by Eszter Hargittai on May 23, 2020

Four years ago, some of you wondered whether there would really be that much of a difference between a Clinton and a Trump presidency. Imagine.



J-D 05.23.20 at 10:55 am

Bonus points for reference to The Phantom Tollbooth.


Lee A. Arnold 05.23.20 at 1:36 pm

Imagine if Hillary backed out of the Iran nuclear deal so Iran gets much closer to making a nuclear weapon while China and probably Russia are breaking her new sanctions and chuckling to themselves and there’s nothing she can do about it, and at the same time Hillary covers for the Saudis chopping up a dissident reporter, she betrays the Syrian Kurds and she also kills a hero of Iranians & Iraqis, resulting in the smelly distrusted US getting kicked out of Iraq this year or next, which then joins with Iran in an anti-Israel alliance sitting atop 50% of the world’s oil which China will gladly buy, and at the same time Hillary’s son-in-law writes a “peace plan” for unilateral surrender of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza that is received as dead-on-arrival even by the US’s dwindling number of Sunni allies, and then somebody somewhere sets off a big bomb, and so then the aggrieved and self-righteous US populace is whooped-up once again into a stupid callous futile war called “Operation Really Armageddon This Time,” and the knuckleheaded US media, which missed the implications of this entire chain of events while it was happening, even fails to report the true size of the huge worldwide antiwar demonstrations which ensue. And all of this, when it would have been easier and cheaper to airlift the entire state of Israel and plop it down onto a couple of ranches in Texas.


Area Man 05.23.20 at 3:51 pm

Imagine if Hillary…

I can’t. I’m still too caught up in the fact that Hillary was so obviously corrupt by having an email server, a charitable foundation, and was known to accept political donations from people who donated money to her campaign. Good thing we dodged that bullet.


Otto 05.23.20 at 4:14 pm

Imagine if Americans would stop rooting for people like Trump.


Chetan Murthy 05.23.20 at 4:22 pm

I feel as if, somehow, this post is an invitation to grieve. For me it really didn’t strike home, how much I’d been grieving for what had been lost, until I saw this short advert for Canada. The tears started, and I couldn’t stop.

Those of you who live in countries that don’t make you feel ashamed have something precious. The last time I felt the way this little film must make (good, decent) Canadians feel, was in November 2008, when I thought that maybe, just maybe, things were getting better. But the grief I’ve been feeling for the last four years …. the grief.


Donald 05.23.20 at 4:23 pm

I can easily imagine Clinton getting us more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war. I can imagine her continuing to support the barbaric war in Yemen because Obama did— Obama officials like Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power said basically nothing about this in their memoirs. It took Khashoggi’s murder and Trump’s defense of Bonesaw to unify Democrats against the Saudis.

I voted for Clinton and will vote for Biden, but it would be nice if Democrats had something positive to say besides “It is your moral duty to vote for us because Republicans are worse and if you don’t, you are scum.” Notice that this was essentially what Biden said on the podcast the other day, except that being an idiot he put a racist gloss on it. I accept the lesser evil logic, but can’t help noticing that it puts all the moral burden on the voter and basically none on the Democrats, except that they need to be less evil than the Republicans. It’s a low bar.


Andres 05.23.20 at 6:04 pm

While I sympathize with Chetan, the simple fact is that Trump is only one of numerous reasons to be ashamed of being a U.S. citizen. If we are lucky, a new Democratic administration will not do mind-blowingly stupid things with domestic policy the way Trump has (though they came close with “Ending welfare as we know it” in 1995 and the 2008-2009 bailouts, while not stupid, were nevertheless ethically outrageous). But on foreign policy, Democratic presidents have been almost as horrific as Republicans, the Obama presidency being no exception, as Donald points out.

The fact is, Americans should be ashamed of their governments (and of themselves, for voting them in) at least since the time Eisenhower and his cabinet decided they would tolerate any amount of murder by allied regimes in the name of anti-communism. And anti-communism and its successor, the war on terrorism, is why presidents of both parties ally with el-Sisi in Egypt and MBS in Saudi Arabia, among others.

Those who continue to focus laser-like on Trump and McConnell are ignoring this basic fact about the American governance system and its role in global affairs. Trump and McConnell are dismantling the Potemkin village of U.S. democracy (though they may be moving it away from a corporate oligarchy and toward a “cabal oligarchy” which will be worse), but it was a Potemkin village to begin with. And that won’t change until we as U.S. citizens organize to create a new republic with a new constitution. The U.S. is every bit in need of peaceful regime change as were the USSR and South Africa in the 1980s.


