownstick – You might want to watch it. It is really ‘sad’ -(as F…face von Clownstick probably would say?)


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 2:43 pm

– and there is this movie called ‘Being There’ – where a man who knows reality only from movie scenes becomes ‘potential replacement for the President in the next term of office’ – and a famous movie critic called Ebert wrote about it:

“The movie presents us with an image, and while you may discuss the meaning of the image, it is not permitted to devise explanations for it… a movie is exactly what it shows us, and nothing more.”

That’s it – nothing more and nothing less.


Thomas Beale 02.20.17 at 2:44 pm

I just discovered this post on Medium providing an excellent analysis of the Trump phenomenon, from the POV of the demographic of 4chan / Anonymous and other self-proclaimed ‘loser’ types. It’s a fascinating read, although I don’t happen to agree with its main conclusion (adopt a post-modernist “sexual-difference-as-illusion” stance to life). Anyway, the relevance to here is around the theme of ‘what is normal, anyway’…


faustusnotes 02.20.17 at 2:44 pm

nastywoman, I know where the name comes from, I just don’t like the prissy way that you write it as if you’re saying something transgressive, without actually saying it yourself, but you just force everyone else to think it on your behalf. If you’re familiar with comedians you’ll know Louis CK has a skit about this – don’t make me say “nigger”, if you want to say it, say it yourself – don’t put the words in my head.

And while you’re at it, can you cut out the ‘scare quotes’. It makes it sound as if every second word you use has a disputable meaning, when it obviously doesn’t. Using lots of ‘scare quotes’ and hyphens and lower case doesn’t make you a modern emily dickinson, it just makes you unintelligible.


Thomas Beale 02.20.17 at 2:55 pm

On the question of Trump = ‘crazy’ or not, as I said earlier, this is not a useful word to use. Crazy in the street sense would normally equate to a serious mental disorder e.g. paranoid schizophrenia or violent psychopathy – essentially ‘insanity’. Lex Luthor and Hannibal Lector types, if you like. Insanity is mainly characterised by a large gap between reality as it actually is and the sufferer’s internal version of it.

That doesn’t mean Trump doesn’t have a personality disorder. Mild (or even serious) versions of common personality disorders can be found in your office environment, family or classroom. No need to invoke fictional nutcases.

I suppose my original point was really that we should understand Trump in terms of an objective diagnosis, and stop with the ‘look what crazy Trump is doing now’, ‘how did the US vote for this crazy guy’ etc. These latter ideas contain no substance. Understanding what to do with a narcissistic arrested-development man in the White House is more useful.


casmilus 02.20.17 at 3:27 pm


“Surprised no one has mentioned that Spiro Agnew could have been president if not forced out prior to Nixon’s resignation.”

“President Agnew” gets a passing reference in this lost gem from 1971, foreseeing the world of circa 1985:

Authoritarian Britain in that world is quite pro-EU and consequently not much liked by the US. There is an episode in which it turns out the CIA are trying to destabilise the regime and organise a coup. Despite what all the adverts say, it’s not an “Orwellian” world – surveillance is actually pretty slack, and communists and other subversives have infiltrated lots of state organs.

The idea of a right-wing takeover in the 70s is of course a long-running trope of the British Left.


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 3:57 pm

‘I just don’t like the prissy way…
‘And while you’re at it, can you…

Yes – Dad – or could I call you ‘Donald’? –
and please – as we were talking about ‘comedy’ – and I’m familiar with Louis CK – there might be this problem – not only with F…face von Clownstick – of serious responses to a joke?


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 4:12 pm

and furthermore
‘it just makes you unintelligible.’

I am proudly ‘unintelligible’ in the definition of the word: ‘not capable of being understood.’ – and as I get all of the ‘confused’ stuff – which is in my head from the Internet -(and teh TV and movies) – I always thought I HAVE to use ‘scare quotes’ not in order to make it sound as if every second word you use has a disputable meaning, when it obviously doesn’t – but to make obvious for every reader that I’m just ‘quoting’ important stuff.


