There are, as with every what-if scenario, some flaws. Democrats would have deeply resented Trump’s ‘birther’ questioning of Barack Obama’s origins, and would have been highly skeptical of the former reality TV star’s political bona fides even if he hadn’t made a sharp turn to the right as he explored a presidential bid in the run up to the 2012 election. His comments on women and minorities would have exposed him to withering scrutiny among the left’s army of advocacy groups. Liberal donors would likely have banded together to strangle his candidacy in its cradle—if they weren’t laughing him off. But Republican elites tried both of these strategies in 2015, as well, and it manifestly didn’t work. What’s more, Trump did once hold a passel of progressive stances—and he had friendships all over the political map. As Bloomberg’s Josh Green notes, in his Apprentice days, Trump was even wildly popular among minorities. It’s not entirely crazy to imagine him outflanking a coronation-minded Hillary Clinton on the left and blitzing a weak Democratic field like General Sherman marching through Georgia. And besides, it’s fun to think about.
So how, in fact, might history have changed if Trump descended that infamous golden escalator and declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination? And how would it be (depressingly) the same?