Sometime before November 7th, 2000, the decision of a single electron split the universe in two. This happens all the time. There are an infinity of universes and, paradoxically, they are increasing all the time. Every time an electron has a choice, a universe is born.
In the universe we are not in, a database eliminating voters from Florida rolls rejected 50,134 voters instead of 67,172. Of these 17,038 people some 20% actually voted; less than three and a half thousand. They broke for Gore by 66%.
Here there was no recount. Al Gore was duly sworn in on January 20, 2001. President Gore immediately persuaded Congress to pass his emergency fiscal stimulus/tax cut package, using part of Clinton’s enormous surplus to stimulate middle class demand and infrastructure construction while still paying down the national debt.
On September 11, 2001, a single plane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing some 1600 people. Several other hijackings were averted at the last minute. The President gratefully accepted NATO’s solidarity and crafted a plan to quickly invade Afghanistan with a spearhead of American special forces aiding the Northern Alliance followed by the rapid and robust deployment of sixty thousand NATO troops. Gore also appealed personally to allied and friendly governments for special forces.
These tactics paid off. Osama bin Laden died resisting capture as did many other high ranking Al Qaeda leaders. President Gore implored the international community to commit to Afghan (re)construction. The response was phenomenal as the entire world responded to Gore’s emotional appeal. Hundreds of thousands of peacekeepers and aid workers from around the world spread out over all Afghanistan. Responsibility was quickly handed over to the UN which soon held elections.
In the Spring of 2002, the Gore Administration passed another fiscal stimulus/tax cut package which brought the budget into a shallow deficit. This passed with little difficulty despite Republican complaints about high corporate taxation. The President’s push to ratify the Kyoto treaty went nowhere so he launched the Millennium Energy Independence Initiative.
Acceding to direct talks with North Korea, the President’s envoy, former President Clinton, found the North Koreans almost pathetically eager for a non-aggression pact. A few months of bluster and diplomacy were enough to produce a “grand bargain.” North Korea would give up its “inherent” right to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for energy independence, tangible guarantees of its territorial integrity and a stint on the International Space Station for one of its astronauts. “North Korea was a very special case,” President Gore said, “and no other country should expect the US to be so lenient.”
Bolstered by these triumphs, the President focused his attention on the Middle East. Enlisting the help of former Presidents Bush and Clinton, the Administration pushed hard for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Little progress was made until Chairman Arafat died in late 2004 but the reputation of the United States as an honest broker was never higher and greatly helped speed matters after the election of Abbas.
The United States joined by the EU piled pressure on Iran to come clean about its own nuclear program. The enormous moral authority and popularity of the American President even inside the Islamic Republic seems to have placed the ruling clerics at a disadvantage, though the end outcome is still unclear.
Iraq was a festering sore. That the strong man in charge had once been one of our own was no comfort. Sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands and badly damaging what had been one of the most advanced and secular societies in the Arab world. However, lifting the sanctions and allowing President Saddam Hussein out of his box was widely perceived as being too dangerous.
President Gore called a summit meeting of the Security Council’s permanent members and persuaded them to agree to his plan. By appealing to the French love of conspiracy, the Russian and Chinese love for things that don’t hurt and do profit and the British love for “standing with America,” the President got his resolutions and his multinational troop buildup.
When President Hussein became convinced that the world was serious, he reached out through back channels and offered to hold truly free and fair elections within two years. Gore gave him nine months and kept piling the pressure and the forces.
With 250,000 troops massed at his northern and southern borders, half of the them US, Hussein kept on giving ground. In another universe a slogan would have been proved right: “You can win without war.”
By late 2003 the President’s artfully aimed fiscal stimulus packages had begun to work and the economy resumed its Clintonian levels of job creation. Increasing tax revenues without any increase in actual tax rates brought the budget back into surplus.
In November 2004 Gore won reelection with 54.3% of the vote and his coattails gained a Democratic majority in the Senate and a more evenly divided House. Many analysts put his true support level much higher, given that complacency had kept many voters home.
America’s prestige and standing in the world were at the highest levels in a generation, the terrorists were on the run, the economy was humming along nicely, global climate change was a top priority in Washington and President Gore was poised to cement a liberal majority on the Supreme Court that would last for decades, as his second term began.
Major problems remained but they seemed less intractable as the national debt continued to shrink and the United States enjoyed much goodwill from around the world.