If John McCain had won the White House, this country would surely be in far worse straits -- perhaps with even more war, even less corporate regulation, and an even worse economy. So obviously we are lucky that McCain did not win.
But what if Hillary Clinton had defeated Obama in the primaries and had gone on to win the White House? How would things be different if she were President?
I threw this question out to my Facebook and Twitter followers. It certainly wasn't a scientific survey. It was more like the preacher surveying the choir. But it led to some good discussions, albeit no real surprises.
The majority of respondents believe that things would be pretty much the same if Clinton were President. They see the Obama administration as a rerun of the Bill Clinton administration -- too centrist, too indulgent of big business, and too afraid of ruffling the feathers of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Others reflected my own gut feeling that things might be a bit better for progressives today if Clinton had won. Throughout the first year of his presidency, we saw Obama still playing the community organizer -- making deals, being nice, and bending over backwards in hopes of engaging the Republicans in Congress who obviously only want him to fail. And that set a precedent, teaching the Republicans that they could walk all over Obama and, by extension, the Congressional Democrats.
What this country needs is a leader, not an organizer. The Chief of Staff (though obviously not this last one) can handle the organizing. We need a President who is strong and tough. And I think there's no doubt that Clinton is, in general, much stronger and tougher than Obama, and would have come across as such from day one.
Personalities aside, Clinton also knows how to play the Washington game. Obama is still learning. Right now we cannot afford so much on-the-job training.
Interestingly, no one responded with the opinion that things would be worse if Clinton were President. One person did point out that a Hillary Clinton presidency would bring out a lot of sexism, but that would simply have replaced the racism we've been seeing as a result of having an African American in the White House.
And that last point is perhaps the most telling.
The Republicans cannot win on the facts of the issues. And so Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and their cohorts in the conservative media use fear and emotion. And they're getting better and better at it.
Having an African American in the White House makes it easy for them to incite fear amongst the ignorant that people of color will take over this country.
Having a woman in the White House would have provided an equally easy opportunity to stir up the misogyny, as they have already been doing to some extent since Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House.
And Democratic politicians and candidates are no safer if they happen to be white males. Where the conservative pundits cannot use race or gender, they will use guns or gays or any other issue they can spin to incite fear of the real or imagined Democratic agenda.
As long as these right-wing scare tactics are accepted and tolerated, none of this will change, regardless of who occupies the White House.
So the final answer to my original question is that it probably doesn't matter.
And that is what we the people should really be afraid of.