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Ah, my favorite time of the year. For us growing legions who follow the Rock Hall (there are now dozens of us! Dozens!), we wait in anticipation to see which artists will get nominated. And then, about ten weeks later, we’ll know who will get inducted…and then, we watch the ceremony unfold, with its manifold dramas, happy reunions, tributes, and performances. With now two Rock Hall podcasts operating, a growing blogging presence from Jason Voight and Nick Bambach, and many of the old crew of bloggers still doing their thing, I look forward to seeing who will make everyone’s list of predictions.

Here’s mine. Last year, we had 7 acts– each either very deserving or very well-known- get in. Genres that hadn’t had much success lately like 80s alternative (The Cure), and 80s & 90s R&B (Janet) and art rock (Roxy Music) broke on through to the other side. A good part of my thinking can be reduced to either “who is next in line?” or “who might the people who nominated those acts turn to next?”

I also realize I’m jumping the gun and posting a little early. There’s a good reason for this. While visiting family in Maine, my 7-months-pregnant wife began to complain of blurred vision and uncomfortable swelling. We checked into a hospital where she was diagnosed with severe pre-eclempsia that required an immediate emergency c-section. And so, little Alex Jr. was born at only 32 weeks. Mrs. Voltaire has been discharged and is doing fine, but it will take tiny Alex a while to get his little lungs developed in the NICU. He’ll make it, but my life is now slow, long, repetitive days in a hospital. I needed some distraction, and as often happens, I turned to the Rock Hall community as one venue of solace among many.

  • Mötley Crüe: Currently in the lead at the Rock Hall’s kiosks where you can vote for who you want to see in the Hall of Fame. Def Leppard and Stevie Nicks took this route to nomination and induction, so I’ll go along with it until it isn’t predictive. This band has also enjoyed a year of big publicity, with The Dirt hitting Netflix. Yet their infamy is a liability (as infamy usually is). Mötley Crüe’s rap sheet, which includes battering women, foggy recollections of sexual assault, and racism directed at Sylvia Rhone will hurt them. Let the record show that for a number of reasons, I do not support their nomination. If Mötley Crüe’s talent for playing music was as great as their talent for almost killing themselves and others, then they would have been inducted a decade ago.
  • Cher: The highest-ranked woman on the kiosks. Cher also had a good past 18 months, culminating in a Mama Mia sequel. Her long career continues to roll on, as an outspoken icon and sartorially daring performer on her eighth round of farewell touring. I can think of a great many women who should be inducted before Cher in terms of merit, talent, and influence, but I’m fine with the prospect of her getting in.
  • Depeche Mode: The Cure busted down the doors of bleak 80s alternative big time last year. With two relatively recent nominations under their belt, Depeche Mode seems likely to be next in line– especially if the Hall understandably doesn’t want to deal with Morrissey’s bullshit. If the ballot isn’t overstuffed with 70s classic rockers, expect them to have an excellent chance of making it this year.
  • Kraftwerk: Just a little German band that basically all subsequent electronic music (including Depeche Mode!) is heavily indebted to. They have been nominated five times.
  • Rufus and Chaka Khan: If my guess is right, this ballot may be light on funkiness, making it likely that Chaka will get nominated with her old band. With Rufus or without, this is now the free space at the center of the bingo board.
  • New York Dolls: Roxy Music is in! And rightly so. Maybe T-Rex, the other big 70s band that was a bigger deal in Britain than in the UK might be next. But maybe, if we’re looking at glam androgyny, a punk direction is called for. And New York Dolls were nominated– but that was way back for the class of 2001, when the nominating committee had a markedly different lineup.
  • The B-52s: Maybe there’s room for another avant-garde group on the ballot. Nick Bambach has done some great work on The B-52s’ prospects. They pioneered a daring, retro-future style and made rock and roll campy and fun again, like the 50s B-movies they sent up. With high-profile articles in New York Times and Rolling Stone in recent months, it’s easy to see enough people in the room agreeing to give the B-52s a turn. With two movies about gay rock musicians breaking box office records this year, The B-52s–four out of five of whom identified as LGBT–would also be timely.
  • Eurythmics: The Rock Hall loves soulful vocals, and recent changes in the nominating committee reflect a friendliness toward MTV, VH1 and music videos. Can you pick a more 80s moment than Annie Lennox in a suit, with a pointer and a globe? They were nominated two years ago, and I don’t think it was a one-and-done affair.
  • The Doobie Brothers: These guys have seen so many of their contemporaries get in, it’s almost embarrassing. They were and are major classic rock artists. I understand the Nom Com moving a step away from that after the Moody Blues/Dire Straits/Cars year, but the Doobies are one of the last bands from that genre that really does deserve to get in. They still tour, had plenty of hits in two distinct eras, and were one of the few racially integrated groups to have achieved that level of success. It’s also pretty easy to get an HBO-friendly reunion with Michael McDonald. Let’s see if signing with Irving Azoff paid dividends.
  • Tommy James & the Shondells: Well, The Zombies finally got in! But the Nom Com is still filled with old guys reliving their sixties’ youth. According to Future Rock Legends, Tommy James has been previously considered, and it’s not hard to see Little Stevie, Paul Shaffer, and some of the others make a case for this band. A couple years ago, Miami Steve inducted James into the New Jersey Music Hall of Fame, for those of you keeping notes.
  • Notorious B.I.G.: Look, I think LL Cool J is now one of the five most inexplicable snubs, but the voters aren’t having him. To avoid making the hip-hop backlog worse than it already is, Cool J may be iced in favor of first-year-eligible Biggie. I don’t especially like Biggie and I struggle to see why he was such an icon, but I doubt the Rolling Stone Industrial Complex sees it that way.
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Who Cares About the Rock Hall did a bang-up job on this Native Tongues outfit and the continued relevance they have today. Possibly the most critically acclaimed hip-hop group ever, they could very well sneak on to the nominating list. Two rap acts have shared a ballot before, after all. With Janet Jackson in, Questlove gets to advocate for someone else, and his Mo Meta Blues is so generous in its praise of ATCQ, I have to think they are next in line.
  • Big Mama Thornton: It went under the radar, but Holly George-Warren recently gave a presentation on this seminal blueswoman. She did “Hound Dog” before Elvis. She was with Johnny Ace when he died. She played the drums and harmonica! Warren wants to make “make a compelling case for Thornton’s place in the blues and R&B pantheon.” This might help her efforts. If Big Mama shows up, don’t be surprised if this culminates in an early-influence induction, a la Sister Rosetta.
  • Weezer: In exceptional years, two FYE (that’s First Year Eligible) acts might show up. Think Green Day/Nine Inch Nails. Think Radiohead/Rage. Think Pearl Jam/2pac. Biggie/Weezer fits nicely into this pattern. With Weezer you have a band that had pretty impressive longevity, several indispensable songs anybody who was young in the 90s remembers, a couple iconic albums, and a deep influence on how indie developed. Oasis is eligible too, of course, but the Gallaghers rival only The Smiths as a nightmare reunion to manage. Remember, bassist Scott Shriner was involved in the 2018 ceremony, deputizing for Benjamin Orr during The Cars’ set.
  • Richard Thompson: What list would be complete without a left-field choice? As previous years have shown, a long-shot act like John Prine or Los Lobos can appear without much warning. Rolling Stone has been touting Shoot out the Lights, recorded with his then-wife Linda as one of the iconic albums of the 80s whenever they gin up a “Greatest Albums” list to boost their sales. His stunning lyricism, deep mystical philosophy, his shimmering creativity, and his singular guitar work could very well commend him to the Rock Hall powers.