Anarcissie 02.20.17 at 5:59 pm

@34 — In my observation, proper lying begins to occur at 4, not 3. By lying I mean knowingly uttering falsehoods. In order to do this one must partially construct, maintain, and describe an alternate world, which seems to be beyond the powers of the three-year-olds I have encountered. A three-year-old may utter a falsehood, but for the three-year-old it is true, or at least sort of true. And many older people preserve and practice this talent throughout their lives. Mr. Trump may be one of these people; but if he is merely lying, he would be a normal politician. His positive, buffoonish, confident bluster suggests the more primitive mentality.


nastywoman 02.20.17 at 6:05 pm

– and I’m not joking now – and this is real – one of the major reasons my Italian boyfriend got into this fight with this American High School Kid was ‘Sweden’.

The Kid just couldn’t believe that ‘Europe’ and especially ‘Germany and in Sweden isn’t some kind of a ‘hellhole’ were ‘all kind of suspect foreign characters run free’ – and so even the remark of F…face von Clowstick about ‘Sweden’ could be considered to be completely ‘normal’ for a ‘normal’ viewer of FOX News.

And I understand the desperate need for countries like Sweden to understand what the F…face is talking about -(and the reported need for Russian ‘experts’ to analyze Trump in order to prepare Putin for his first encounter with our ‘so called President) – but where is the need for US to overanalyze a ‘Man-Baby’.

Everybody of US knows them as well as the erection of a Homecoming Queen…


Underpaid Propagandist 02.20.17 at 6:51 pm

33. It means you’re politically delusional and dangerous. And a tad too cute in citing the business-as-usual HRC as more dangerous than a man with rabid neo-nazi following and absolutely no idea what he’s doing in his position except to screw over anything that stands in his way.

It exposes who you are and what you support.

If you have neo-nazi inclinations, bravo. You have a post on CT. If you’re a Special Snowfalke, the Purity Express left the station quite a while ago.


William Berry 02.20.17 at 7:07 pm


You accuse someone else of being prissy?

Well, OK then!


Older 02.20.17 at 8:34 pm

Faustusnotes, The point here is the discussion, not any person’s personal style of expression. Who died and made you Strunk&White?


Anarcissie 02.21.17 at 1:16 am

@54 — Possibly one should not underestimate the seriousness of the problems of business as usual.


phenomenal cat 02.21.17 at 2:53 am


Well, it seems to be the only way many well-meaning and intelligent people get by these days.


faustusnotes 02.21.17 at 2:59 am

Normally yes Older but how am I meant to interpret the contribution to the discussion when, for example, ‘Sweden’ is put in quotes. Are we talking about Sweden here or some fictitious ‘Sweden’. Is it something someone said or something that is to be doubted exists? Are these air quotes or scare quotes? What does nastywoman mean when she says she is indicating that she is quoting something by her use of scare quotes, but then puts the word “quoting” itself in scare quotes. Is she quoting the word quoting? And why?

And why should I have to swear on her behalf? I’m happy to say fuckface. If she isn’t, why does she make me? It’s impolite.


Heliopause 02.21.17 at 3:14 am

“a tad too cute in citing the business-as-usual HRC as more dangerous”

Since I did not do that your point is incoherent. And, incidentally, so is everything else you’ve said in these two comments. Maybe you need a nap.


nastywoman 02.21.17 at 4:16 am

‘but how am I meant to interpret the contribution to the discussion’

The ‘great’ thing about the Internet (was) is? – that everybody can interpret any contribution to the discussion any which way one likes – and as I already have made very clear that nobody should swear on my behalf – but on behalf of Jon Stewart – who invented this wonderful fitting expression for F…face von Clownstick – I’m very happy that you are happy to say fuckface too.

And I don’t think it’s ‘impolite’ at all.
A contraire – as more and more people could be very happy to call the F…face by his real
name – and everybody he comes in contact with – and when he visits foreign countries – he would be announced as F…face von Clownstick comes to town – and when the Queen wouldn’t be able to avoid him anymore – and would welcome him as the F…face he truly is – that would be really ‘polite’ don’t you think?


