Home Donald Trump Ten “Counterfactuals” For Virginia Politics Since 2005. For Instance, If Hillary Clinton...

Ten “Counterfactuals” For Virginia Politics Since 2005. For Instance, If Hillary Clinton Had Won in 2016, Would There Ever Have Been a “Blue Wave” In Virginia?

Also, what if Ralph Northam's med school yearbook had been found in 2007? 2013? 2017? How about President George Allen?


This tweet by G. Elliott Morris of The Economist, asking “If Trump had died from covid at Walter Reed last year, would Mike Pence have won the election?“, got me thinking about some “counterfactuals” here in Virginia. Also, I love reading “Alternate History” by authors like Ward Moore (the amazing “Bring the Jubilee”) and Harry Turtledove (e.g., his “Southern Victory” timeline, his “Days of Infamy” timeline – where Japan invades and occupies Hawaii following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, etc.).  So anyway, I came up with the following ten “counterfactuals” for Virginia politics, although I’m sure there are many more interesting ones, dating from 2005, when I got heavily involved in Virginia politics. Feel free to add your “counterfactuals”/”alternate history” thoughts in the comments section. The main lesson I draw from this, by the way, is that elections *really* matter, as does your voting, activism, etc. Just thinking through these ten counterfactuals really drove home for me how differently things could have worked out for so many people…

  • What if Creigh Deeds had won the 2005 Virginia Attorney General election, which he lost to Bob McConnell by a 323-vote (970,886-970,563) margin out of over 1.9 million votes cast? Would McDonnell still have gone on to win the VA GOP nomination for governor in 2009? If not, would Bill Bolling have become governor in 2009 instead of McDonnell? Lots of things change, obviously, if that happens…
  • What if Democrat Janet Oleszek had received 93 more votes in the 2007 State Senate race in SD37 against right-wing Republican Ken Cuccinelli, which she lost by a tiny 18,602-18,510 margin? And if Oleszek had defeated Cuccinelli, would he still have gone on to win the VA GOP’s 2009 nomination for Attorney General, then get elected in November 2009 and become the scourge he became (including his horrendous four years as Virginia AG, plus the damage he did in the Trump administration as Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and as Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security?  Would none of that have happened if Oleszek had gotten just 93 more votes in that 2007 State Senate race?!?
  • Also, if Cuccinelli hadn’t been elected AG in 2009, would he have run for governor in 2013? Or if he did, would he still have won the VA GOP nomination? If not, would Bill Bolling have been the VA GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2013, and might he actually have been a stronger candidate – and possibly even won – against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe?
  • What if Jim Webb had not been “drafted” to run in 2006, or for whatever reason had decided not to run? As someone who was heavily involved in trying to persuade Webb to run, I can definitely say that it was touch-and-go there for a while, with a good chance that Webb opted not to throw his hat in the ring. If Webb hadn’t run, the nominee to face Republican George Allen almost certainly would have been Democrat Harris Miller. Could Miller possibly have defeated Allen? (I’d argue…most likely not) Would the “macaca” incident ever have happened? (I’d argue…almost certainly not) And if not, then would Allen’s political ascent have continued? (I’d argue…yes) Recall that as we headed into 2006, Allen was widely believed to be gearing up a run for president in 2008, even “viewed by many Republican professionals as the likeliest GOP nominee” and John McCain’s “strongest challenger from the right—a man who, as the National Review’s Richard Lowry wrote recently, ‘combines the people skills of Bill Clinton, with the convictions of Ronald Reagan, with the non-threatening persona of George W. Bush circa 2000, prior to his becoming a hate-figure for the Left.'” In the end, Allen lost to Webb by just 8,805 votes (1/3 of 1%), so it’s easy to see this one going the other way…
  • What if Jim Webb had run for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2012? Among other things, this would have meant that Tim Kaine wouldn’t have been in the U.S. Senate in 2016, and most likely wouldn’t have been selected by Hillary Clinton as her running mate. Would a different running mate, maybe Sen. Sherrod Brown or Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro or Sen. Cory Booker, might that have been enough to push Clinton over the top in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania? Who knows, but obviously that would have changed history – a lot!
  • What if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016: part 1? Would Virginia ever have experienced an anti-Trump backlash (aka, the “blue wave”) and seen the State Senate, House of Delegates and governorship all won by Democrats in 2017 and 2019? Or would Democrats have remained in the tiny minority in the House of Delegates throughout Clinton’s four years in office (remember, there were only 34 House Dems out of 100 as we headed into the November 2017 elections), with Republicans possibly even winning the governorship in 2017?  Would Eileen Filler-Corn ever have become the first female and first Jewish Speaker of the House? Would Charniele Herring ever have become the first African-American female House Majority Leader? We could go on and on, but you get the idea…
  • What if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016: part 2? Again, with no anti-Trump “blue wave,” would any of the 15 Democrats elected to the House of Delegates in 2017 have won their elections? For instance, would Danica Roem have still defeated the odious, far-right Del. “Sideshow Bob” Marshall? Would Rich Anderson, who is now the VA GOP Chair, still be in the House of Delegates, instead of Democrat Hala Ayala, who defeated him in 2017 and is now running for Lt. Governor? Would  Would Jennifer Carroll Foy have stepped up to run and gone on to run for governor just four years later? Same question for Lee Carter, who is now running for governor as well. Would Kirk Cox still be Speaker of the House? Would Glenn Youngkin be the Republican nominee for governor in 2021? etc, etc.
  • What if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016: part 3? If Virginia hadn’t had the anti-Trump backlash and “blue wave,” would Democrats not have picked up VA02 (Elaine Luria), VA07 (Abigail Spanberger) and VA10 (Jennifer Wexton) in 2018? Heck, would any of those Democrats even have run for Congress at all? If not, would VA02 still be (mis)represented by Republican Scott Taylor? Would VA07 still be (mis)represented by far-right Republican Dave Brat? And would Republican Barbara Comstock still (mis)represent VA10?
  • What if the “blackface” photos in Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook had been found in 2007 by his right-wing Republican opponent, then-State-Senator Nick Rerras? Or if not by Rerras, what if Northam’s Democratic opponent for the 2013 Lt. Governor nomination, Aneesh Chopra, had come up with the photos? Finally, what if Northam’s Democratic opponent for the 2017 gubernatorial nomination, Tom Perriello, had sent a staffer to the Eastern Virginia Medical School to check out the 1984 yearbook? Would any of these have ended Northam’s political career early – whether in 2007 (in which case he never would have become a State Senator), in 2013 (in which case Aneesh Chopra could very well have been elected Lt. Governor) or in 2017 (in which case Tom Perriello almost certainly would have won the Democratic nomination and the governor’s election in November)?
  • What if Mark Herring had narrowly lost the 2013 Attorney General election to right-winger Mark Obenshain, instead of winning it by just 165 votes out of 2.2 MILLION cast?  Think about how hard AG Herring’s office fought against the Virginia “Marriage Amendment” – and won – as well as how hard it fought against the Trump administration in 2017 – the infamous “Muslim ban,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ horrible policies, the assault on “DREAMers,” etc. Would there have been any chance whatsoever that a hard-right guy like Obenshain would have done any of that? Uh, no. And again, this all came down to just 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast in the November 2013 election. So yes, your vote *REALLY DOES MATTER*.

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