So, if I had to guess, I’d say Motley Crue, Cher, Doobies, Biggie, and Depeche Mode would get in, adding B-52s if six, and Eurythmics if seven. My five votes on the fan ballot would go to Kraftwerk, Eurythmics, Big Mama Thornton, A Tribe Called Quest, and The B-52s.

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The Northumbrian Countdown strives to be nothing if not eclectic. This blog’s bread-and-butter for attracting visitors is usually political possibilities and Rock Hall stuff. But I have a certain affection for NBA history as well—and a fascination with that question: who would you pick?

I did a draft– pick any NBA players, any era, to make your team– with seven friends a couple years ago. It was a great deal of fun, and I was delighted with my 3-and-D team: Bill Russell (I drafted seventh, so I was lucky he was still available), Stephen Curry, Jerry West, Kevin McHale, James Worthy, Chauncey Billups, Draymond Green, my boy Chris Mullin, Sidney Moncrief, Bob McAdoo, Vince Carter, Dave DeBusschere, Buck Williams, Bob Lanier, and John Wall. (Why we allowed 15 players per team is a good question that I’m not sure I can answer.)

Anyway, to give myself a bit of a respite between moving out of my apartment, getting classes ready, preparing to move to Singapore, and caring for my wife in her seventh month of pregnancy, I took to drafting 10 all-time teams, by my lonesome, as fairly and impartially as I could. My rules were: 1) snake draft format; 2) 10 players apiece; 3) no IRL teammates; 4) No Jordan or Chamberlain, because it’s just too easy to say that MJ’s team always wins, or that Chamberlain will score 100 on everybody. 5) your goal is to thrive in the regular season and make a deep run in a playoffs, so clutch-ness matters.

I tried to make teams, not collections of big names. So one-dimensional scorers that couldn’t create shots or play defense were either not drafted or drafted very late in the game relative to where they might land on an all-time ranking. (Think Adrian Dantley or Carmelo Anthony or Dominique). I also tended not to draft talented players who were certifiable locker room problems: Rick Barry, Elvin Hayes, Gilbert Arenas, Alvin Robertson, and others.

And so, our draft ended up with:

San Diego Sails:

  • Lebron James (pick #1)
  • James Harden (#20)
  • Kevin Garnett (#21)
  • Bill Walton (#40)
  • Walt Frazier (#41)
  • Bench: Dave Cowens (#60), Nate Archibald (#61), Grant Hill (#80), Andre Iguodala (#81), Pau Gasol (#100)
  • Team Philosophy: I love the ball movement for this group– you have the best passing forward and possibly the best passing center ever on one team. Three guys in the starting lineup can assume ball-handling duties. Garnett and Cowens give the team a fine competitiveness, while Hill and Iguodala are valuable utility guys off the bench. It’s also a highly customizable team. So ahead- play Harden at point guard. Play Lebron at center. Also, Bill Walton gets to hang in his home town.

Baltimore Bullets:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (pick #2)
  • Chris Paul (#19)
  • Elgin Baylor (#22)
  • Kevin McHale (#39)
  • Klay Thompson (#42)
  • Bench: Buck Williams (#42), Gary Payton (#62), Dikembe Mutombo (#79), Paul Silas (#82), Shane Battier (#99)
  • Team Philosophy: Kareem is seriously underrated as an all-time great, partly because he lacked the media fervor that Jordan, Shaq, Magic, and others enjoyed, and partly because of his introverted personality. He never won a championship, though, without an all-time point guard beside him, so we’ve got Chris Paul. You have a versatile scorer in Elgin, a man who will torture people in the post like McHale, and a 3-and-D guy in Klay. But I really love the bench, which will demoralize the opposing team with its crushing, brutal, and above all physical defense. 