J-D 02.21.17 at 5:47 am


What does nastywoman mean

Nothing. ‘Mean’ is exactly what nastywoman is not doing. When people resist efforts at clarification of their meaning, the most probable explanation is that they have no clear meaning. If no clear meaning is conveyed to you by nastywoman’s comments, it may be that nastywoman is not trying to convey a clear meaning, and if so there’s no point in trying to extract one.


hix 02.21.17 at 6:24 am

“He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill because he does not suffer from the stress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.”

While i agree that a psychological framework is not very helpfull, “Thou shall not make adjustments to my bible” is not a very good argument. The stress and impairment part is at best an add on that makes sense for pragmatic reasons in applied clinical work. In this case, its not about makeing the individum Trump feal or function better in a social environment that is set as an unchangeable given. Rather the question is how to avoid that Trumps flaws make that society worse for other while he has rather a lot power.


Hidari 02.21.17 at 7:14 am

@ almost everyone.

One of the key differences between the Right and the Left is at the locus of analysis, and it says much about the sate of the American ‘left’ that almost all of their discussion is held on intellectual grounds that the discussion is held on grounds, so to speak, that the right finds congenial.

The Right is individualistic, the Left is collectivist (or should be). The Right talk about Great (or not so great) Men, the Left about classes. The Right talk about heroes, the Left about processes and structures.

Which is to say that all this discussion about Trump (as well as shoot from the hip psychiatric ‘diagnoses’ about his ‘mental problems’, which are, let’s not be coy here, mainly on the same intellectual level as judging someone on the basis of their sun sign (like Nancy Reagan did)) is essentially and fundamentally beside the point, and it has real world consequences.

The problem is not Trump.

I will repeat that for Democrats and others who seem to have problems with reality.

The problem is not Trump.

The problem is the American Republican Party, which created him, nourished him, and brought him to power, and which even know shows no signs whatsoever of turning on him (which isn’t to say they never will but there are no signs now). Watching liberals tie themselves in knots explaining why impeaching Trump and getting Pence would be in some objective way ‘better’ is amusing, but the joke wears thin. Pence would arguably be worse, as he would be more competent and would get things done better. Trump is massively incompetent, which is good, as it prevents him from enacting his agenda.

And this has real world consequences. Apart from the basic schtick of constantly implying that Trump is a Russian agent (as though the Manchurian Candidate was a documentary) the Democrats other main strategy is to constantly seek out the help of Republican moderates.

This is a contradiction in terms.

Ergo, the Democrat strategy is doomed before it even got started. Trump might get impeached but not this way, and if he does, it will be when the Republican establishment wants this to happen, which means, by definition, it will not be in a way that helps the Democrats.

Looking at it from the outside, despite their very different leaderships, the problems facing the British Labour Party and the Democrats are pretty much the same. Although few in Britain have the nerve to point it out (and none in the UK’s hopelessly conformist political class) May is pretty much the same kinda thing as Trump, and is popular amongst the same kinda people for the same kinda reasons. Like Labour the Democrats are now hopelessly divided amongst the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, the leadership is hopeless, the party structure is moribund, there is no strategy, no vision, no plan. Well there is a plan but it’s a shit plan.

Which leaves us in this situation: if Trump is NOT impeached, or if he doesn’t die in office or some other similar situation, he may well be a two term President.

What have the Democrats to offer instead?


nastywoman 02.21.17 at 4:26 pm

and @62
‘When people resist efforts at clarification of their meaning, the most probable explanation is that they have no clear meaning.’

– or they are Andy Warhol?

And as I am not Andy Warhol – let’s see how Andy Warhol probably would have answered the question: ‘But How Normal Is That’?

Would he have answered:
‘If you wear a wig, everybody notices. But if you then dye the wig, people notice the dye.’


‘Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.’?


Jerry R Hamrick 02.21.17 at 4:37 pm

In order to deal with our present problems we should take the viewpoint of a systems analyst. We know that our government and our economic systems do not function as well as they should. The comments in this thread and everywhere else on the Internet are ample proof of my assertion. We can begin by answering these four questions: Where do we stand? How did we get here? Where do we want to go? How do we get there from here?

