The Gore Presidency: A Look Back

Keeping up my theme of responding to Matthew Yglesias’s blog posts, I’ve often wondered how a President Al Gore–i.e., an Al Gore who won over an extra 600 Ralph Nader voters in Florida, or who got a statewide recount, or, or, or–would have governed. I think the recollections of ex-Clinton administration officials have given us a lot of clues.

Gore, who would have had razor-thin GOP majorities in the House and Senate to work with (the Senate being 51-49 after Connecticut Gov. John Rowland replaced Vice President Lieberman with a Republican), would have governed as Clinton Mark II. Larry Summers would have stayed on as Secretary of the Treasury. Madeline Albright would have stayed on at State. Ron Klain would have become Chief of Staff. Their agenda: Passing a stimulus package to dig out of the shallow recession. Republicans would have watered it down with tax cuts, but I think we keep balanced budgets unless and until there’s a 9/11-type attack.

The 9/11-type attack is crucial to the hypothetical scenario. If it doesn’t happen–ironically, if the Gore administration succeeds–I think Gore governs a nation that’s increasingly grouchy about Democratic rule. Republicans gain seats in 2002; in 2004, either George W. Bush or John McCain wins the presidency. (Neither man will have Dick Cheney on the ticket.) What sort of GOP takes over? It’s hard to say. Losing in 2000 might have done for the GOP what losing in 1988 did for the Democrats, and forced a dramatic rethinking of the party’s agenda. But I think such a rethinking would have resulted in the party moving to the right. On the other hand, Mark Green defeats Michael Bloomberg and is elected mayor of New York City.

If there is a 9/11-type attack, I think the country rallies around President Gore, and he shoehorns some more of his agenda through Congress. A carbon tax, it turns out, is patriotic! I don’t think Gore goes to war with Iraq, because as much as liberals like to rant about TNR et al, the “war with Iraq” crowd would have been opposed by most of the Gore administration. Gore beats some Republican sucker in 2004–you doing anything, Tommy Thompson?–although I’ve got to think, because Gore’s economic team lets the mortgage crisis happen, the Republicans surge back in 2008.