Minnich: Playing the winter ‘What If?’ game

With most of 2018 out there to contemplate, I got to thinking: What if Joe Biden had been a candidate in the Democratic primaries? And what if Ohio’s John Kasich had won the GOP nomination? What if those two had run against each other and left the Ted Cruz/Donald Trump/Marco Rubio/Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton dramas to be yesterday’s news?

Internet trolls and partisans in the wings would have nipped at the heels of the campaigners, and the media would have searched for a loose thread or an open zipper to spice up the chit-chat on the panel news analyses, but for the most part it would have been more PBS and less Fox vs. CNN in the center ring of the daily cage fights.


Some of us might have learned something about civics — certainly about civility.

The millennials would have gone wherever they go when they can’t hang out and commiserate about how the world has left them down, and the hawks on the right might have retired to the back woods of Idaho to prepare for the Armageddon of mild reasonableness that they see as a bigger threat than nuclear proliferation.

We might be talking about how to fix the health plan put in place during the Obama administration instead of ripping everything out by the roots just to show we don’t want no stinking government, and a truly reasonable tax reformation might have been crafted with the idea of including input from both sides of the aisle, instead of the cram job that looked like a last-minute homework paper from an irresponsible adolescent.

Perhaps adults who resemble the people we know and respect in our local communities would be working in the White House, instead of this unlikely assembly of something like the casts of mafia movies, biker gangs and stories about the last desperate days of Nazi Germany. Who are these people? Many look familiar; weren’t they chased out of town after the economic bubble-pop of 2008? Ah, but the economy looks good again, right? For the moment, which is all that counts, right?

And who needs a wall to isolate the world — or was it to isolate us? — when all we had to do was not fill jobs in the State Department? If no one is there to pick up the phone, nothing’s happening, right?

The news would not be going on for days about the issue of the fitness of the office holder to be president. That question was answered during the campaign. More than 60 percent of the nation thought Trump was not fit for the office, but that was the appeal; people wanted something different. They got it.

What does that say for the efficacy of a democracy?

While I was wandering around in those weeds, I received an email from Goodreads alerting me that my favorite current American novelist has a new book out, and the author, James Lee Burke himself, was explaining that “Robicheaux” is about “current themes — demagoguery, race, misogyny, the culture war, neo-colonialism and political corruption. It also deals with the plight of the iconoclast in a society, to borrow from Yeats, in which the center cannot hold and the best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”

I’ve already acquired my copy, which I will use as a new reference to instruct me on what the evening news is all about.

The nice thing about a good work of fiction is that you know that’s what it is going in. It may not be as strange as truth, but then again, who knows?