Ray Vinmad 05.23.20 at 6:34 pm

Someone said something on Twitter that got to me about this kind of ‘what if’ exercise–‘What if we could go back and get Romney to win in 2012. Would it be worth it if he’d be in his second term now?’

For some reason, this depressed me much more than the ‘what if’ timeline for Hillary. What would we do, to avoid Trump as president?

Donald, I relate to your lament but I wonder if the problem is not in the things people say but in the situation itself. I’ve been wondering if the ‘don’t put lipstick on a pig’ strategy will work better as a campaign strategy. ‘Vote for Biden. He’s not Trump.’ We don’t have to bother with a lot of positive rhetoric. That’s the Democrats’ strategy this time and there’s a way it may be less galling to people who want to assert their political preferences in a situation where that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Why bother saying anything else? The honesty could be refreshing. What many progressives resented in 2016 was that they had to be utterly silent about their political views and more than a few factual matters. To some of us it seemed dumb to care about that, given what we are facing but the more riled-up people were often younger and more idealistic. The post-2106 left bashing was unfair given the data (few defected and those that did don’t vote Democrat). It’s true they always blame the voters no matter who they run and what the candidate themselves chooses to say or do. But this time we especially have no need to discuss the merits of the only remotely sane candidate. Everything is terrible and our choice is entirely about how much worse it will get.


Chetan Murthy 05.23.20 at 6:36 pm


It’s a terrible feeling isn’t it, that realization that all the choices you have before you are awful ones. Yeah, I get it. Think of the GrOPers who had that feeling in 1964, after Goldwater lost: they regrouped, started working, and eventually got strong enough that they started primarying “RINOs” from the right. Over and over and over. Eventually they moved their party rightward, and the rest is this horrific timeline in which we all suffer. That’s the solution, and it has always been the solution, because there is no distinction between “Democrats” and the voters who vote them into office. If you want better pols, you need better voters. That’s coming: look at Ayanna Pressley and AOC, look at Marie Newman.
I mean, imagine the Democratic voter in Lipinski’s district, condemned to be represented by that moral midget! The horror. Hopefully, not anymore, starting in 2021.


steven t johnson 05.23.20 at 8:01 pm

Andres@7 strikes me as the most sensible (but the extirpation of the left/undoing of the New Deal started with Truman, not Eisenhower.) But, I suggest the literal death toll associated with the capitalist counterrevolution is underrated. Chechen war is just an act of God? No. And the drop in the Russian population is the result of the attack on the peoples of the Russian Federation. And even more to the point, the regimes that replaced the USSR are all worse. (No, the only one you can even try to make a case as better is Germany. Argue that with the rest of the EU.)

Anti-communism is the number one political principle of every person deemed acceptable in polite company. It appears to be sincerely believed that there is an anti-communist “left,” but this is a matter of acceptably urbane manners, I think.


Chetan Murthy 05.23.20 at 8:04 pm

Andres: ‘The fact is, Americans should be ashamed of their governments (and of themselves, for voting them in) at least since the time Eisenhower”

At one level, you’re right. There’s still a difference, a material difference, in America since 2016. Look: I can lament RoNnIeRaYgUn’s murderous antics in Latin America, and still regret that Don Bedsore is a literal fascist, among a brotherhood of fascists worldwide, destroying the Western Alliance. There are small children in concentration camps on my country’s soil, and 40+% of my countrymen think this is fine. [Also, that didn’t really happen overnight: they were waiting for a President who would allow them to think this is fine, sure.]

At another level, you’re just invoking Murc’s Law, and that’s a pretty sterile exercise. If you really think that the destruction of the Western Alliance is a good thing, well, y’know, I don’t think we have much to discuss.


nastywoman 05.24.20 at 2:52 am

Imagine –

that I was called ”nastywoman” and nobody listened…?


J-D 05.24.20 at 4:24 am

And all of this, when it would have been easier and cheaper to airlift the entire state of Israel and plop it down onto a couple of ranches in Texas.

I grant you that’s a fanciful ending, but I’m still trying to decide whether it’s fanciful enough for a list that includes ‘Cabinet officials replaced with a Fleetwood Mac tribute band’ and ‘Qallupilluit emerging reeking of sulphur’ and ‘Alex Jones and Roger Stone and Mike Pence turned into pillars of salt’ and ‘gun owners trade their firearms for wind instruments’.


bad Jim 05.24.20 at 7:28 am

Imagine if Hillary Clinton, in the depths of a pandemic, were to wear a mask to model prudent behavior. No right-thinking red-blooded man would follow her example.


