What if George H.W. Bush Had Won in 1992?

When I was in high school we held a mock election right before the 1992 election, and our choices were the two major party candidates President Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton. (And maybe Perot, but I don’t recall him being one of the choices they gave us.) Clinton won something like 200-7. Those weren’t the exact numbers, but the margin was that dominant in favor of Clinton, who had recently been on MTV playing sax while Bush had recently been vomiting on the Japanese prime minister. I was one of the seven students at Mayfield High who was like — I know Bill Clinton likes boxers over briefs and goes on Arsenio, but I’m going with the barf guy.

I was a Republican back then (I quit the party around 2000), and I took it hard when Bush lost. I blamed the media for not focusing on the good things he had done (won the Gulf War, and, uhhh, something or other) and only focusing on the bad (the economy wasn’t great, and he did spend an inordinate amount of time vomiting on world leaders.) I thought Bush would make a better president than Clinton, whom I was convinced was a liar (little did I know they all lie) and would do or say anything to advance the liberal agenda (which today would pass for the Republican agenda but I was 16 and no one knew the Oval Office would drift left for the next three decades so cut me some slack.)

OK. You should know all of that to understand what happens next. A couple of days ago when President Trump started firing missiles into Syria to save his flailing presidency, I posted this question on my Facebook page:

I wonder how many D voters would trade Obama’s second term for one Romney term, followed by a Clinton term, and Trump is never elected. Any takers?

I wound up with a couple of takers, which didn’t surprise me. I’d take that deal in a heartbeat. Romney would have been a one-termer, and he probably would have been followed up by a Democrat, like Clinton.

One of my friends, though, pitched an alt version of my alt-history. She wrote:

What I REALLY would have traded is the 2000 SC Republican primary, which dealt the final blow to McCain’s campaign, setting the stage for every stupid thing since.

This got me thinking. About 1992. Which is what I trace “every stupid thing since” back to. (Although you could make a case for the stupidity starting with Reagan, FDR, or Wilson, and I wouldn’t fight you very hard on it.) In any case, I started thinking back to our dark electoral year of 1992, and I came up with an alt version of my friend’s alt-historical response to my alt question. My response (slightly edited):

Or we could go back to 1992. George H.W. Bush gets a second term. In 1996, Bill Clinton wins the first of his two terms. The terror attacks on 9/11 still happen, but they’re during Clinton’s second term, and we still invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Both wars are still going well in 2004, when Clinton’s vice president Al Gore is elected president.

Both wars go sideways during Gore’s first term, and the economy still tanks in 2007-2008, and Gore loses in 2008 to the Republican peace candidate George W. Bush, who oversees the steadying of the economy and the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. Having ushered in world peace, and having saved the economy, Bush wins a second term in 2012 against challenger Hillary Clinton.

Near the end of Bush’s second term, though, as we turn our attention inward to domestic issues, Americans are mad that Bush hasn’t done enough for health care, and Barack Obama is elected to his first term after narrowly defeating Bush’s vice president Colin Powell.

Obama, seasoned by two terms in the Senate, emerges in 2017 as the most popular and powerful Democrat since FDR. He passes health reform within his first two years and is widely seen as the favorite in 2020.

During this whole time, Donald Trump hosts a TV show and is on Twitter.

See. As I’ve been saying for decades: We should have voted for Bush in 1992. YOU BLEW IT, MAYFIELD HIGH!


Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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