As promised, I’ve outlined how one might imagine the next seven years worth of ceremonies to go. My lodestar here was the concept of “best plausible scenario”– taking into account Rock Hall politics, who tends to get nominated, and who tends to get voted in. The Rock Hall will still screw things up from time to time. The Smiths aren’t going to reunite on stage. Popular acts will sometimes eclipse more deserving artists. Yet, taking all this into account, here is my hope, my outline, for the next seven years.

Just a few things before we begin: the one leap of logic I took was the idea that the Rock Hall might switch the host city of the ceremony. This would generate more buzz than just having it in Brooklyn more often than not (yawn!) and will allow each of these cities to show off their rock and roll credentials and their own unique part in its history. We start with New York in 2021 and Cleveland in 2021, but we move on to Los Angeles, Liverpool, Detroit, San Francisco, and Memphis. But one could have easily made cases for New Orleans, Philadelphia, Nashville, Seattle, Chicago or other locales.

I also- probably unrealistically- assumed some kind of consistency with the inductions. That is, each ceremony will have six performers and two others inducted in the ancillary categories.

Given how the Rock Hall voters operate, this “plausible” outcome won’t be perfect. Kraftwerk will need a backdoor induction. Sonic Youth and the Pixies don’t make it. The window on the 1960s is all but closed shut. Nor will it be a litany of Alex Voltaire’s favorite acts. If this were my dream scenario, we’d be seeing Indigo Girls, America, and A Tribe Called Quest. But here, I think, is what may lie ahead.

In the Year 2021: the ceremony is, as I believe is already scheduled, in New York. We have two first-year-eligibles get in: a man with a legitimate case as the most successful rapper of all time (which isn’t quite the same as being the best rapper of all time), and a band fronted by the most widely liked man in rock and roll. All inductees turn out to be first-time nominees.

  • Foo Fighters (inducted by John Paul Jones)
    • Everlong
    • Monkey Wrench
    • Learn To Fly
  • Musical Excellence: Carol Kaye and Glen Campbell (inducted by Nancy Sinatra)
  • The Go-Gos (inducted by Billie Joe Armstrong)
    1. Vacation
    2. Our Lips Are Sealed
    3. We Got the Beat 
  • Early Influence: Big Mama Thornton (inducted by Brittany Howard)
    1. Hound Dog (performed by Brittany Howard and Lizzo)
  • Jethro Tull (inducted by Nick Cave)
    1. Locomotive Breath
    2. Skating Away (on the Thin Ice of a New Day)
    3. Aqualung
  • Duran Duran (inducted by Gwen Stefani)
    1. Rio
    2. Ordinary World
    3. The Reflex
    4. Hungry Like the Wolf
  • Dolly Parton (inducted by Brandi Carlile)
    1. 9 to 5
    2. Jolene
    3. Coat of Many Colors
    4. I Will Always Love You
  • Jay-Z (inducted by Danny Glover)
    1. 99 Problems/Izzo/Can I Get A…/Otis/Niggas in Paris

Jam: Empire State of Mind/New York State of Mind (w/ Alicia Keys and Billy Joel)

In the Year 2022: Although I think they slated this ceremony to be in Cleveland, we’re moving to Los Angeles instead, home of the Beach Boys, a bevy of record industry honchos, punk band X, and Laurel Canyon. For the first time, two rap acts are inducted the same year.

  • Cher performs “Turn Back Time”, insisting on both opening and closing the show.
  • Pat Benatar (inducted by Melissa Ethridge)
    • Hit Me With Your Best Shot
    • We Belong
    • Heartbreaker
  • Outkast (inducted by George Clinton)
    • Bombs Over Baghdad
    • The Way You Move (w/ Earth, Wind & Fire)
    • Hey Ya!
  • Warren Zevon (inducted by David Letterman)
    • Carmelita (performed by Emmylou Harris)
    • Accidentally Like a Martyr (performed by The War on Drugs)
  • Eminem (inducted by Chance the Rapper)
    • The Real Slim Shady
    • Stan (w/ Elton John)
    • Love the Way You Lie (w/ Rihanna)
    • Rap God
  • Ertegun Award: Bernie Taupin (inducted by Elton John)
  • Eurythmics (inducted by Florence Welch)
    • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
    • Here Comes the Rain Again
    • Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (w/ Florence Welch, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, and Bette Midler)
  • Musical Excellence Award: Willie Nelson (inducted by Beto O’Rourke)
    • Funny How Time Slips Away
    • Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die (w/ Ben Harper)
    • Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys
  • Cher (inducted by Elton John and Bette Midler)
    • The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)
    • I Got You Babe (w/ Chaz Bono)
    • Believe

Jam: California Dreamin’ (w/ Wilson-Philips)

In the Year 2023: Back to Cleveland, the Rock Hall’s home turf (at least for the museum rather than the shadowy foundation.) One act tied to Ohio gets in as a performer, and a local legend gets an Ertegun.

  • The B-52s (inducted by Yoko Ono)
    • Roam
    • Rock Lobster
    • Love Shack
  • Weezer (inducted by Kermit and Fozzie)
    • Say It Ain’t So
    • Africa
    • Islands in the Sun
    • Buddy Holly
  • Devo (inducted by Alfred Yankovic)
    • Whip It
    • I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
  • Ertegun Award: Jane Scott (inducted by Lyle Lovett)
  • Dave Mathews Band (inducted by John Mayer)
    • What Would You Say? 
    • Crash Into Me (w/ John Mayer)
    • Ants Marching (w/ Bela Fleck)
  • L.L. Cool J (inducted by Daryl McDaniels)
    • Mama Said Knock You Out
    • My Adidas
    • Hey Lover
  • Musical Excellence: The Revolution (inducted by Questlove)
    • Purple Rain (w/ Sinead O’Connor)
  • Mariah Carey (inducted by Ashanti)
    • Always Be My Baby
    • One Sweet Day (with John Legend)
    • We Belong Together
    • Vision of Love 

Jam: The Heart of Rock and Roll (w/ Huey Lewis)

In the Year 2024: For the first time, the Rock Hall induction ceremony is held outside the U.S., in Liverpool, the city where the British Invasion began. Although octogenarians, Paul and Ringo agree to show up, and that’s enough to get Todd Rundgren to put aside his ambivalence about induction.

