(Today’s column is a work of fiction. It asks the question, “What if...?”)
One of the smartest things President Hillary Clinton did was announce -- the day after she won the 2016 election -- that while she fully supported the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) inquiry into alleged Russian interference in that election, she hoped the FBI would maintain a “hands-off” attitude when it came to Donald Trump and family.
The FBI did as she asked, and I think it did exactly what the president intended: It kept the country from being pushed further into the extremes of the left and right. It may have even begun mending some of the bridges burnt during the campaign.
The nearly half of America who voted for Trump didn’t need to see him humbled any further. He had already squarely lost the popular vote and, thanks to last minute shifts in voting blocks, narrowly lost the Electoral College.
By urging the FBI not to prosecute Trump or any members of his family -- keeping its investigation to the Russians and those members of Trump’s campaign who unequivocally tried to cheat the electoral process -- Clinton extended a hand to Republicans. In a way, it echoed Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, to avoid a similiar schism.
(By the way, most analysts agree that there were even hardcore Trump supporters who couldn’t stomach having the Russians -- gasp! -- try to help him get elected and turned on him at the polls.)
Thankfully, the GOP seemed relieved with Trump’s loss and Clinton’s olive branch. While Clinton’s early presidency wasn’t any less bumpy than any other when the White House and Congress are controlled by different parties, I believe those years were far better than they would have been had the president not done what she did.
Since then, we’ve had a continuation of Obamacare, albeit with some Clinton changes as the White House collaborated with moderates in both parties.
We also have an immigration policy that a) cracks down on repeat offenders looking to take advantage of the system for criminal gain, b) extends a hand to those who come for the right reasons, and c) works with home nations to relieve the conditions that lead to mass migration in the first place.
While the #MeToo movement started in Hollywood, it soon swept the globe, most especially here in America and for good reason. This, in turn, led to a strong Democratic turnout for the mid-term 2018 elections, joined by moderate Republicans who wanted to get things back to the center. More women and minorities -- in both parties -- are now members of the House and Senate, making for a better reflection of the American people than we’ve probably ever had.
This, in turn, is making for a very interesting 2020 election scene. Clinton and Vice President Tim Kaine are the presumptive nominees on the Democratic side, of course, although there are some progressives making some pretty decent cases for themselves. They include Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are making noise, too, and there are still those who would like to see former Vice President Joe Biden run, but I don’t think he will as long as the president runs for reelection.
The Republican field is a bit murkier this late in the game than most experts would have thought. So far, the biggest name seems to our former governor, Nikki Haley, along with John Kasich trying again.
It’s not so much that Clinton is popular (she’s actually not on a personal level; folks just seem to be satisfied with her administration), but it’s always hard to beat someone running for reelection. Haley might have the best chance, and it’s great that we could finally get to see a presidential race with two women at the top of their respective tickets.
All that’s left to wonder is what a Trump administration would have been like. I shudder at the thought.