The answers are lengthy, but we already know them. What we do not do is discipline ourselves long enough to write them down for all to see and digest and then support. I go to blogs every day all across the political spectrum and everywhere I find people who are nibbling at the edges of an answer to some part of these four questions and suddenly they are pulled away from their thought to react to some bolt from the blue from the news or from an email or a tweet…

Discipline is the watchword if we are to get traction. Some blogs that profess to be dedicated to developing solutions take the top down approach. The managers of these blogs think they have the answers and they are trying to find a way to gain widespread support–but their hopes will be dashed. Someone, somewhere, somehow will finally be able to get a critical mass of people to devote the next seven months to defining the answer to one of these questions, probably the best one to start with is “Where do we want to go?” As that answer is being developed the answers to the other questions will begin to emerge, and before you know it, we will have detailed blueprints for new systems of government and economics, and this will quickly lead to a plan, a workable plan, a timely plan, an affordable plan, for replacing our current systems. But none of this will happen unless some group devotes months of focused work to answer the question, “Where do we want to go?”


nastywoman 02.21.17 at 4:47 pm

– or in other words – the post on medium Thomas Beale @46 had suggested – gives a lot of hints about ‘meanings’ – and why so many (older?) and ‘wiser’ people are so helpless in checking out if F…face von Clownstick is ‘normal’ or not.

Compared to the average 4chaner Trump is a ‘Bastion of Normality’ – but it’s fun to fill Nonsense with meaning -(or NOT?)


Rusty SpikeFist 02.21.17 at 4:57 pm

I really have to object when modern-day liberals just lazily assume “everyone knows” Huey Long was really a cynical authoritarian using fraudulent populism as a route to personal wealth and power.

In point of fact, Long’s governorship of Louisiana saw an improvement in living standards for the poor and working people that any other US state would have had reason to envy at the time. And while admittedly corrupt, the scale of his corruption was de minimis compared to Saint Barack Obama’s suitcase full of cash handed over from the pharmaceutical industry in broad daylight to sabotage his own health care bill, let alone Hillary Clinton’s hundreds and millions of dollars of payoffs from Wall Street. And yet somehow they remain liberals in good standing with the same people who casually slander and dismiss Huey Long.

Just one more piece of evidence that when liberals complain about authoritarian populism in places like Long’s Louisiana or modern Venezuela, it’s the actual redistribution they object to, rather than the authoritarianism.


OK 02.21.17 at 7:45 pm


You don’t want to dial that back at all?


nastywoman 02.21.17 at 7:51 pm

– but the generally problem we might have is that on teh Intertubes so much is spoken in riddles -(and I should know that – as I wrote a miserable Master Thesis on the Language of the Internet?) But even if one has written a miserable Thesis on the Language of the Internet you never can be sure about ‘meaning’ on the Intertubes.

It’s not like:
‘Is it a bird or is it a plane’?


It’s not Superman.
And so perhaps we all should agree that Trump should be treated as completely ‘normal’ – just perhaps not as a ‘normal US President’ – but as the question goes: What is a ‘normal’ US President?


J-D 02.22.17 at 12:10 am

When people write or say things like ‘What have the Democrats to offer instead?’, there are at least two different issues they can be raising, and it’s confusing not to separate them:
(A) it’s going to be difficult for the Democrats to win future Presidential elections;
(B) even if the Democrats win Presidential elections, it won’t make a big enough difference.

B is the same problem it’s always been. Of course some people are satisfied when the Democrats beat the Republicans in Presidential elections; but for some people it doesn’t make a big enough difference. Well, for those people it has never made a big enough difference. This is not a recent phenomenon. There’s no recent change in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party (or both, or anywhere else in the system) that has created this problem where it didn’t exist before. People who feel that Democratic victories don’t make a big enough difference are making a mistake if they look at recent developments for an explanation of the problem; they should be looking at persistent factors, long predating, just for example, Trump/Trumpism and/or the Democratic Leadership Council.

And A is also the same problem it’s always been. It is difficult for the Democrats to win Presidential elections; it’s also difficult for the Republicans to win Presidential elections (and it’s even more difficult for anybody else to win Presidential elections). Winning Presidential elections is hard work, and always has been — well, at least since 1820.