Las Vegas Rollers:

  • Magic Johnson (pick #3)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (#18)
  • Dwyane Wade (#23)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (#38)
  • Willis Reed (#43)
  • Bench: Dwight Howard, Tim Hardaway, Robert Covington, Horace Grant, Jerry Sloan)
  • Team Philosophy: joie de vivre and mismatches. The pure joy Magic, Howard, and Giannis take from basketball is infectious– and that may seem like a superficial quality, but ignore it at your peril. You have a 6’9 point guard, a 7’0″ distance-shooting power forward, and a 6’10” swingman who can leap across the court in four bounds. Good luck coming up with a plan for that. With the right moving pieces (Magic, Giannis, Wade, Hardaway), you would have one heck of a fast break lineup.

Cincinnati Royals:

  • Tim Duncan (pick #4)
  • Scottie Pippen (#17)
  • John Stockton (#24)
  • Patrick Ewing (#37)
  • Dave Thompson (#44)
  • Bench: Sidney Moncrief, Robert Parish, Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Peja Stojakovic.
  • Team Philosophy: Kill you with the fundamentals. Ewing is a reasonable facsimile of the Admiral for a Twin Towers frontcourt, Stockton is a tough, dependable floor general, and Thompson, Jordan before Jordan, will complement Scottie. Not much distance shooting here aside from Stojakovic. Moncrief might win the Sixth Man Award of this theoretical tournament. And Griffin-Stockton pick-and-rolls would be a wonder to behold.

Carolina Cougars:

  • Stephen Curry (pick #5)
  • David Robinson (#16)
  • Ray Allen (#25)
  • John Havlicek (#36)
  • Kevin Love (#45)
  • Bench: Chauncey Billups, Shawn Marion, Chris Bosh, Marc Gasol, Michael Cooper
  • Team Philosophy: Smart big men, arguably the two best three-point shooters ever, and Hondo holding everything together. All five starters were part of legendary teams that won some championships. Figuring out defense with Curry and Allen spreading the floor will be nightmarish, especially with a specimen like the Admiral in the pivot. Love isn’t the 45th best player in NBa history, but he’s the perfect fit for this team– with his great outlet passes, and you have some fun fast breaks too. The bench rounds things up with defense and fill-in-the-blanks guys.

New York Americans:

  • Shaquille O’Neal (pick #6)
  • Kawhi Leonard (#15)
  • Charles Barkley (#26)
  • Russell Westbrook (#35)
  • Paul Pierce (#46)
  • Bench: Bob McAdoo, Kyle Korver, Mark Jackson, Vince Carter, Ben Wallace
  • Team Philosophy: A lot is riding on O’Neal and Barkley’s friendly bickering and their ability to intimidate. In New York, they’ll have plenty of spotlight to grab and attention to hog. Plenty of clutches with Pierce and Leonard. A lot of teams will be scared to go up against a dunk by O’Neal, Barkley, or Carter. This isn’t the strongest team defensively, but will be anchored by Kawhi’s perimeter defense and Wallace’s post defense. Korver, Carter, Pierce, and even McAdoo give plenty of distance shooting options.

Austin Desperados:

  • Bill Russell (pick #7)
  • Karl Malone (#14)
  • Steve Nash (#27)
  • James Worthy (#34)
  • Clyde Drexler (#47)
  • Bench: Dave DeBusschere, Robert Horry, Joel Embiid, Mookie Blaylock, Tracy McGrady
  • Team Philosophy: Try and recreate the 60s Celtics teams in the 21st century. The anchor, of course is Russell and his leadership and rim protection. Nash is a souped-up Cousy, Worthy has the clutchness of Sam Jones and the versatility of Hondo, and DeBusschere is the hard-working, cerebral player Bill Sharman was. Just imagine Nash-and-Malone pick-and-rolls. Oh, and in the fourth quarter of pivotal games, you can bet that I’m benching Malone for Horry.

Indianapolis Olympians:

  • Larry Bird (pick #8)
  • Isiah Thomas (#13)
  • Reggie Miller (#28)
  • Bob Pettit (#33)
  • Alonzo Mourning (#48)
  • Bench: Draymond Green, Paul George, Maurice Cheeks, Nicola Jokic, and Victor Oladipo
  • Team Philosophy: A half-court offense with sky-high basketball IQ. With Bird as the team’s centerpiece, this improves on the 80s Celtics in many ways. Pettit is in some respects an upgrade on McHale, Isiah gives you the floor generalship of DJ, Jokic is a healthier Walton coming off the bench, Zo is a high-risk, high-reward version of The Chief. Also, this is a Hoosier team through and through- with two players who went to college in Indiana (Bird and Thomas), and arguably the three best Pacers in the team’s history. When this team invariably scores a bunch of points, look for the bench + Zo to protect the lead.

Seattle Supersonics:

  • Kevin Durant (#9)
  • Oscar Robertson (#12)
  • Moses Malone (#29)
  • Wes Unseld (#32)
  • Joe Dumars (#49)
  • Bench: Dennis Johnson, Chris Mullin, George Gervin, Lamarcus Aldridge, Nate Thurmond
  • Team Philosophy: Durant and Robertson are a terrific pairing, and Big O has an all-purpose offensive threat to deliver on his playmaking and ball-handling. If some other players think of him as a cupcake, you have a brutal Unseld-and-Moses-or-Thurmond front court to protect him. You can have Durant and Mullin chuck up distance shots all day long, because you have the best offensive rebounder of all time to give them second chances.