  • Musical Excellence: Todd Rundgren (inducted by Joey Molland)
    • I Saw the Light
    • Bang on the Drum (w/ Ringo Starr and Mickey Dolenz)
  • Judas Priest (inducted by Spinal Tap)
    • Breaking the Law
    • Hell Bent for Leather
    • You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
  • Ertegun Award: Bob Geldof (inducted by Bono)
  • Oasis (inducted by Damon Albarn. Various non-Gallagher members show up, nobody performs, everybody gets a bad taste in their mouths)
  • Coldplay (inducted by Brian Eno)
    • Fix You
    • The Scientist
    • Hymn for the Weekend
  • The Commodores (inducted by Bruno Mars)
    • Lady (You Bring Me Up)
    • Brick House
    • Too Hot Ta Trot
  • The Monkees (inducted by Rivers Cuomo)
    • Listen to the Band
    • Pleasant Valley Sunday
    • Daydream Believer (w/ Rivers Cuomo)
    • I’m A Believer (Mickey, Mike, and Smash Mouth)
  • Destiny’s Child (inducted by Mary Wilson)
    • Survivor
    • Bills, Bills, Bills
    • Bootylicious
    • Independent Woman, Pt. 1

Jam: Abbey Road Medley (w/Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr)—You Never Give Me Your Money (Paul w/ Lionel Richie)/Sun King (Chris Martin)/Mean Mr. Mustard (Todd Rundgren)/Polythene Pam (Micky Dolenz)/She Came In Through the Bathroom Window (Bruno)/Golden Slumbers (Beyoncé)/Carry That Weight (ensemble)/The End (Paul, Glenn Tipton, and Todd Rundgren trade guitar solos)

In the Year 2025: From Liverpool to Detroit, home of Motown. Happily, one last Motown group makes it in. Unhappily, only one original member of that group is around to enjoy the honor.

  • The Spinners (inducted by Boyz II Men) 
    • Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (performed by the touring Spinners)
    • Then Came You (w/Brandy)
    • Rubber Band Man
  • Rage Against the Machine (inducted by Wayne Kramer)
    • Killing in the Name
    • Guerrilla Radio
    • Bulls on Parade
  • Musical Excellence: The Wailers (inducted by Ziggy Marley)
    • Concrete Jungle (w/ Ziggy Marley) 
    • Redemption Song (w/ Ziggy Marley)
  • Soundgarden (inducted by Ann Wilson) 
    • Fell on Black Days
    • Spoonman (w/ Jerry Cantrell)
    • Black Hole Sun (w/ Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl)
  • Ertegun Award: Don Cornelius (inducted by Questlove)
  • The Smiths (inducted by Jarvis Cocker, members do not show up due to acrimony. Morrissey sends in a blurry, deeply confusing video from the bunker he shares with Edward Snowden in Argentina’s Czech embassy)
    • There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (performed by Brandon Flowers)
  • Cyndi Lauper (inducted by Tegan and Sara)
    • She-Bop (w/ Tegan and Sara)
    • True Colors 
    • Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • Jimmy Buffett (inducted by Timothy B. Schmitt)
    • Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
    • Nautical Wheelers
    • Margaritaville

Jam: Dancing in the Street 

In the Year 2026: San Francisco— the Summer of Love reached its fullest flower here and the Bay Area saw dozens of psychedelic bands come out of the woodwork in the sixties. In the years that followed, Frisco gave us Journey, Dead Kennedys, and Faith No More, but nobody’s perfect. Kraftwerk finally gets in. Initially, their response was a confused telegram reading “Was ist der Rock Hall?” but once this is explained to them, our teutonic honorees are convinced to show up. Significantly, our first female rap act is finally inducted in this year.

  • Smashing Pumpkins (inducted by Gerard Way)
    • Bullet with Butterfly Wings
    • Ava Adore
    • Tonight, Tonight
  • Influence: Kraftwerk (inducted by Martin Gore and Dave Gahan)
    • Trans-Europe Express
  • Weird Al Yankovic (inducted by Mark Mothersbough) 
    • White and Nerdy
    • Eat It
    • Dare to Be Stupid
  • Foreigner (inducted by Duncan Sheik)
    • Feels Like the First Time
    • Cold As Ice
    • Double Vision
    • Juke Box Hero
  • Queen Latifah (inducted by Lauryn Hill)
    • Fly Girl
    • Ladies First
    • U.N.I.T.Y.
  • Musical Excellence: Chaka Khan (inducted by Peter Cetera and Danny Seraphine)
    • Tell Me Something Good
    • Feels Like Heaven (w/ Peter Cetera)
  • Motley Crue (inducted by Bret Michaels. Motley Crue, by 2025, had perished on a reunion tour when Nikki Sixx lights up a fat one as the band visited an oxygen bar in Copenhagen. In lieu of a performance, everyone in the audience is given a lighter and a certified pre-owned hypodermic needle)
  • Beck (inducted by Thurston Moore)
    • Loser
    • Blue Moon
    • Girl
    • Devil’s Haircut

Jam: Piece of my Heart 

In the Year 2027: Given the role of blues in rock and roll history, and the looming presence of Graceland nearby, it’s only fitting that Memphis is the site of this ceremony. Rock Hall watchers develop a twitch watching Gloria Estefan get inducted without the Miami Sound Machine. People who whined about a Sting nomination lose their collective minds when Phil Collins gets nominated, wins the fan vote, and is ultimately inducted.