The historical record suggests that it may be somewhat harder for Democrats to win Presidential elections than it is for Republicans. The two parties have opposed each other in forty-one Presidential elections; the Republicans have won twenty-four of those and the Democrats seventeen, a degree of disproportion which is suggestive of a structural imbalance but not conclusive. Once again, however, anybody who tries to explain this by looking at recent developments instead of persistent factors is making a mistake. Insofar as the record shows a recent shift in the competitive balance between Democrats and Republicans in Presidential elections, it is not a shift towards the Republicans, it is a shift towards parity.


JimV 02.22.17 at 3:34 am

“while admittedly corrupt, the scale of his corruption was de minimis compared to Saint Barack Obama’s suitcase full of cash handed over from the pharmaceutical industry in broad daylight to sabotage his own health care bill, let alone Hillary Clinton’s hundreds and millions of dollars of payoffs from Wall Street….”

My definition of corruption does not encompass the bare facts of either case. I just read the transcript of the Frontline documentary, “Obama’s Deal” ( ) and somehow its reporters missed the “suitcase of cash in plain sight”.

Similarly, the Internet tells me that WC and HRC received less than 200 (the minimum for hundreds) million in total for both for about 800 speeches, with as yet no evidence that any illegal benefit was obtained by the companies who paid for the speeches.

I don’t have a very-informed opinion on Huey Long, but I suspect that in similar circumstances he would have made deals and compromises to get an affordable-health-insurance bill through Congress, and would have accepted inflated speech fees from businesses.

As for an earlier comment on HRC as a warmonger, my Internet research on that subject gives a plausible case that she was converted to the position that the USA’s power gave it the responsibility to try to prevent genocide, even at some risk and sacrifice, by Elie Wiesel, after the Rwanda genocide when the USA did nothing. (It is a fact that he met with the Clinton’s with that goal.)

Probably few people are as evil as their enemies paint them, even Trump. In my mind however he is reaches a new low in the ratio (integrity, qualifications, and abilities)/(complex organization to run and problems to face).


Hidari 02.22.17 at 7:51 am

Rewriting history does not help. It is an objective and unarguable fact that the United States did not ‘do nothing’ during the Rwandan genocide. Although it is an objective fact that many powerful white men would like you to believe that this was so.


J-D 02.22.17 at 9:34 am

How many radical ‘almosts’ have their been, over the years? Suppose you went back through your US history textbook, reheading all the chapters. What are the biggest, craziest ‘almosts’ that barely weren’t?

If you’re looking for something that almost happened and just barely didn’t, the bullet that struck Andy Jackson in his May 1806 duel with Charles Dickinson lodged so close to his heart that the surgeons weren’t game to remove it. He could hardly have been any closer to death. If he had died, who then would have been the candidates in the 1824 election, and which would have won? and who would have been the candidates in 1828? What would have been the structure and components of the new party system? Make up any history you please, I think.


Sage 02.22.17 at 12:57 pm

Bernie won.

We came in for a soft landing, instead of the hard crash into a new gilded age with Trump trashing truth and then open rebellion and millions of displaced American refugees and tens of thousands dead.


steven johnson 02.22.17 at 4:08 pm

If Jackson had died, the Democrats still had politicians like John C. Calhoun, Richard Mentor Johnson, Martin Van Buren and Lewis Cass.


Anarcissie 02.22.17 at 4:08 pm

JimV 02.22.17 at 3:34 am @ 72 —
The business about H.R. Clinton’s conversion to imperialist warmongering is fascinating. So before she met Elie Wiesel, she was some sort of pacifist or anti-imperialist? Was this noticed by anyone? When did the conversion occur? What if she had never met him? (Not likely.) My Google searches have been less rewarding than yours.


J-D 02.22.17 at 5:28 pm

How about this chapter heading: ‘Radical Reconstruction Under President Wade’? Just one more vote to convict Andy Johnson and you’d have that in a history text.