JimV 05.24.20 at 4:39 pm

Well I prefer Lee Arnold’s version. Flights of whimsical fantasy are great while growing up, but at some point making sense becomes more attractive, or is that just me growing old?

I imagine there would be plenty of things to complain about had Madame Clinton gotten elected, but I hope and think not as much desperation.


Andres 05.24.20 at 6:11 pm

Chetan @11: Thanks for the reference, and for the provocation ;-) . I had to go to Google to look up Murc’s Law and found the resulting definition edifying though disagreeable. For those like me who are not keyed in, here is the relevant (and sarcasm-laced) passage from

I’ll stay focused on foreign policy for now (to keep this post short) and just mention that Ronnie Raygun’s antics in El Salvador and Nicaragua had a much smaller body count than the indirect effects of the Obama/Clinton/Kerry team’s handling of Libya/Egypt/Syria, if only because the latter three countries have a much larger combined population. To hint that Democratic politicians should be immune to criticism on matters like this simply because they opposed the Republican domestic policy agenda is naïve at best and disingenuous at worst; plus we should not forget H. Clinton and Biden voted in favor of the Iraq invasion. Which is why I am openly hostile to the Wall Street/DLC/news media obsession with nominating someone who has served in the Clinton/Obama white houses as the only “electable” Democratic candidate.

I have not even thought about ” the destruction of the Western Alliance would be a good thing”, whatever that means. If you mean NATO, for example, any alliance that includes regimes like Erdogan’s, Orban’s and yes, Trump and Johnson, is unlikely to be an effective force for good in world affairs, no matter how united it is. The problem is that a Western Alliance, loosely defined, is only a good thing for the global system if it is united in support of democracy and one of either social democratic capitalism or socialism. The Western Alliance never supported socialism, has now turned against social democratic capitalism, and is now starting to turn against democracy itself. If that trend continues, then the “destruction of the Western Alliance” will be no great loss, and world affairs will be dominated by whichever oligarchic system has more financial clout and a less malign, more forward-looking global vision. Time to learn Mandarin Chinese?


J-D 05.25.20 at 12:21 am

I voted for Clinton and will vote for Biden, but it would be nice if Democrats had something positive to say besides “It is your moral duty to vote for us because Republicans are worse and if you don’t, you are scum.” Notice that this was essentially what Biden said on the podcast the other day, except that being an idiot he put a racist gloss on it.

I find it hard to believe that’s what Biden said. (I can easily imagine other people saying that, but I find it hard to imagine a presidential candidate saying it.) Is there somewhere I can find his exact words and see for myself?


ph 05.25.20 at 4:58 am

Imagine the US had a points-based immigration system, like Australia, and arrested and deported anyone who could not provide legal reason for being in the country, as Canada does. (very few Canadians support the extremely lax US approach. Ditto Australia)

The fetishization of Canada’s imaginary liberalism is immensely amusing. The facts of Canada’s long history of anti-indigeneous racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia less so.

The kicker in the headline above, of course, is the faux or sincere surprise. Which is worse, we didn’t know, or we’re going to pretend we didn’t know?

And while we’re on the subject of why can’t we be like Canada – boo-hoo-hoo – Anyone vaguely familiar with Canada’s native incarceration rates, or who reads that rightwing rag, the guardian might point to

Talk about your facts hiding in plain sight. Again, we are shocked, just shocked to discover that fully 1/3 of the prison population is native-Canadian. Then we have drug abuse, child abuse, teen prostitution.

It’s easy for me to imagine what an HRC presidency would look like – exactly like an Obama/Bush/Clinton presidency. That’s why voters said no thanks, and just might do so again, no matter how badly Trump stinks up the joint.

A very significant number of Americans are sick of being the world’s policeman, sick of violent regime-change of the kind championed by “we came, we saw, he died’ HRC, and sick of being told if you don’t clap for coastal elites you’re a bigot, or a dunce.

The best part, of course, is “how obviously better” Trump is to folks who didn’t suffer a bit under Biden/Obama, but just grew richer while the opioid epidemic ran riot, vets died, jobs left for China and Mexico, and towns across America hollowed out and died. And that includes elites who aren’t missing too many meals in the heaven that is Europe and Canada.