  • Ertegun Award: Robert Moog (inducted by Thomas Dolby)
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (inducted by PJ Harvey)
    • The Mercy Seat
    • Red Right Hand
    • Into My Arms
  • No Doubt (inducted by Moby)
    • Spiderwebs
    • Just A Girl
    • Don’t Speak
  • Missy Elliott (inducted by Lil’ Kim)
    • Get Ur Freak On
    • Hot Boyz (w/ Nas)
    • Work It
  • White Stripes (inducted by Poison Ivy)
    • Seven Nation Army
    • Hotel Yorba
    • Fell In Love With A Girl
  • Early Influence: Patsy Cline (inducted by Kacey Musgraves)
    • Walking After Midnight (performed by Kacey Musgraves)
  • Gloria Estefan (inducted by Shakira)
    • Conga
    • Con los anos que me quedan
    • Turn the Beat Around
    • Rhythm is Gonna Get You
  • Phil Collins (inducted by Philip Bailey)
    • In the Air Tonight
    • Don’t Lose My Number
    • Easy Lover (w/ Philip Bailey)
    • You Can’t Hurry Love

Jam: Tangled Up in Blue


We had to wait longer than usual to know our Rock Hall class this year. Customarily, the inductees are revealed in late December, but the announcement tarried until the new year. At any rate, the wait is over. The class is: Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G., The Doobie Brothers, Depeche Mode, T. Rex, and Nine Inch Nails, with Irving Azoff and Jon Landau for the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers.

The Winners:

  • Me: Let’s be honest. We all predicted Pat Benatar and we all got it wrong. Having acknowledged this, my list of “if there’s seven inductees….” included Pat and the six artists who actually got in. Judas Priest, Soundgarden, DMB and Rundgren– they all turned out to be fool’s gold. This is a small recompense for only guessing five nominees this year.
  • HBO: This should make entertaining television at the very least. Two artists- Biggie and Whitney–are dead, and T. Rex became Spinal Tap in reverse where everybody but the obscure drummer died! But in a way, that might make for a better viewing experience. That’s three fewer acceptance speeches and a chance for the Rock Hall to tailor first-rate tribute performances. At the very least, it’s less of a logistical headache than trying to reunite, say, Dire Straits or Kiss. Let’s just hope we don’t get a Bobby Brown or P-Diddy filibuster.
  • Alternative: One aspect overlooked with this class is that a major alternative act from the 80s got in for the second straight year: Depeche Mode. When you add what might be called “alternative-adjacent” Nine Inch Nails, this might be the genre’s best class to date. The Cure, it seems, did in fact break down that barrier. If Morrissey’s big mouth keeps The Smiths in the doghouse, expect nominations for Pixies, Sonic Youth, or a return engagement from The Replacements in years to come.
  • Rock Hall insiders: Awarding Azoff and Landau stinks to high heavens. Landau has broad leverage over the nominating committee and Azoff also has deep Rock Hall connections to the point where many of us foresaw Stevie Nicks, Bon Jovi, and Doobie Brothers getting nominations simply because they are clients of his. It’s a bit too much coming four years after Bert Burns got an Ertegun at a time when Little Stevie was involving in writing a musical about him. More significantly, Azoff played a role in Ticketmaster’s almost complete monopoly over access to concerts and other live events, and he’s a big part of the reason that your tickets to see Tool cost so much more than they have to. If Azoff had to be inducted, I wish it had been the same year as Pearl Jam, to see Eddie Vedder give him a piece of his mind…
  • First-time nominees: With the exception of the Class of 2019, most classes in recent years are majority first-time nominees. This continued the trend– four of the six (Biggie, Whitney, T. Rex, Doobies) appeared on the ballot for the first time this year. It could be the novelty of seeing them nominated, it could be that voters don’t like what the Rock Hall reheats and serves up year after year. But it’s a trend worth noting.

The Losers:

  • The Fan Vote: It took a while, but for the first time since the fan vote was unveiled for the class of 2013, the winner did not get in. It ended up being Dave Mathews holding the bag. I wish this trend had first been broken for Bon Jovi two years ago or Def Leppard last year, but there you have it. Moreover, only one act in the top 5- The Doobies- got in, leaving fans of Pat Benatar, Soundgarden, Judas Priest, and DMB feeling let down. Lots of folks on twitter and facebook are complaining about the fans being deceived. Nonsense; like my students complaining of undeserved poor grades, they simply didn’t read the directions. The Rock Hall was always direct and honest about the fan vote’s statistically insignificant impact and never made any promises that its results would correlate to actual induction. It would be a nice gesture, I suppose, for Greg Harris to say “look, we’re sorry if you voted and your favorites didn’t get in, but we will definitely take the fan vote into consideration when looking at nominees for next year.” (Assuming, of course, that this was said in good faith!) Anyway, the fan vote’s reputation as a bellwether took a beating this year, as did the predictive role of those kiosks in Cleveland. Any sense that topping the fan vote was a golden ticket into the Hall has been disabused.
  • Women: If there was one big recurring leitmotif for coverage of the Rock Hall this year, it was the need to include more women. More inductees. More nominees. More committee members. Yet, the class after Janet Jackson admonished the institution to “induct more women,” our resulting class implausibly has fewer women than the one before! Just one–Whitney–got in, and of course, she won’t be able to vote going forward. So– dozens more male voters will get ballots; not one woman. A deep and endemic problem gets worse. Let me challenge the Rock Hall: there’s dozens and dozens of deserving nominees. Next year, make sure half the acts on the ballot have at least one woman in their roster. Strive for parity.
    • One other thing. We have to push the Rock Hall to do better on this grounds. I challenge each of my fellow Rock Hall watchers to do a blog in the upcoming months putting forward the names of five potential women to add to the Nominating Committee. If we all shout, maybe someone will hear.
  • Hard rock and metal: Judas Priest blew their second chance to get in the Hall, but the Nom Com didn’t do them any favors, setting them up against Motorhead and Thin Lizzy. The stockpile in this particular genre continues to grow. Keep in mind, however, that this is nothing new for harder rock acts. Deep Purple needed a few tries to get in, as did Black Sabbath.