Pavel 02.22.17 at 6:44 pm


Intelligence reports indicate that United States president Bill Clinton and his cabinet were aware before the height of the massacre that a “final solution to eliminate all Tutsis” was planned.[209] However, fear of a repeat of the events in Somalia shaped US policy at the time, with many commentators identifying the graphic consequences of the Battle of Mogadishu as the key reason behind the US’s failure to intervene in later conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide. After the battle, the bodies of several US casualties of the conflict were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by crowds of local civilians and members of Aidid’s Somali National Alliance. According to the US’s former deputy special envoy to Somalia, Walter Clarke: “The ghosts of Somalia continue to haunt US policy. Our lack of response in Rwanda was a fear of getting involved in something like a Somalia all over again.”[210] President Clinton has referred to the failure of the U.S. government to intervene in the genocide as one of his main foreign policy failings, saying “I don’t think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down. And I regret it.”[211] Eighty percent of the discussion in Washington concerned the evacuation of American citizens.[212]

Gonna need you to provide some counter-claims about US action in Rwanda.


OK 02.22.17 at 8:17 pm

Illinois goes to Nixon in 1960.
Kissinger hasn’t yet come knocking on the door and Nixon still hasn’t been kicked around enough.

How does the Cuban Missile Crisis play out or does it even happen at all?
Plenty of people will wish Nixon would drop dead but not enough to assassinate him. No assassination => no legislative powerhouse taking over with a supposed mandate. So what of civil rights legislation? What of Viet Nam? Student protest movements?

Could Nixon have carried the Leave it to Beaver 50s all the way through the 60s? Longer?


JayBook 02.22.17 at 9:27 pm

The world pivoted on the moment that Monica Lewinsky delivered a pizza to the Oval Office. It was the political equivalent of the chaos-theory butterfly beating its wings in Argentina, changing everything, the seemingly small act that sent world history careening in a whole new direction.

Without that, Al Gore would almost certainly have been president, meaning that we would not have invaded Iraq, with all the tragedy and blowback it caused; we would have acted much earlier on global warming; we might have evaded the 2008 meltdown …


Hidari 02.22.17 at 9:52 pm


J-D 02.22.17 at 11:09 pm


If Jackson had died, the Democrats still had politicians like John C. Calhoun, Richard Mentor Johnson, Martin Van Buren and Lewis Cass.

In 1824, there was no ‘the Democrats’. The 1824 Presidential election was not a partisan contest; all the candidates (John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, William Crawford, and Andy Jackson) had the same partisan affiliation at that time, as did John C Calhoun, who considered a run for the Presidency but ended up running for Vice-President instead with the endorsements of both Adams and Jackson. None of them was the nominee of the party as a unified body (Crawford was nominated by the party’s Congressional caucus, according to the practice usual up to that time, but the other candidates, knowing Crawford’s advantage in the caucus, did not even contest that nomination and rejected the validity of the process, obtaining endorsements at the State level instead).

The results and aftermath of the election were key in stimulating a new separation of politicians (and their supporters) into new parties.

So it’s wrong to think of the question as ‘who would the Democratic Party have nominated instead of Jackson in 1824 if Jackson had been killed in 1806?’

If Jackson had been killed in 1806, the 1824 election might have been just a three-horse race between Adams, Clay, and Crawford; or Calhoun and/or one or more other candidates might have entered the contest. There might have been an outcome that produced the same sort of controversy as actually happened or, instead, there might have been a clear undisputed rightful victor. There might have been an evolution to two parties much like the Democratic and Whig parties that actually emerged, or there might have been an evolution to a distinctly different two-party system, or there might not have been a consolidation into two parties (at least, not until decades later in different circumstances).

Jackson’s election in 1828 brought a sharp change to past practice in the form of the ‘spoils system’ of patronage; if he hadn’t been around, much the same might have happened, or then again perhaps not.

As I said, make up any history you please.


JimV 02.22.17 at 11:21 pm

Re: Anarcissie 02.22.17 at 4:08 pme:

Thanks for the reply. I did some Google investigation prior to the election to settle my mind with regard to war-mongering accusations made against HRC in another post here. At that time I found a semi-scholarly article by a historian which said … well I won’t do hearsay, because I haven’t found it among all the hate-articles from the usual sources which crowd the Google results. But I did find this:

which refers slantingly to the same meeting between Wiesel and the Clinton’s that I recall being cited in that previous source, and things like this:

which also seem confirmatory to me.

I have a couple other links, one from a Washington Post article about her Iraq vote, but nothing as complete and to the point as that previous article. It’s linked-to somewhere on this site but there’s no search function here.

