What would President Hillary have done?

Clinton might have tended to jobs and the economy more quickly than Obama did; therefore, there might have been no health care reform. If the economy had improved, it’s possible there would have been less of a 2010 bloodbath, but her coattails would most likely have been shorter to begin with. Yes, she might have bitten off the ear of a Tea Partier by now. Then again, there might not have been a Tea Party. Do I believe she was better prepared to navigate the vast right wing of our political system? Yes, sir, that’s part of why I voted for her over Obama. Do I wonder if she might not also have taken us to war with Iran by now? Well, that’s part of why I almost voted for Obama over her.

The empirical choice between Clinton and Obama was never as direct as those on either side made it out to be; neither was obviously more equipped or more progressive than the other. The maddening part, then and now, is that they were utterly comparable candidates. The visions — in 2008, of Obama as a progressive redeemer who would restore enlightened democracy to our land and Hillary as a crypto-Republican company man; or, in 2011, of Obama as an appeasement-happy crypto-Republican and Hillary as a leftist John Wayne who would have whipped those Congressional outlaws into shape — they were all invented. These are fictional characters shaped by the predilections, prejudices and short memories of the media and the electorate. They’re not actual politicians between whom we choose here on earth…

There simply was never going to be a liberal messiah whose powers could transcend the limits set by a democracy this packed with regressive obstructionists. That doesn’t mean we can’t hope for, seek and demand better from politicians and presidents. But we can’t spend our time focused on alternate realities in which our country, its systems and its climate are not what they are. With advance apologies for returning to one of 2008’s most infelicitous phrases, it’s time to let go of the fairy tales.