Toronto Huskies:

  • Hakeem Olajuwon (#10)
  • Jerry West (#11)
  • Julius Erving (#30)
  • Jason Kidd (#31)
  • Anthony Davis (#50)
  • Bench: Dennis Rodman, Larry Nance, Manu Ginobili, Damian Lillard, and Bob Lanier
  • Team Philosophy: The best synthesis of toughness, finesse, and intelligence. Olajuwon and Davis as your inside threat, with West and Kidd– either of which are capable ballhandliers- as your outside threats. Guard any of them too closely, and Dr. J will dunk on you. Indeed, between Dream Shakes, Erving and Nance’s dunks, and West’s coolness under pressure, there’s a lot of potential for embarrassing and demoralizing opponents. There’s also a great deal of moodiness on this team, so Dr. J in definitely in charge of public relations here.

So, what do you think? Which of these teams has the most potential? Which of them are most likely to falter? As always, don’t hesitate to give some feedback.

 

 

We are still very early in the primary season, and anything can happen. Yet, I am still somewhat confident that Kamala Harris (my second choice after Liz Warren, btw) will be the nominee. Coming off a strong performance at the first debate, her name recognition and poll numbers are heading in the right direction, while Joe Biden’s front-runner status remains real, but fraying.

It’s early, but not too early to start thinking about running mates. Historically, running mates are used to balance the ticket: by age, by ideology, but especially by geographic region. Every once in a while you will get a double-down ticket (Clinton-Gore as reconstructed moderate Southern Democrats, Romney-Ryan as business-friendly conservatives), but it’s rare.

For someone like Kamala Harris, you have a number of strengths: prosecutorial demeanor, a good record as California attorney general, and she’s in an optimal “lane”: not likely to run into problems with progressive activists as much as Joe Biden, but less likely to turn off middle-of-the-road voters as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren might be. That doesn’t mean that a running mate can’t help; as a person of color, Harris could inspire higher black and South Asian turnout (as Obama did with the former), while subject to the very real structural disadvantages of being a minority candidate.

In general, I believe that the first priority for Team Blue should be: at least one person on the ticket from the heartland: that might mean the industrial Midwest, the Rockies, even Appalachia. Wherever it is, there needs to be a sense that the party isn’t purely coastal, that it’s concerned with and listening to, the country’s interior as well. To that end, 14 of the 15 persons on my shortlist are from America’s bounteous interior.