With all this in mind, what happens now? To answer that question, allow me put forth my Best Plausible Scenario for the 2020 induction. By “Best Plausible,” I simply mean what can be done within the confines of HBO’s needs, superstar egos, and the Rock Hall’s penchant for screwing up a free lunch.

  1. Nine Inch Nails (inducted by Robert Smith)
    1. Closer to God
    2. Head Like a Hole
    3. Hurt (w/ Lucinda Williams)
  2. Non-Performer Awards: Irving Azoff and Jon Landau (inducted by Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen)
  3. Notorious B.I.G. (inducted by Sean “Puffy” Combs)
    1. Hypnotize (Puff Daddy)
    2. Mo Money, Mo Problems (Lil Wayne and Kelly Price)
    3. Sky’s the Limit (Lil Kim and and Busta Rhymes)
    4. Realest Niggas (Ashanti)
  4. T. Rex (inducted by Marc Almond)*
    1. Telegram Sam (Marc Almond and Pixies)
    2. 20th Century Boy (Marc Almond and Pixies)
    3. Bang A Gong (Get It On) (My Chemical Romance)
  5. Depeche Mode (inducted by Lauren Mayberry)
    1. Enjoy the Silence
    2. I Feel You
    3. Personal Jesus
  6. In Memoriam (“Drive” performed by Weezer)
  7. Whitney Houston (inducted by Kevin Costner)
    1. Saving All My Love For You (Dionne Warwick)
    2. I Will Always Love You (Toni Braxton)
    3. I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Nelly Furtado)
    4. I’m Every Woman (Chaka Khan, joined by Dionne Warwick, Lucinda Williams, Ashanti, Lauren Mayberry, Toni Braxton, and Nelly Furtado)
  8. Doobie Brothers (inducted by Zac Brown)
    1. Long Train Runin’ (w/ Zac Brown)
    2. Takin It To the Streets (w/ Michael McDonald)
    3. Minute By Minute (w/ Michael McDonald)
    4. China Grove (w/ Michael McDonald)
  9. Jam: Cleveland Rocks (led by Ian Hunter and Joe Walsh)

*Why Marc Almond of Soft Cell? Well, the group was one of the clearest inheritors of glam within the vein of new wave and Almond always listed T. Rex as one of his biggest influenced. But there’s another key connection. “Tained Love” was first recorded by Gloria Jones, Marc Bolan’s girlfriend.

This would work, right? Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll project “Best Plausible” Rock Hall inductions for the following seven years. The key to making this work? Changing hosting responsibilities to a seven-year cycle of cities important to rock and roll history.

It’s been a surreal few years under the Trump administration. I remember being in shock, disbelief, and frankly dangerously depressed when he won the 2016 election. We now look to 2020 not only to undo much of what has been done, but to forge a fairer, more equitable, and more charitable America going into this new decade. To help do this, I’m assembled my dream administration– the folks I’d personally like to see occupy the highest offices and the sundry executive departments.

As a general rule, I’ve tried to avoid “shiny objects” as cabinet secretaries– household names who ~seem~ like they might be good choices but would be constrained by the cabinet officer’s need to work within existing systems and be answerable to the president. In other words, this is an administrative job, not a bully pulpit. There is plenty of room for reformers, but very little for revolutionaries. God bless Bernie Sanders, but he wouldn’t be put to his best use as Secretary of Labor; his talents aren’t in administrative minutia, they are in speaking out boldly from his perch in the Senate. High name recognition does not have any correlation to getting the job done.

I’ve also made a rule against sitting senators (aside from President Warren). The problem with putting senators in is that they have to be replaced, and there’s always the danger they will be replaced by someone in the opposite party– either immediately (depending on who is governor) or after the next election. Think of how much of a headache President Obama made for his party when he displaced himself, Biden, Clinton, and Salazar from the Senate, with three of these becoming contested races in 2010. I do, though, have a couple former congressmen and two current congresswomen.

Finally, to sketch out my vision: I wanted the right blend of progressivism and administrative competence in the cabinet. I wanted a good blend of perspectives– and folks come from executive departments, business, the non-profit world, the military. We have governors, mayors, and in our president, an exemplar of the public service-oriented academic. Finally, I wanted geographical balance as well, with New Englanders, southerners, Midwesterners, Mountain Westers and West Coasters all represented. There’s a couple non-partisan folks, a few of the more decent Republicans, but in general, people who have actively worked within the Democratic Party.

Elizabeth WarrenPresident: Elizabeth Warren. I’ve been on Team Warren for the better part of a year now, and I’m still happy with my choice. People who underestimate her or dismiss her as a radical or elitist do so at their peril; she’s a master communicator of complex economic ideas and unlike Hillary, is not so far removed from her modest background. In other words, you can buy her backstory as a working mother with hardscrabble Oklahoma origins and her family’s military background. She offers systematic change but with a keen mind for the complexities and consequences it will have.

julian castroVice-President: Julian Castro. I write this just a day after he ended his presidential campaign. Unlike most of the also-rans, his reputation came out stronger. I had dismissed Julian Castro as an overhyped lightweight, but he impressed me with every debate, often drawing connections between issues in an incisive way. Castro has the managerial experience from being the mayor of one of America’s ten biggest cities and his time at HUD has given him critical White House experience. (I picked Castro and wrote this part before news hit of the secretary’s endorsement of Warren. I’m not sure whether that helps or hurts his prospects of being her running-mate, but there we go.)

