What if Election Day 2016 had gone a little differently? What if a freak snowstorm across the Rust Belt had kept rural Trump voters from the polls? What if Russia had read its psyops data wrong and pivoted its resources to Snapchat? What if James Comey had taken a closer look at those emails in late October and decided, eh, it’s probably nothing.
What if all of these things happened?
What if Clinton had won?
In the doldrums of mid-November, pundits swarmed the only relevant question: Is Bill ever going to move to Washington? The first gent-to-be remained coy, citing the ever-more-complex needs of the Manhattan-based Clinton Foundation.
On Inauguration Day, President Hillary Rodham Clinton took the oath in a headband and a pantsuit. Hey, it was rainy, and what does she care what you think anymore? That night, Lin-Manuel Miranda brought the house down with a freestyle rap at her first inaugural ball, while new White House co-chief strategists/toasts of the town Robby Mook and Donna Brazile set Twitter afire with their exuberant choreographed dance.
The following day, dozens descended on the Mall for the “Men’s March.” Three fistfights broke out over who forgot to secure a rally permit.
It all coincided with a major shake-up at Fox News. The New York Times had taken advantage of post-election news lull to ramp up its investigation of Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out by early December. Fox then rebuilt its lineup around its new highest-paid star; Megyn Kelly’s two-hour show, which debuted Jan. 23, fillets the new president every night for a record-breaking viewership. Tagline: “Hey, she’s a woman, so you can’t say it’s sexist.”
Meanwhile, construction began that month on Trump Dacha, a 300-room luxury hotel scheduled to open in Moscow in 2019.
In February, a PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant accidentally handed Faye Dunaway a spare best-actress envelope backstage at the Academy Awards, and she opened it and declared that “La La Land” had won Best Picture. But that was okay, because the Hollywood community, smug in the afterglow of a Hillary victory, had actually voted for “La La Land,” feeling no impetus to send a message by boosting a melancholy indie pic about a gay African American drug dealer.
The New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl, because no one goes on to win when they’ve fallen that far behind.
Carrie Fisher is still alive.
TrumpTV is a ratings bonanza — or “Bannonza,” as Adweek said in its profile of network executive Stephen K. Bannon. O’Reilly took a job here, and so did Roger Ailes, looking healthier than ever since the November results gave him a new rage to live. Stephen Miller’s “American Carnage” recently surpassed Hannity in the key 24-to-54 demographic. “The Dr. Gorka Show” was renewed for a second season after securing a record number of catheter advertisers. And “She’s Not a 10,” with host Stacey Dash, eclipsed “Dancing With the Stars” in a season featuring Kellyanne Conway doing the polka in patriotic polkawear with a magnetic Russian named Yuri Activmayzursky, who seemed to come out of nowhere and occasionally cracks jokes about America on the air.
Trump does not host a show, but he calls in to all of them, at random, a couple of times a day, from Scotland or Palm Beach, Fla.
In June, CNN reported that Chelsea Clinton requested permission to stow her double stroller in a West Wing broom closet while bringing the kids in to see Grandma. Outraged, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) — already seeing in the chaos of his party a shot at the House speakership — postponed his 12th Benghazi inquiry to probe this potential violation of the Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute. Chastened, Chelsea decided to suspend the weekly bipartisan “salons” at her new Kalorama mansion and focus quietly on a $1 billion Clinton Foundation endowment drive.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is loving retirement. She gave up pushups and planks in favor of red wine, Costco taquitos and binge-watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” despite its strangely irrelevant subject matter. Her seat remains vacant, though. Confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin “when hell freezes over,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But even die-hard Democrats had a hard time paying much attention. The Washington Post laid off 200 journalists because of a harrowing dip in Web traffic. The New York Times began failing for real and started publishing every other day. (David Brooks’s most recent column: “Nana state: Do grandmothers now have too much power?”) Nobody listens to political podcasts; Jon Favreau Co. formed a consulting group called You’re Doing It Wrong LLC.
But Sean Spicer’s scathing campaign tell-all was a runaway bestseller, helping him secure a marquee contributor gig on MSNBC, which is trying to bolster its flagging ratings with a deliciously gloomy nightly report: “How Bad Would Trump Have Been?”
Anthony Weiner is in prison. He tweets pardon requests at President Clinton during computer time. She has no idea; she blocked him in 2014.
With majorities in both houses of Congress, the Republicans passed 37 health-care-repeal bills. Clinton vetoed every one of them.
Setting off on his own, Jared Kushner passed up a TrumpTV job to film Season 1 of “Undercover Landlord” for Bravo, in which he went undercover as a housing inspector. In the pilot, the real estate heir visited an East Baltimore housing project where a tenant refused to pay until the landlord made simple fixes on the property. Kushner, after pretending to take note of all the property’s deficiencies, revealed his true identity and the show’s catchphrase: “Guess what? Get out.”
President Clinton toured a hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico and made physical contact with the victims in the form of hugs. After scrutinizing photos of scars she’d attempted to cover up — believed to be from a routine skin-tag removal procedure she had not disclosed to the American public — Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones deduced that Clinton was showing signs of leprosy and slammed her for bringing bacteria “back to America.” This report coincided with the release of Infowars’ patented anti-leprosy snorkel.
By October, there had been three state dinners. Barbra Streisand attended two of them.
Clinton continues to try to connect with voters by scrutinizing video of her previous endearing moments and attempting to re-create them. She does a sassy shoulder shimmy at least three times per public event now. She dresses only in Suffragette White. Nothing is quite landing, though, because American governance has ground to a halt. Her approval rating is 42 percent.
On Nov. 7, in keeping with an Old Dominion tradition of flipping off the party in the White House, Virginia elected Corey Stewart as governor. In a shocker, Corey Lewandowski, having retreated to his native Massachusetts, won a special election for Congress, portending a GOP tsunami in 2018.
On Nov. 8, an emboldened House of Representatives began proceedings to impeach Clinton. Articles 1 through 3 are related to Benghazi, her emails and uranium. The fourth article of impeachment begins “she seems a little shrill,” and ends with copy-and-pasted text from the Wikipedia entry for “Parkinson’s disease.”
Among the general public, the most fervent supporters of Clinton’s removal are not Republicans but a band of far-left activists who wait in line to attend the public hearings wearing T-shirts that say “Bernie Woulda Won, Too.”
With their political demise imminent (again), Bill Clinton is already at work on his next post-White House memoir. His working title is “Hill/Bill Elegy.”
With the Resolute Desk stocked with boxes of chardonnay, the president is secretly organizing notes for her own book. Scrawled at the top of her legal pad, in capital letters, underlined three times, are the words “WHAT HAPPENED.”