  1. Pete Buttigieg: two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
    • Why he’d work: young, a good ‘explainer-in-chief’. Comes from a Rust Belt town whose manufacturing has taken a hit over the last several decades. Military experience. He’s polling well with younger voters, is an excellent fundraiser, and can help Democrats in small cities and their hinterlands. He may not be enough to win Indiana, but I think there is a good chance that support for him will bleed into other midwestern states. Having him tell his own story about being a gay man in America in debate with Mike Pence would be epic. He is also reengaging voters of faith, something Hillary’s campaign struggled mightily to do.
    • Why he mightn’t: As much as I like the guy, two terms as mayor of South Bend Indiana also makes me a bit uncomfortable, which is why I didn’t include him in my first list of running mates several months ago. Yet his debate performances show a very good working knowledge of the issues and a knack for framing them in accessible ways. He’s had difficulties with black voters in South Bend– most recently in a tragic police shooting.
  2. Tim Walz: Current governor of Minnesota. 12 term congressman. According to his wikipedia page, he’s the highest-ranked enlisted man to ever serve in congress.
    • Why he’d work: Walz’s congressional district, comprising much of the southern rim of the state and including small cities like Rochester, is likewise the exact kind of place where Democrats need to rebound. Walz wracked up a sufficiently progressive record without necessarily having many truly progressive constituents. The upper midwest turned against the Democrats big time in 2016, but they made a comeback of a sort two years later in the midterms. Walz won an open seat by 11 points– the first time Minny elected two consecutive Democratic governors ever. There’s a saying in politics that veeps can’t win an election for you, but they can lose it. Civil, service-oriented, and nondescript, Walz ain’t hurting anyone. His military service once again provides a good contrast to a Trump-Pence ticket.
    • Why he mightn’t: The downside of Walz’s civility is a certain kind of blandness. He’s not going to make punchlines and his tweets won’t go viral. Minnesota’s also a relatively safe bet to stay blue in 2020, even if it’s going to be a problem in the long term, given its demographics. He’s also only had two years on his current job.
  3. Russ Feingold: 3-term senator from Wisconsin.
    • Why he’d work: From a must-win state that could decide the election. He’d shore up Kamala Harris’s relative lack of strength on foreign policy. Feingold served for years on the Foreign Relations committee and might have been its chairman if things panned out differently. He’s also a progressive hero to my generation, having been the sole vote against the PATRIOT Act, and a rare swing-state vote against the war in Iraq. And while saying it is a bit uncomfortable, a Jewish running mate won’t hurt in places like Florida. In an age of John McCain Nostalgia, he co-sponsored major campaign finance reform that most Americans look on with favor.
    • Why he mightn’t: He lost two senate elections in Wisconsin to the same terrible candidate, and lost in 2016 by a bigger margin than Hillary in the state. He sometimes comes across as eccentric (some say he rarely flies in planes, afraid of meeting the same dubious fate as Paul Wellstone.)
  4. Tammy Duckworth: Double-amputee veteran of Iraq. Congresswoman and Senator from Illinois. Currently my favorite senator.
    • Why she’d work: Tough as nails, clever, brave. She’d be a fine attack dog against Donald Trump, with her artificial limbs serving as a visual reminder of her valor in combat. Trump won’t be able to resist lashing out at her, and it would backfire every time.
    • Why she mightn’t: We’ve never had a major party ticket with two women, let alone two women with non-European ancestry. I want to believe that America could handle it, but I’m not optimistic. With another shady dude as governor of Illinois, shenanigans that culminate in a Republican getting her Senate seat in a special election down the line are a real possibility.
  5. William McRaven: Led Operation: Neptune Spear that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden. Former chancellor of the University of Texas system.
    • Why he’d work: So far, he’s been critical of Trump, but otherwise fairly apolitical. In other words, he’s hardly a party hack, although the president has already attacked him as such. He’d perhaps help make Texas more competitive. Manifests the difference between patriotism and mere nationalism. Oh, and he lead. the. operation. that. killed. Osama.
    • Why he mightn’t: He’s never held elected office before, and his retail politics are untested. His tenure as chancellor was not without controversy and disappointment, making one wonder how he’ll thrive in other civilian systems.
  6. Steve Beshear: former two-term governor of Kentucky
    • Why he’d work: He won twice in a landslide in Kentucky– although that hasn’t always been uncommon for Democrats at the state level. He succeeded at implementing Obamacare at a level arguably higher than any state. Understands red state voters. Also has military service, but he’s never made it part of his political biography. I don’t expect him to help carry Kentucky, but he might be able to contribute down-ticket and help Amy McGrath knock out McConnell’s re-election bid.
    • Why he mightn’t: He’ll be 76 on election day– younger than Biden and Bernie, but still. Being from Kentucky, he’s had to take positions at odds with the national Democratic Party. His nationally televised response to Trump’s joint session of Congress to talk about health care was a near-disaster.
  7. Joe Kennedy III: Scion. Congressman from Massachusetts.
    • Why he’d work: For one thing, he is refreshingly not running for anything. He could have made a semi-credible entry into a presidential race, but he didn’t. He could have primaried Ed Markey and run for the Senate. He didn’t. Kennedy has taken his time and played the long game. Kennedy delivered a great rebuttal to one of Trump’s SOTU addresses, and has many of the family’s better traits and few of their vices: public service, charisma, a genius for getting to the core of a complex issue. When the country is filled with voters who have personally- or earlier generations of their families- gone from blue-collar Kennedy Democrats to Reagan Democrats, recapturing that family magic has great potential. He’s ideologically unproblematic, acceptable to virtually anyone–in or out of the party– whose vote is “getable.”
    • Why he mightn’t: Do we really need another prominent political family getting a precious berth on the ticket? California and Massachusetts is also a bad ticket balance; you have two states associated– wrongly but frequently– with coastal elitism and contempt for flyover country.
  8. Tammy Baldwin: former congresswoman and current senator from Wisconsin
    • Why she’d work: She won re-election in Wisconsin, maybe the single most critical state, by 10 points last year. Strong heartland credentials, but one of the most stalwart progressives on this list. She would also make history, as would Buttigieg, as the first openly LGBT person on a major party ticket. She might be the candidate we originally thought Amy Klobuchar was.
    • Why she mightn’t: Same problem– two women on a ticket may not be palatable to some Americans. Without a real signature issue to hang her hat on, Baldwin’s selection might come across as pandering. With a Democratic governor in Wisconsin, her Senate seat would be filled in the short-term by someone from her party, but a special election will take place shortly thereafter. It’s very possible for Republicans to win that race, costing her party a valuable Senate seat down the line.
  9. Julian Castro: former mayor of San Antonio, former HUD secretary
    • Why he’d work: He would also help in Texas and potentially mobilize plenty of Latinx voters. His perspective would be valuable in challenging the morality of child separation, and the harassment Trump’s policies have caused Hispanics. Castro did wonderfully on his first debate- crisp, clear, visionary, and memorable. He finally delivered on the potential I’ve been hearing about for almost a decade now. Having worked in Obama’s cabinet, he’s White House-ready.
    • Why he mightn’t: Texas is still a long shot, and Castro would mean that- for the first time ever- there was nobody of European ancestry on a major party ticket. Cue the tiny violins playing the world’s most lachrymose melody– but lots of people–particularly Boomers– who don’t like Trump would have some “there’s something wrong with this ticket I can’t quite put my finger on” moments.
  10. Josh Shapiro: Attorney general of Pennsylvania
    • Why he’d work: As with Feingold, being a Jewish politician can’t hurt the ticket in Florida’s sundry retirement communities. His biggest moment was his report on Pennsylvania’s Catholic hierarchy harboring and protecting priests accused of pedophilia. Shapiro’s work to bring those who endangered children to justice will be…uncomfortable…for Mr. Trump, given his long association with Mr. Epstein. Shapiro will also help lock away a state that Democrats lost in both the presidential and senate races in 2016.
    • Why he mightn’t: He probably has the lowest name recognition on this list. He isn’t familiar with how Washington runs. He also had the same job Kamala Harris had in his respective state, which makes the ticket a bit too prosecutorial.
  11. Martin Heinrich: former congressman and current senator from New Mexico
    • Why he’d work: New Mexico may no longer be a swing state at the presidential level, but winning re-election by 23 points is nothing to sneeze at. Heinrich is a great “do no harm” candidate– broadly acceptable to everybody, young for a national ticket (47 right now), but not inexperienced. Fine environmental credentials. Probably won’t cost the Dems a senate seat if the governor appoints someone like Hector Balderas. He might very well be the handsomest senator, and for better or worse, that’s not insignificant.
    • Why he mightn’t: Like Baldwin, Heinrich lacks many distinctive qualities. He hasn’t had a breakout or viral moment after 6 years in the Senate. In other words, despite looking great on paper, he might come across as an empty suit. It’s not entirely clear if being a senator from New Mexico will help Team Blue in neighboring Arizona, Texas, Nevada, or Colorado.
  12. Brian Schweitzer: former governor of Montana
    • Why he’d work: Strong temperamental balance. If Harris is cool and controlled, Schweitzer is a hardcore populist with Western turns of phrase and an anti-elitist attitude. (Don’t get him started on drug companies!) He’s the polar opposite of a coastal snob. He was extremely popular as governor of Montana. While that state will be very tough to win in the general election, Schweitzer’s resonance with rural America will pay dividends elsewhere. And it might help pull Wilmot Collins across the finish line in his Senate race.
    • Why he mightn’t: He has a reputation for gaffes that probably exceeds Biden, and he will almost certainly say something embarrassing for the ticket at some point. He has also stayed out of politics for a while and avoided “taking one for the team” and running for the Senate in 2014 and 2020.
  13. Tom Harkin: former congressman and senator from Iowa
    • Why he’d work: Harkin is a master of retail politics and served 30 years as a senator from a politically bipolar state. He has army service, yes, but his ability to reach rural Americans- especially farmers- and win their trust is his strongest asset. Winning Iowa will be a stretch, but Harkin gives you the best chance of pulling it off.
    • Why he mightn’t: The man will be just shy of 81 on election day! He should certainly pledge only one term as vice-president. It’s also been 12 years since he ran in Iowa, and the state has changed a great deal since then.
  14. Joe Sestak: former three-star admiral, former congressman from Pennsylvania
    • Why he’d work: If you want someone Joe Biden-like without actually picking Joe Biden, there’s a different Joe born in Pennsylvania. Sestak has very strong military credentials– in fact the highest ranking military officer of any sort to serve in congress. In terms of issues of national defense, Sestak should be able to mop up the floor with Trump and Pence. Unlike McRaven, he has held elected office, and represented a fairly Republican district.
    • Why he mightn’t: He has never won statewide, so his upside in Pennsylvania is debatable. His late and frankly pointless entry into the presidential race raises questions about his political judgment. It seems to be a transparent angling for…the vice-presidency? Sec. of Defense? He has also earned a reputation for not being a team player in Democratic Party politics, but that might not be a bad thing in winning over voters.
  15. Ruben Gallego: congressman from Arizona
    • Why he’d work: Arizona has arrived as a legit swing state. Gallego is young, sharp, a military veteran, and a child of immigrants, he is part of a key generational shift and will generate lots of positive buzz.
    • Why he mightn’t: He also represents a safe Democratic district and has never had to win over moderates and conservatives. Same race issues– if a person of South Asian and African heritage is balanced with someone of Hispanic heritage, this might cause problems with Joe Sixpack. He inexplicably served as chair of Eric Swalwell’s dumpster fire of a presidential campaign– again, questions of political judgment on this fool’s errand.