I can’t read minds (although I was pretty sure that Nixon was lying from the first speech I saw him give on TV) but as I said I find HRC’s stated motivations at least plausible. Many others disagree, but they have shown me no reliable proof.


J-D 02.22.17 at 11:29 pm


Illinois goes to Nixon in 1960.

If you think that it was the electoral votes of Illinois that put Kennedy over the top, you’re not the only person who thinks so, but it’s not true. If Nixon had carried Illinois (in addition to the States he did carry, but no more), Kennedy would still have been elected President. The election was close, but it wasn’t quite that close. The addition of Illinois and Missouri to Nixon’s total would have been enough to throw the election to the House of Representatives (where a straight party vote would still have elected Kennedy, twenty-nine States to seventeen with four split — but perhaps the vote wouldn’t have been purely on party lines? then again, Kennedy could have afforded to give away three States and still win); the addition of Illinois and Missouri and New Jersey to Nixon’s total would have given him the election outright.


Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 02.22.17 at 11:49 pm

Hidari, that article does not support your claim at all. Instead, it describes a number of things:

1. The RPA committed atrocities both in the immediate aftermath of genocide, and during the first and second Congo wars.

2. Paul Kagame is an authoritarian ruler who has enemies imprisoned or executed.

3. The US did roughly nothing during the second Congo war to prevent the RPF from doing whatever they wanted, because they saw Kagame as providing stability.

These things are all true, though we might complicate them in various ways (Kagame has served US business interests, the RPF fear of the Interhawame in Eastern Congo was genuine and realistic, Burundi provides evidence that alternative paths might not have worked so well either, etc). But none of them contradict the statement that the USA did nothing during the 1994 genocide.


Pavel 02.23.17 at 12:04 am


Interesting article, and it certainly paints a pretty terrible picture of the region (i.e. genocide as a mechanism employed to counter genocide). However, it looks like US involvement takes place after the RPF takes power in Rawanda. Ultimately I’m not surprised that the US is propping up yet another murderer, but it appears that there was no involvement prior to or during the original massacre (although perhaps there was US support for the RPF invasion at some early point as well?).


Anarcissie 02.23.17 at 2:03 am

JimV 02.22.17 at 11:21 pm @ 84 —
Since Paul Kagame has just been mentioned I thought I would give the URL of a curious show involving him, Elie Wiesel, and Sherman Adelson, reported in the Jerusalem Post, which I came across in my searches: No Holds Barred: Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide. I do not plan to fully carve this morsel up in front of you at this time, but for a cynic like me, I have to say it is an embarras de richesses. I had not previously much noticed Professor Wiesel’s way in the world except as accomplished littérateur, celebrity, and ceremonial award object, but here he appears as a formidable apologist for humanitarian interventionism, that is, in the case of the United States, imperialism. Since one of the items you cite is from 1995, it seems this role has been a sort of long-term second career. To come back to H.R. Clinton, one would not be surprised to find her, an ambitious politician, picking up points by hanging around with Professor Wiesel during this time, but the sudden conversion theory does not ring true in my ear. It seems to me she would have been very well aware of Professor Wiesel’s passions and opinions even before she met him, indeed, to seek out his association precisely because of them.

So this allows me to bring this little divagation back on topic: If, in alternate history, a few thousand had voted differently in a few Midwestern states, and H.R. Clinton been elected, how many new serious wars would the U.S. be involved in? Iran, Russia, and China at least are available, and all have been bristled at recently in preparation.


J-D 02.23.17 at 3:33 am

Why not go all the way back to the root? What if George Washington had died unexpectedly in the autumn of 1788? They still would have picked somebody to be President, but who? How widely would that President have been accepted? How badly might he have messed up the job? How much might the new institutions have been discredited?

Possible chapter title for history text:
‘Madison’s Folly: The Abortive Attempt To Form “A More Perfect Union”‘


ZM 02.23.17 at 10:49 am

OK and J-D,

“Illinois goes to Nixon in 1960.”
“If you think that it was the electoral votes of Illinois that put Kennedy over the top, you’re not the only person who thinks so, but it’s not true.”

Apparently Kennedy winning Illinois was not down to chance, but due to the electoral influence of the Mob in that State.

