Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tactics in 1998

In the discussion of sexual exploitation and political figures I recalled once again how different things would have been if Trent Lott had not made the impeachment of Bill Clinton dead on arrival when it reached the Senate. (I still don't know why. The only plausible explanation I have heard is that he knew of others who were going to be similarly exposed if it went forwarded and he thwarted justice to protect them. I have no evidence for that.) Al Gore would have become president, and the 2000 election would likely have been his by a good margin. Democrats would have doubled down on his behalf and kept all the Clinton scandals off the table as much as possible.  Republicans couldn't have been any angrier and might have been less determined.  Independents might have wanted to give Gore a chance, because he had taken over in a tough situation. Poor Al. The recession had barely started and dire warnings were going out, but most people still thought the economy was perking along nicely and a majority gave the credit for that to Democrats.

I used to wonder about that a lot.  The Republicans might have lost by winning, the Democrats won by losing.  Some Democrats, anyway.

9/11 and the recession would still have happened, and who knows whether that would have allowed the blame for that to fall on the Democrats, but that seems likely, though Gore would have been president already anyway. Jim Geraghty over at National Review has been remembering the same thing. Alt-history buffs like to take off from such points in history, telling us what they think would have happened after, but I never have confidence that events would have unfolded predictably for very long. I do think Hillary Clinton's career would have been over. Some value in that, I say.

Geraghty wonders would would have been different in the culture, and if the protection of powerful men would have been weakened sooner. Those of us who had mandatory sexual-harassment trainings at work can attest to the walkback that happened abruptly in 1998 and only gradually resumed its previous trajectory.  I can't imagine the protection of Harvey Weinstein or George Takei or a dozen other celebrities would have been strengthened by Clinton's removal from office, though I can't guess how much it would have been weakened. It solidified abortion's importance as the only non-negotiable feminist issue, relegating some types of exploitation and harassment to the back of the bus, but maybe the change there would have been slight. The feminism that emerged was merely liberalism with craft booths, crowding out other strains. Maybe that was destined to happen anyway.

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