At last, we bring the Hall of Mirrors timeline up to the present day. In general, it seems like events turned out better in this undertaking of imagination: no Mexican War, no Civil War, slavery is mostly abolished much earlier, and depending on your politics, a greater social safety net is established. Things start to take a turn for the worse here. The mirror is beginning to shatter.

42. Lynn Lowe43. Henry Cisneros44. Gary Sinise45. Kirsten Gillibrand

  1. Patrick Henry (Federalist, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. Elbridge Gerry (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Edmund Randolph (National Republican, Virginia, 1801-1809)
  4. John Marshall (National Republican, Virginia, 1809-1817)
  5. Henry Lee (National Republican, Virginia, 1817-1825)
  6. Joseph Story (Cavalier, Massachusetts, 1825-1829)
  7. David Crockett (Plebian, Tennessee, 1829-1837)
  8. John W. Taylor (Plebian, New York, 1837-1841)
  9. Ethan Allen Brown (Liberty, Ohio, 1841)
  10. Peter Vivian Daniel (Liberty, Virginia, 1841-45)
  11. John Bell (Plebian, Tennessee, 1845-1849)
  12. Henry Johnson (Liberty, Louisiana, 1849-1850)
  13. John A. Dix (Liberty, New York, 1850-1853)
  14. John P. Hale (Republican, New Hampshire, 1853-1857)
  15. William Muhlenberg (Republican, Pennsylvania, 1857-1861)
  16. Stephen Douglas (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1861-1865)
  17. William Brownlow (Liberty Unionist, Tennessee, 1865-1869)
  18. John A. Logan (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1869-1877)
  19. William Rosencrans (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1877-1881)
  20. Thomas Ewing, Jr. (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1881)
  21. Samuel S. Cox (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1881-1885)
  22. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1885-1889)
  23. Walter Q. Gresham (Liberty Unionist, Indiana, 1889-1893)
  24. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1893-1897)
  25. George A. Custer (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1897-1901)
  26. David B. Hill (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1901-1909)
  27. Judson Harmon (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1909-1913)
  28. Mahlon Pitney (Republican, New Jersey, 1913-1921)
  29. Henry T. Hunt (Social Democrat, Ohio, 1921-1923)
  30. John F. Fitzgerald (Social Democrat, Massachusetts, 1923-1929)
  31. Sheridan Downey (Social Democrat, California, 1929-1933)
  32. Hamilton Fish III (Republican, New York, 1933-1945)
  33. Omar Bradley (Republican, Missouri, 1945-1953)
  34. John Mills Houston (Social Democrat, Kansas, 1953-1961)
  35. Christian Herter (Republican, Massachusetts, 1961-1963)
  36. John Connally (Republican, Texas, 1963-1969)
  37. Pierre Salinger (Social Democrat, California, 1969-1974)
  38. Martha Griffiths (Social Democrat, Michigan, 1974-1977)
  39. Howard Calloway (Republican, Georgia, 1977-1981)
  40. Edmund “Jerry” Brown (Social Democrat, California, 1981-1989)
  41. Ramsey Clark (Social Democrat, Texas, 1989-1993)
  42. Lynn Lowe (Republican, Arkansas, 1993-2001)
  43. Henry Cisneros (Social Democrat, Texas, 2001-2009)
  44. Gary Sinise (Republican, Illinois, 2009-2017)
  45. Kirsten Gillibrand (Social Democrat, New York, 2017-present)

*A note about parties. As is fitting in a world where events folded out differently, the names of the parties change a bit in our timeline, but their personnel do not. If someone was an Anti-Federalist/Democratic-Republican/Democrat in our world, they will be a Federalist (which is what the Anti-Feds actually called themselves)/Cavalier/Liberty Unionist/Social Democrat in this timeline. Likewise, anyone who was a Federalist or Whig or Republican in “real history” would be a National Republican/Plebian/Republican in this exercise.