The Mob presumably had influence over some other States’ votes too, if they had wanted to excercise it.


J-D 02.23.17 at 9:16 pm


Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant 02.24.17 at 1:35 pm

Alternative history idea: Lincoln survives the assassination attempt, Booth is captured, tried, found guilty and hanged. Lincoln hires Frederick Douglass as the White House liaison to the newly freed slaves and the 13th and 14th Amendments are allowed their full sweeps. Douglass warns of a burgeoning movement in Oklahoma and he and Lincoln angrily crush it — the would be Klan members are hanged in a series of public executions where even the foreign press is to bear witness, and the Klan’s would be followers get the hint. Pushing Blacks around just isn’t worth it. Reconstruction, though fought at every turn, is a spectacular success; Whites even see real benefits to themselves in it.

Another idea: President Frederick Douglass . What is the story that could render this outcome minimally plausible?

So many what ifs. I tried to watch the Man In The High Castle, but two episodes of hate watching was all I could muster. How could the Nazis sustain any real long-term rule of America given what we know about American Blacks, the anti-colonial movements around the world, and so on? A story is there, but that show’s writers don’t take advantage of real history to inform their plots. Given our own history, what stake would Blacks have in fighting Nazis on U.S. soil when before the American defeat their lives sucked so bad when the Nazis were still only in Europe? I suspect that a mass migration out of the country upon learning of the defeat would likely have been a more plausible plot point in such a alternative history fiction.


Ogden Wernstrom 02.24.17 at 5:29 pm

Another idea: President Frederick Douglass . What is the story that could render this outcome minimally plausible?

Douglass, still alive at approximately age 199 and still a member of The Republican Party, becomes a popular phenomenon after a tweet by President Drumpf mentions him. Drumpf voters interpret this as an endorsement, Douglass makes the Sunday Morning TV rounds – and comes off as a cranky old man, which appeals to the Drumpf voters.

Once Drumpf decides not to run for re-election in 2020, Frank Luntz convinces Middle America that their plight is equivalent to slavery…and Douglass’ campaign embroiders From Slavery To Freedom on millions of baseball caps. Once Douglass enters the race, many other Republican candidates drop out, narrowing the field to 37.

Once The Democratic Party nominates Cory Booker, various accusations of corruption during his term-of-office in Newark, NJ arise. The US Attorney General announces that Booker is being investigated, but does not disclose the nature of the investigation. Congress launches 17 investigations of Booker, including one investigation into allegations that he set the house fire from which he rescued a woman.

A series of debates causes most of the Republican candidates to drop out before the Super Tuesday primaries. TV interviews on the floor of the Republican National Convention make it clear that many delegates know that Douglass’ nomination proves that they are not racist….

Oh, wait – you said, “minimally plausible”. Can we go back and apply that standard to 2016?


Ogden Wernstrom 02.24.17 at 11:47 pm

If we want to stick to Douglass becoming President in his lifetime:

The Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th & 15th) are interpreted by the Supreme Court as allowing women to vote (overriding state laws) and run for office. In 1872 the Democratic Party nominates their own candidate (rather than back Liberal Republican Horace Greeley). The Republican voters decide that corruption is not their thing, so Horace Greeley draws most of the Republican vote away from Grant. Once Greeley dies, his electors find both the Republican and Democratic candidates abhorrent, and the next-best thing available is Victoria Woodhull. They pay little attention to her running mate, who did not campaign at all and was not pictured on campaign posters.

Before the inaguration, Ms. Woodhull is found to be ineligible for office, Douglass is sworn in as VP and immediately becomes the acting President. After Douglass’ assassination, President Decatur Carpenter gives a blanket pardon to former Confederates, starts us down the road to jailing journalists who will not reveal their sources, begins eliminating civil service protections, gets Caleb Cushing appointed Chief Justice of The Supreme Court, and whittles away the equal-protection coverage of the 14th Amendment…which results in women losing the federal right to vote by the 1876 election. Woodhull leaves the US, to live in self-imposed exile. Her life story inspires both a Broadway musical and an opera.

Women don’t regain the vote until 144 years after the US declared independence from Britain.

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