Charlemagne the God tried to explain the simple facts of life to Biden this week: “black people pulled your ass out of the fire in South Carolina, and you act like you don’t owe us a damn thing.” And, of course, the way Biden sees it, Charlemagne has it exactly backwards.

See the comments above, Dems openly acknowledge that all they need to do is not be as openly racist as some Republicans to assert that black voters ‘clearly’ owe them.

Imagine that.


Chetan Murthy 05.25.20 at 5:54 am

Andres: you read the passage about Murc’s Law, but you haven’t actually understood it. So let me try to explain. When you criticize the DLC, without understanding -why- the DLC moved right (1968-1988: two decades of losses at the Presidential, only punctuated by Carter, which was sui generis, and in any case paved the way for Reagan). Perhaps you expect Democratic politicians to be pure as the driven snow and still somehow win elections. It doesn’t work that way, though: you go to the voting booth with the electorate you have, not the electorate you wish you had. The Dems moved right, because the voters moved right. They had to. Clinton did what he could, to preserve what he could, but he had to compromise again and again and again. It was that, or be voted out. When people criticize “the Democrats” as opposed to “democratic voters”, they’re, again, invoking Murc’s Law: Only Democratic pols have agency.

Maybe you think he should have held fast, even at the price of being voted out. We have a term for that — a term of derision — “Heighten the Contradictions (Comrade!!)” It’s never worked, and it never will.

Which brings us to Obama/Kerry/Clinton and Syria. What you’ve forgotten, is that America lost its collective mind in 2001, and maybe still hasn’t recovered. A politician who doesn’t make a proper obeisance to the National Security State, won’t get elected. And. That. Is. That. All a politician can do, is try to gently guide that behemoth to do less harm. Maybe go read The Best and the Brightest, and you’ll see that this was true in 1960, and nothing has changed. Obama tried, and he improved things a little. But there’s only so much any President can do. Oh, and let’s remember that Obama was a Black Man. Maybe you wanted him to be Malcolm X; but he was destined to be Jackie Robnson, and really, that’s why he was elected. To pretend that he should be elected by White America, and -yet- be Malcolm X somehow …. is delusional.

And now to the Western Alliance: yes, the Western Alliance is fraying. Why do you think that is? Why do you think people like Orban, or BoJo, or Erdogan, are coming to power? Do you think maybe it has something to do with Putin ? Maybe? Or do you think that only NATO has agency? Only America has agency ?

Yeah, if Hillary were President, we’d have lots to curse about. But we know that she would work -with- our Western allies, and not -against- them. We know that America would be leading the struggle against Covid-19, just as America did in every instance in living memory [and just to be clear: every reputable authority has gone on record saying that they all expected America to lead this struggle, and were flabbergasted when America instead went into hibernation with a set of golf clubs and a pile of hamberders[sic]].

And one last thing: it seems you think that somehow the PRC will do a better job than the USA and the Western Allies have. Good luck with that.


nastywoman 05.25.20 at 9:47 am

”Imagine that”.

But there is nothing to ”imagine” anymore after your comment.
You say it all – like always – and now you can go golfing.


nastywoman 05.25.20 at 10:10 am

”Time to learn Mandarin Chinese”?

I don’t think so – as China A.V. (After the Virus) seems to be stuck in the same mindset – as B.V. (Before the Virus)?
As most of US? –
As most of the commenters here? –
while there are these (German) Zukunftsforscher who are imagining two very ”nice imaginative” A.V. Scenarios –

Just imagine the simplistic versions:
Scenario 4: adaptation
The world is learning and emerging stronger from the crisis. We adapt better to the circumstances and are more flexible in dealing with change. The global economy continues to grow, but much more slowly, and in some places stagnation is already evident. Companies in such environments need new business models and must become less dependent on growth. This automatically raises the question of the purpose of doing business: Ever more profit? Or maybe better, socially and ecologically more advantageous problem solutions for customers and other stakeholders? One thing is clear: coming through the crisis together will help us to deal with each other in a new, mindful manner.

Scenario 3: Neo-Tribes
After the Corona crisis, globalized society has developed back to local structures. Regional products are more important than ever. The farmer’s potato next door is the new avocado, no one thinks of poke bowls in the trendy restaurant anymore. The return to family and house and farm has arrived. Small communities emerge and solidify – always deliberately differentiating themselves from “the others”. Sustainability and we culture are important values, but they are only thought locally, not globally”.

And I don’t want to post the Zukunftsforschers ”not so nice scenarios” –
as WE don’t want that – or need that – as any scenario from a ”Trump”.

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