 

Today, we make it into my own lifetime as we reveal the presidencies of #38-41. Some of you were expecting a different movie star to replace Reagan. While I fear my choice for #40 is somewhat predictable, I’m afraid the answer is “not yet.” Fear not, though. A celebrity will become president in the final installment.

38. Martha Griffiths39. Bo Calloway40. Jerry Brown41. Ramsey Clark

  1. Patrick Henry (Federalist, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. Elbridge Gerry (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Edmund Randolph (National Republican, Virginia, 1801-1809)
  4. John Marshall (National Republican, Virginia, 1809-1817)
  5. Henry Lee (National Republican, Virginia, 1817-1825)
  6. Joseph Story (Cavalier, Massachusetts, 1825-1829)
  7. David Crockett (Plebian, Tennessee, 1829-1837)
  8. John W. Taylor (Plebian, New York, 1837-1841)
  9. Ethan Allen Brown (Liberty, Ohio, 1841)
  10. Peter Vivian Daniel (Liberty, Virginia, 1841-45)
  11. John Bell (Plebian, Tennessee, 1845-1849)
  12. Henry Johnson (Liberty, Louisiana, 1849-1850)
  13. John A. Dix (Liberty, New York, 1850-1853)
  14. John P. Hale (Republican, New Hampshire, 1853-1857)
  15. William Muhlenberg (Republican, Pennsylvania, 1857-1861)
  16. Stephen Douglas (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1861-1865)
  17. William Brownlow (Liberty Unionist, Tennessee, 1865-1869)
  18. John A. Logan (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1869-1877)
  19. William Rosencrans (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1877-1881)
  20. Thomas Ewing, Jr. (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1881)
  21. Samuel S. Cox (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1881-1885)
  22. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1885-1889)
  23. Walter Q. Gresham (Liberty Unionist, Indiana, 1889-1893)
  24. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1893-1897)
  25. George A. Custer (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1897-1901)
  26. David B. Hill (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1901-1909)
  27. Judson Harmon (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1909-1913)
  28. Mahlon Pitney (Republican, New Jersey, 1913-1921)
  29. Henry T. Hunt (Social Democrat, Ohio, 1921-1923)
  30. John F. Fitzgerald (Social Democrat, Massachusetts, 1923-1929)
  31. Sheridan Downey (Social Democrat, California, 1929-1933)
  32. Hamilton Fish III (Republican, New York, 1933-1945)
  33. Omar Bradley (Republican, Missouri, 1945-1953)
  34. John Mills Houston (Social Democrat, Kansas, 1953-1961)
  35. Christian Herter (Republican, Massachusetts, 1961-1963)
  36. John Connally (Republican, Texas, 1963-1969)
  37. Pierre Salinger (Social Democrat, California, 1969-1974)
  38. Martha Griffiths (Social Democrat, Michigan, 1974-1977)
  39. Howard Calloway (Republican, Georgia, 1977-1981)
  40. Edmund “Jerry” Brown (Social Democrat, California, 1981-1989)
  41. Ramsey Clark (Social Democrat, Texas, 1989-1993)

*A note about parties. As is fitting in a world where events folded out differently, the names of the parties change a bit in our timeline, but their personnel do not. If someone was an Anti-Federalist/Democratic-Republican/Democrat in our world, they will be a Federalist (which is what the Anti-Feds actually called themselves)/Cavalier/Liberty Unionist/Social Democrat in this timeline. Likewise, anyone who was a Federalist or Whig or Republican in “real history” would be a National Republican/Plebian/Republican in this exercise.

 

We are inching closer to the present day in this project, and these four presidencies cover decades I teach about a great deal: the 50s thru the mid 70s. In the Hall of Mirrors, and in our time, so much is going on that it cannot be contained by about 50 words per card. Yet we begin with a rather obscure man in our timeline who went on to become much more significant in this alternate universe.

Remember my guideline– the presidents and vice-presidents in this timeline are from the same state but the opposite party as ours. Let me also say how damn hard it was to find a Democrat from Kansas in the 1950s. I also considered a colorless governor named George Docking and even a survived Amelia Earhart before landing on….