russ feingoldSecretary of State: Russ Feingold. He lost a winnable Senate race twice in Wisconsin, but there’s little that could diminish my respect for Feingold. He boldly condemned the Iraq War and the national security state that developed in the wake of September 11th. He has years of experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and would have been its chair had he not been defeated in 2010 or had John Kerry headed State during Obama’s first term. While it may be overstating it, one could make an argument that he ended a civil war in Congo. If the purpose of this department is to resuscitate relationships with allies and keep crises from boiling over into violent conflict, Feingold’s the man.

sarah raskinSecretary of the Treasury: Sarah Bloom Raskin. It’s tempting to put a firebrand in this spot, but I think that’s unwise. I hope the next presidency helps remold America’s economy into something more fair, less dominated by a handful of big names, more truly meritocratic. But Treasury isn’t necessarily where those changes are going to be made; here, you need someone to keep the ship afloat and stable as a transition to social democracy is made. Raskin, therefore, is my choice. She’s been on the Federal Reserve Board, worked at Treasury under Obama to help stanch the bleeding of student loan default, and is keenly attuned to the problems of income inequality. Assuming that Warren will partly be her own Secretary of the Treasury, Raskin is the right synthesis of competent and conscientious– and also would be the first woman to serve in this cabinet spot.

tim walzSecretary of Defense: Tim Walz. I’ve advocated for Walz as an underrated running mate, but I think he’s similarly a sleeper pick for Defense. The smart money is on Michele Flournoy–who was essentially Hillary’s Defense secretary in waiting–but I want somebody less Hawkish and one fewer Ivy League groupthinker here. Walz is the highest ranking enlisted man to serve in congress, has been doing great work as governor of Minnesota, and was an Iraq-skeptic from the start. Military experience, Washington experience, managerial skills. Boom. Incidentally, Walz’s departure from St. Paul would leave Peggy Flanagan as governor, the first female governor of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and only the third Native American governor in US history.

brian sandovalAttorney General: Brian Sandoval. I’ve selected another governor for a key cabinet spot. Sandoval was one of the best and most popular governors in the country during his eight years at the helm of Nevada. He avoided needlessly stoking the culture wars, was fine with raising taxes when necessary, and was generally fair and honorable, even being the lone GOP gubernatorial holdout against the refugee ban. Out of all major Republican figures, it’s difficult to find someone who has less of the stink of Trump about him than Sandoval. The Attorney General’s office is not like the other cabinet spots, and needs to be especially free of partisanship. Picking a Republican here who has acted in good faith would be a start.

christy goldfussSecretary of the Interior: Christy Goldfuss. I’m not rewarding Steve Bullock for his ill-conceived presidential run and stubborn refusal to run for the Senate. Instead, I’m going with an old hand– a young old hand– from the Obama years. She headed the Council on Environmental Quality under Obama and was deputy director of the National Parks Administration. In an era where federal workers at our national parks and historical sites are some of the most demoralized by the present administration, Goldfuss’s social media savvy, climate hawkishness, and deep desire to protect public lands will be put to good use here. Interior usually goes to a Westerner; so counterintuitively, this spot goes to a Connecticut native, one of two in this cabinet.

phil karstingSecretary of Agriculture: Phil Karsting. My single biggest criterium for USDA is: not beholden to Monsanto. Karsting certainly has that going for him. He’s worked at Agriculture helping bolster US exports (helpful for farmers hurt by the trade wars), and he’s helped feed children in third-world countries through the McGovern-Dole programs. Karsting is also familiar with the budget and economics side of the agriculture equation and was once part of Herbert Kohl and Jim Exon’s respective staffs. Today, he’s interim president of World Food Program USA. For me, the USDA’s greatest mission is to make sure hungry people get fed. Karsting is better equipped than anyone I can think of to make that happen. Oh, he’s also a chef, which suggests to me that he gets the ultimate goal of agriculture.

Jobs with Justice National Conference

Jobs with Justice National Conference, Day 2 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Aug. 6, 2011 © Rick Reinhard 2011

Secretary of Labor: Ai-Jen Poo. For years, she has mobilized domestic workers and caregivers, most recently serving as leader of Domestic Workers United. (Many domestic workers are exempt from state and federal labor laws, allowing them to overworked, underpaid, and vulnerable to harassment.) She has been a consistent voice for humane immigration policies, workers’ rights, and just as importantly, making sure workers have the tools and resources they need to make a positive change. She knows, better than most, that part of the labor movement is the ability to make good on your own vocation.

mick cornettSecretary of Commerce: Mick Cornett. Second of three Republican picks. Cornett was mayor of Oklahoma City for over a decade, and in that time, he got the city a professional sports franchise, a number of key health initiatives, and a great business environment, ultimately coming within a whisker of a World Mayor Prize. (This is what a successful mayoralty looks like, by the way.) He attempted to run for governor of Oklahoma but predictably lost in the GOP primary to a Trump acolyte. Sharp and innovative, he’ll make sure business leaders don’t feel too disenfranchised by the Warren administration.

neera tandenSecretary of Health and Human Services: Neera Tanden. One of the most progressive figures in Hillaryland. Tanden worked at HHS during the Obama administration and was a key architect of Obamacare, but her heart was in something more comprehensive and has suggested a Medicare-for-All scheme that wouldn’t abolish private insurance. It’s worth noting that she was also a big wheel at the Center for American Progress, one of the most significant liberal think tanks. She has the policy chops to help make truly universal health care–and not just a mandate to buy it–a reality.

ana gsSecretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ana Gelabert-Sanchez. This woman–one of the most obscure of my cabinet secretaries–revitalized downtown Miami as the city’s planning director. She altered the city’s moribund building code that created inconsistencies of height and density to create a blueprint for the city that was more sustainable and walkable and ascetically pleasing– and she did so in conversation with Miami’s various cultural neighborhoods and communities. Her Miami21 plan also won the American Planning Association’s Excellence Award.

keith parkerSecretary of Transportation: Keith Parker. Parker has been tearing it up over the last decade by helping major Southern cities revamp their infrastructure: Charlotte, San Antonio, and a city that had hitherto terrible public transportation, Atlanta. His work with MARTA in Atlanta, especially, helped attract new businesses to the metro area. He now works for the Georgia branch of Goodwill. To me, that would ordinarily be a red flag–the company has faced criticism for hiring workers with various cognitive disabilities to justify paying them less–but Parker has made a good-faith effort to change these practices from within and advocate for income equality.

jay insleeSecretary of Energy: Jay Inslee. Inslee–former congressman and current governor of Washington–was clearly running for a cabinet position when he was running for president. He ran on one big issue–addressing climate change–and got out of the race gracefully when he had made his point. Inslee has worked to reframe climate change as a justice issue. As such, Inslee has been able to connect the economic, environmental, and infrastructural, and health components to this complex and overacting issue. Check out Vox’s useful take on his climate plan. Energy is a small-ish department and so Inslee can take on a larger portfolio as the administration’s “climate czar.”

jahana hayesSecretary of Education: Jahana Hayes. Hayes made history in 2018 by becoming the first woman of color to represent New England in Congress. Hailing from western Connecticut, Hayes won accolades as the National Teacher of the Year in 2016, in part for her pedagogy and in part for her focus on service as a necessary component of learning. I’m a little hesitant to let someone with only two years of Congress and limited administrative experience to helm a cabinet post, but you have assistant secretaries to handle the bureaucratic angle. I need Hayes as an advocate, someone who has spent the long hours in the classroom, to rebuild America’s public education after the disastrous tenure of Betsy DeVos.

Mike MichaudSecretary of Veterans’ Affairs: Michael Michaud. In 2014, Michaud averred re-election in Maine’s rural 2nd district to run for governor of Vacationland. That didn’t work out, and after some speculation about his future, took a job as an Assistant Secretary of Labor in a role that facilitates the training and hiring of veterans. Maine- especially the 2nd district- has an unusually large number of military veterans, and Michaud is no stranger to representing their interests. He was one of the first to identify the VA incompetence under Eric Shinseki and demand reform. Michaud also sponsored an act in Congress that would have given tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. After his unsuccessful gubernatorial run, he worked at the Labor Department and oversaw VETS, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. As someone conversant in the fields of veterans’ affairs, health care, and labor, he’d be a slam dunk at the VA. Oh, and if confirmed, he’d be the first openly gay cabinet secretary.

Michelle_Brane_webSecretary of Homeland Security: Michelle Brané. I thought about William McRaven for this spot, but I want DHS to be much more transparent a guy who led secret ops in the Middle East–much as I admire him–didn’t feel right. Elissa Slotkin might be great in a few years, but she’s a freshman congresswoman from a lean-Republican district in Michigan that it would be a shame to risk losing. I went, in the end, with an activist. More than most departments, DHS is in need of profound reform– not just in terms of its structure but its very mission. It can serve important functions–even the most stalwart leftist I’m aware of isn’t suggesting truly open borders or zero safety protocols. But ICE needs to be remade from the bottom up after wrecking havoc on countless families and bearing responsibility for carrying out family separation. Anyway, Michelle Brané. She’s a co-director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, and in the words of her bio on their webpage, “advocates for the critical protection needs of immigrant women, children and other vulnerable migrant populations in the United States.” She’s also worked for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and coordinated the Detained Torture Survivor Legal Support Network as a lawyer and legal advocate, while authoring several books on the present global migration crisis.

And short write-ups for other cabinet level offices:

jeremy bernardChief of Staff: Jeremy Bernard. I worry sometimes that Rahm Emanuel has been ensconced in our minds as the quintessential chief-of-staff: a grim, unsmiling, foul-mouthed bad cop who knocks heads together and demands inhuman levels of efficiency and loyalty. I envision something more edifying. I’ve chosen a former White House social secretary: Jeremy Bernard. He recently co-wrote an excellent book about civility, Treating People Well, and will bring that ethic to the White House without being a milquetoast or pushover. Graciousness and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive virtues.

hillary schieveSmall Business Administration: Hillary Schieve. Implausibly, there’s a second Nevadan in my dream cabinet. It’s especially shocking since it’s possibly the blue state I respect the least (although Illinois might win that particular sweepstakes.) Anyway, Schieve is the non-partisan mayor of Reno who ran a small chain of clothing resale shops. She’s revitalized the downtown and helped bring Reno’s unemployment rate from 13% to 3.5%.

ben rhodesNational Security Administration: Ben Rhodes. A bit of a young showboater, Rhodes was nevertheless a key part of Obama’s foreign policy team. For all of his spotlight grabbing, you can’t argue he’s been ineffective, having played a key role in the Iran deal and the establishment of relations with Cuba.

kristen coxOffice of Management and Budget: Kristen Cox. The third and final Republican in this batch, Cox holds down OMB in the state of Utah.  Cox has a knack for identifying bottlenecks and redundancies and her fiscal discipline–different, I think, than ideological conservatism–will be a useful balancing wheel in an administration brimming with badly needed but admittedly expensive progressive ideas. She’s also a strong advocate of stress tests, implementing a number of measures to test how Utah’s finances could whether a severe recession. Kristen Cox may be legally blind, but in every way that matters, she sees more clearly than most.

maria oteroUN Ambassador: Maria Otero: An immigrant born in Bolivia, Otero was a fixture at the State Department in the Obama years as Under-Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. I want the USA to assume credible leadership on questions of human rights as right-wing governments are in ascendance throughout the globe, and her background–which includes pioneering micro financing work and stints at two of my favorite organizations, Bread for the World and the U.S. Institute of Peace, makes her an ideal choice as our representative to the U.N.

Pennsylvania Governor DemocratsEPA: Katie McGinty. McGinty missed becoming senator from Pennsylvania by a whisker in 2016. She’s worked in and out of the private sector, worked as a legislative assistant for Mr. Environment himself, Al Gore, chaired the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Clinton years, and served as Pennsylvania’s chief environmental officer.

janet wolfenbargerDNI: Janet Wolfenbarger. First woman to serve as a four-star general in the Army. Fairly self-explanatory.

jennifer granholmUS Trade Representative: Jennifer Granholm. Trade policy has unexpectedly become a sexy topic, and free trade fever that’s dominated the last 30 years of public policy has been called into question by grassroots groups across the political spectrum. International trade is inevitable, and rightly so, but who better to protect U.S. interests than someone who was Governor of Michigan for eight years? She even got Hillary to reconsider her stance not he TPP. As a Rust Belt governor who weathered the automotive crisis, she’s been a sharp-elbowed advocate for policies that favor U.S. industrial development while maintaining strong internationalism- working with Sweden in recent years to support a green energy economy.

val demingsCIA director: Val Demings. Orlando’s first female police chief and now a congresswoman. Her work on the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees will be of great benefit in helming the CIA post. Her sharp, analytical, and reformists instincts will be badly needed there.

Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers: Stephanie Kelton. It’s technically not a cabinet position any more, but I’d bring it back and staff it with one of Bernie’s economic advisors, SUNY Stony Brook professor Stephanie Kelton. She favors modern monetary theory, which posits a great deal of centralized government spending to stimulate the economy equitably– Keynesianism on steroids. We’ve ignored the deficit for the Iraq War, and possibly an upcoming Iran War, and for unnecessary tax cuts. This time, let’s ignore the deficit to remake America’s economy for the average citizen.stephanie kelton

So those would be my dream cabinet picks for my dream ticket of Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro. Competent. Ethical. Reformist. Progressive. Out of the “official” cabinet offices, without consciously trying, I almost had gender parity, with 8 men and 7 women. For the whole gamut, including the POTUS and VPOTUS, women actually outnumbered men 16 to 11. What do you think? Did I miss the mark on any of these selections? Let me know in the comments.

So…about that timeline. I’m afraid that it won’t be completed for some time. As many of you know, my young son Alex was born in late July about two months ahead of term. In early November, he was transferred from Maine (where he was born while my wife and I were on vacation) to Rochester, NY (where we live when we aren’t in Singapore.) After a round of steroids, he improved enough that we were able to finally take him home after almost four months in the hospital since he was born. If that sounds like a reason to be grateful, it surely is. But Alex has a potentially serious lung disease, the exact nature and outlook we aren’t certain of. He’s also coming home on a half-liter of oxygen, an oxymeter that beeps whenever his saturation is low, and an NG feeding tube. In addition to the care that even a healthy child would need, our little guy needs plenty more– and that means my wife and I are working round the clock to take care of him. Until I go back to Singapore in late January, I’m afraid that I won’t have time for much rock hall commentary or alternate universe spelunking.

So– please consult the other very capable Rock Hall watchers for all your latest news and commentary. Until further notice- Alex Voltaire, Sr.– over and out.

In the absence of any recent posts, let me instead make an announcement about future posts. I have been working on my most ambitious timeline of alternate American history yet. It’s called “Each Alike in Dignity.” Its point of departure begins during the War of 1812. The Massacre of New Orleans and the destruction of the new makeshift capital of Harrisburg leads the United States to sue for peace, ceding much of the Louisiana Purchase to Great Britain. As humiliating as this is, it exacerbates an event that did happen in our timeline, the Hartford Convention. New England, with its vulnerable shipping and reliance on international trade, was hit hardest during the war, and was the least invested in “protecting the frontier,” as one of the war’s justifications went. So, a number of leaders of the moribund Federalist Party gathered to consider New England departing from the union.

In real life (IRL), the convention’s demands had the bad fortune of reaching Washington at virtually the same time as news of Andrew Jackson’s resounding victory of in New Orleans. Our Yankee secessionists were thus laughed out of town, and the Federalists were a dead party within five years. But suppose that the privations of war were more severe, and New England severed their ties and formed their own country? And suppose that the Midwest and the Southwest followed suit many years later? That’s four different countries, and four distinct houses. Will they each be alike in dignity?

I’m going to make presidential trading cards for all four countries, in the order of their founding. You’ll see the same events covered from different perspectives and one man’s traitor become another’s freedom fighter.

All told that’s going one 125 different president cards. I won’t spoil too much yet, but I can tell you that this will include:

  • 12 IRL unsuccessful major-party presidential candidates
  • 10 IRL unsuccessful major-party vice-presidential candidates
  • 10 IRL secretaries of state
  • 10 persons in my All-Star Senate project from seven years ago on this blog
  • 8 IRL generals
  • 7 IRL professional actors
  • 6 IRL vice-presidents
  • 4 IRL Supreme Court justices
  • 4 IRL Canadians
  • 3 IRL current presidential candidates

Any guesses who might show up? Remember- some folks fall into more than one category and no IRL presidents or presidents in my previous timelines are eligible.

Let’s put this timeline to bed. We’ve seen a number of presidents posit different visions of what America could be: Burr’s quasi-tyranny, Hamilton and Clay’s mercantile dreams replete with a rich network of internal improvements. We’ve seen Foraker and Sousa’s ambitions for America as a global power, as Wood and Taft preferred to avoid costly intervention abroad. Do you prefer Hutchins’ didactic and teacherly presidency, or Kennan’s realpolitik, or Hatfield’s Christian humanism? We conclude this timeline with four individuals, any of whom could have easily been president in a different set of circumstances. I hope you have enjoyed exploring the possibilities that this timeline offers us.

41. Haley Barbour42. John Edwards43. John Kerry44. Paul Ryan

Designer’s notes: I ended the last two timelines with presidents who I found broadly agreeable. Just to make sure that these projects weren’t empty exercises in wish fulfillment or blatant wankery, I decided to end this one on a conservative note–not unfitting given that the United States is a lot more industrial a lot earlier in Dueling Visions.

I also like juxtaposing Birch Bayh’s selflessness in resigning the presidency to care for his wife dying of cancer with John Edwards resigning the presidency in disgrace after cheating on his wife dying of cancer.

Finally, I considered using a site like Fiverr to manipulate a picture of John Kerry so that he had an eyepatch or a distinct scar or some physical sign of his more McCain-like hardship while serving in the military.

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)
  29. Newton Baker (Democratic, Ohio, 1929-1933)
  30. Robert E. Wood (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1933-1941)
  31. Wendell Willkie (Whig Republican, Indiana, 1941-1942)
  32. Robert A. Taft (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1942-1949)
  33. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Democratic, Illinois, 1949-1957)
  34. George F. Kennan (Democratic, New Jersey, 1957-1961)
  35. Nelson A. Rockefeller (Whig Republican, New York, 1961-1969)
  36. Mark O. Hatfield (Whig Republican, Oregon, 1969-1973)
  37. Birch E. Bayh (Democratic, Indiana, 1973-1976)
  38. Reubin Askew (Democratic, Florida, 1976-1981)
  39. Sandra Day O’Connor (Whig Republican, Baja California, 1981-1989)
  40. Harris Wofford (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1989-1997)
  41. Haley Barbour (Whig Republican, Mississippi, 1997-2005)
  42. John Edwards (Democratic, North Carolina, 2005-2008)
  43. John F. Kerry (Democratic, Massachusetts, 2008-2013)
  44. Paul Ryan (Whig Republican, Wisconsin, 2013- )


We’re still in the middle of the “Long Winter” with the Holy Roman Empire in the 1970s. Let’s explore what happens next…

37. Birch Bayh38. Reubin Askew39. Sandra Day Oconnor40. Harris Wofford

Designer’s notes: I love Birch Bayh. And I’m a little upset that he never became president in real life. Several years ago, I met James Armstrong, who was the most prominent Methodist pastor in Indiana back in the 60s. Sen. Bayh asked Armstrong to baptize his son Evan. Armstrong, a classic 60s liberal activist churchman who hated the party’s “Third Way” turn in the 1990s, told me that regretted not having held Evan underwater longer.

Also, Hawaii not being a state in this timeline, Hirono’s relatives ended up in Washington state instead.

  1. George Washington (no party, Virginia, 1789-1797)
  2. John Adams (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1797-1801)
  3. Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican, New York, 1801-1811)
  4. Alexander Hamilton (Federalist, New York, 1811-1817)
  5. Rufus King (Federalist, Massachusetts, 1817-1821)
  6. Charles Pinckney (Federalist, South Carolina, 1821-1824)
  7. Mahlon Dickerson (Federalist, New Jersey, 1824-1825)
  8. Henry Clay (Whig, Kentucky, 1825-1833)
  9. Stephen Decatur (Continental, Maryland, 1833-1837)
  10. Francis P. Blair (Continental, Missouri, 1837-1843)
  11. Levi Woodbury (Continental, New Hampshire, 1843-1845)
  12. Lewis Cass (Continental Democratic, Michigan, 1845-1849)
  13. Hamilton Fish (Whig, New York, 1849-1857)
  14. John C. Fremont (Whig, Alta California, 1857-1861)
  15. James H. Hammond (Continental Democratic, South Carolina, 1861-1864)
  16. Hector M. Johnson (Continental Democratic, Kentucky, 1864-1865)
  17. Robert E. Lee (Union and State, Virginia, 1865-1870)
  18. Thomas Hendricks (Union and State, Indiana, 1870-1873)
  19. Elihu Washburne (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1873-1877)
  20. James G. Blaine (Whig Republican, Maine, 1877-1885)
  21. James Weaver (Farmer-Labor, Iowa, 1885-1889)
  22. Zebulon B. Vance (Union-State, North Carolina, 1889-1894)
  23. Benjamin Pierce (Union-State, New Hampshire, 1894-1897)
  24. Joseph Foraker (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1897-1905)
  25. William Randolph Hearst (Democratic, New York, 1905-1909)
  26. Harry Lane (Peace Democrat, Oregon, 1909-1913)
  27. John Philip Sousa (Whig Republican, Washington D.C., 1913-1921)
  28. Alexander M. Palmer (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1921-1929)
  29. Newton Baker (Democratic, Ohio, 1929-1933)
  30. Robert E. Wood (Whig Republican, Illinois, 1933-1941)
  31. Wendell Willkie (Whig Republican, Indiana, 1941-1942)
  32. Robert A. Taft (Whig Republican, Ohio, 1942-1949)
  33. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Democratic, Illinois, 1949-1957)
  34. George F. Kennan (Democratic, New Jersey, 1957-1961)
  35. Nelson A. Rockefeller (Whig Republican, New York, 1961-1969)
  36. Mark O. Hatfield (Whig Republican, Oregon, 1969-1973)
  37. Birch E. Bayh (Democratic, Indiana, 1973-1976)
  38. Reubin Askew (Democratic, Florida, 1976-1981)
  39. Sandra Day O’Connor (Whig Republican, Baja California, 1981-1989)
  40. Harris Wofford (Democratic, Pennsylvania, 1989-1997)