34. John Mills Houston35. Christian Herter36. John Connally37. Pierre Salinger

  1. Patrick Henry (Federalist, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. Elbridge Gerry (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Edmund Randolph (National Republican, Virginia, 1801-1809)
  4. John Marshall (National Republican, Virginia, 1809-1817)
  5. Henry Lee (National Republican, Virginia, 1817-1825)
  6. Joseph Story (Cavalier, Massachusetts, 1825-1829)
  7. David Crockett (Plebian, Tennessee, 1829-1837)
  8. John W. Taylor (Plebian, New York, 1837-1841)
  9. Ethan Allen Brown (Liberty, Ohio, 1841)
  10. Peter Vivian Daniel (Liberty, Virginia, 1841-45)
  11. John Bell (Plebian, Tennessee, 1845-1849)
  12. Henry Johnson (Liberty, Louisiana, 1849-1850)
  13. John A. Dix (Liberty, New York, 1850-1853)
  14. John P. Hale (Republican, New Hampshire, 1853-1857)
  15. William Muhlenberg (Republican, Pennsylvania, 1857-1861)
  16. Stephen Douglas (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1861-1865)
  17. William Brownlow (Liberty Unionist, Tennessee, 1865-1869)
  18. John A. Logan (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1869-1877)
  19. William Rosencrans (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1877-1881)
  20. Thomas Ewing, Jr. (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1881)
  21. Samuel S. Cox (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1881-1885)
  22. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1885-1889)
  23. Walter Q. Gresham (Liberty Unionist, Indiana, 1889-1893)
  24. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1893-1897)
  25. George A. Custer (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1897-1901)
  26. David B. Hill (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1901-1909)
  27. Judson Harmon (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1909-1913)
  28. Mahlon Pitney (Republican, New Jersey, 1913-1921)
  29. Henry T. Hunt (Social Democrat, Ohio, 1921-1923)
  30. John F. Fitzgerald (Social Democrat, Massachusetts, 1923-1929)
  31. Sheridan Downey (Social Democrat, California, 1929-1933)
  32. Hamilton Fish III (Republican, New York, 1933-1945)
  33. Omar Bradley (Republican, Missouri, 1945-1953)
  34. John Mills Houston (Social Democrat, Kansas, 1953-1961)
  35. Christian Herter (Republican, Massachusetts, 1961-1963)
  36. John Connally (Republican, Texas, 1963-1969)
  37. Pierre Salinger (Social Democrat, California, 1969-1974)

*A note about parties. As is fitting in a world where events folded out differently, the names of the parties change a bit in our timeline, but their personnel do not. If someone was an Anti-Federalist/Democratic-Republican/Democrat in our world, they will be a Federalist (which is what the Anti-Feds actually called themselves)/Cavalier/Liberty Unionist/Social Democrat in this timeline. Likewise, anyone who was a Federalist or Whig or Republican in “real history” would be a National Republican/Plebian/Republican in this exercise.

 

Fittingly, this installment of the Hall of Mirrors timeline takes place on the Fourth of July. In this case, we cover presidencies #30, 31, 32, and 33– Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, and Truman’s tenures in our universe. World War II and the Cold War take some decidedly different turns, as you will see.

If you aren’t familiar with some of the presidents and vice-presidents I’ve chosen, let me encourage you to look up who they were. Nearly all of them were compelling figures in one way or another!

30. John Fitzgerald31. Sheridan Downey32. Hamilton Fish III33. Omar Bradley

  1. Patrick Henry (Federalist, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. Elbridge Gerry (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Edmund Randolph (National Republican, Virginia, 1801-1809)
  4. John Marshall (National Republican, Virginia, 1809-1817)
  5. Henry Lee (National Republican, Virginia, 1817-1825)
  6. Joseph Story (Cavalier, Massachusetts, 1825-1829)
  7. David Crockett (Plebian, Tennessee, 1829-1837)
  8. John W. Taylor (Plebian, New York, 1837-1841)
  9. Ethan Allen Brown (Liberty, Ohio, 1841)
  10. Peter Vivian Daniel (Liberty, Virginia, 1841-45)
  11. John Bell (Plebian, Tennessee, 1845-1849)
  12. Henry Johnson (Liberty, Louisiana, 1849-1850)
  13. John A. Dix (Liberty, New York, 1850-1853)
  14. John P. Hale (Republican, New Hampshire, 1853-1857)
  15. William Muhlenberg (Republican, Pennsylvania, 1857-1861)
  16. Stephen Douglas (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1861-1865)
  17. William Brownlow (Liberty Unionist, Tennessee, 1865-1869)
  18. John A. Logan (Liberty Unionist, Illinois, 1869-1877)
  19. William Rosencrans (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1877-1881)
  20. Thomas Ewing, Jr. (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1881)
  21. Samuel S. Cox (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1881-1885)
  22. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1885-1889)
  23. Walter Q. Gresham (Liberty Unionist, Indiana, 1889-1893)
  24. Chauncey Depew (Republican, New York, 1893-1897)
  25. George A. Custer (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1897-1901)
  26. David B. Hill (Liberty Unionist, New York, 1901-1909)
  27. Judson Harmon (Liberty Unionist, Ohio, 1909-1913)
  28. Mahlon Pitney (Republican, New Jersey, 1913-1921)
  29. Henry T. Hunt (Social Democrat, Ohio, 1921-1923)
  30. John F. Fitzgerald (Social Democrat, Massachusetts, 1923-1929)
  31. Sheridan Downey (Social Democrat, California, 1929-1933)
  32. Hamilton Fish III (Republican, New York, 1933-1945)**
  33. Omar Bradley (Republican, Missouri, 1945-1953)

*A note about parties. As is fitting in a world where events folded out differently, the names of the parties change a bit in our timeline, but their personnel do not. If someone was an Anti-Federalist/Democratic-Republican/Democrat in our world, they will be a Federalist (which is what the Anti-Feds actually called themselves)/Cavalier/Liberty Unionist/Social Democrat in this timeline. Likewise, anyone who was a Federalist or Whig or Republican in “real history” would be a National Republican/Plebian/Republican in this exercise.

**To be clear, Fish serves three terms and does not run for a fourth. This still keeps my rules intact; president #32 serves from 1933-45, and president #33 still serves from 1945-53. With regard to Bradley’s vice-presidential selection, his running mate in 1944 was Charles McNary of Oregon, who died shortly before taking the oath of office. (This is roughly when McNary died in our timeline). Since the electoral college had already met and the constitution had not yet been amended to allow for replacing the vice-president, the office was left vacant for four years. When seeking re-election, Bradley’s running mate was John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky.