Studying history with hypotheticals

Cass R. Sunstein in The New Republic:

ScreenHunter_810 Sep. 24 18.31As everyone knows, the supreme court 
ruled six–three for Al Gore in the great dispute over the Florida recount in 2000. As everyone also knows, Gore emerged as the ultimate victor in that recount, and with his poetic and moving inauguration address he managed to unify a badly divided nation. For a long period, the Gore years continued the peace and prosperity established under President Clinton, punctuated by the successful prevention of an apparent terrorist plot in 2001, by the enactment of health care reform in 2003 (mocked by critics as GoreCare), and by aggressive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, culminating in the historic Copenhagen Protocol, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 2005.

It was not until the nation’s financial collapse, beginning in 2007, that Gore’s presidency started to unravel. Senator John McCain, a longtime critic of Gore’s “failure to respect free markets,” succeeded in convincing the American public that the collapse was partly a product of the Democratic Party’s “regulatory overreach,” and he was able to trounce Senator Joseph Biden in the 2008 election. Now in his second term, McCain has presided over a successful recovery (with unemployment levels down to 8 percent from their high of 13 percent in 2010). But his own legislative agenda, including repeal of GoreCare and immigration reform, has been stymied by what McCain calls the “do-nothing Senate,” 
which has a slim Democratic majority. Many insiders think that the Democratic nominee in 2016 will be Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. According to University of Chicago law professor Barack Obama, a specialist on election law, “Klobuchar is perfectly positioned to win her party’s nomination—and to triumph in the general election as well. She’s audacious.”

What if Jesus had never been crucified? Can we imagine a world without Christianity? Suppose that Germany won World War II. What would Europe and the United States be like now? Imagine that Kennedy had not been assassinated. Would the Vietnam war have been avoided? Would the 1960s have been fundamentally different? Would Reagan have become president? Would the Soviet 
Union still exist?

More here.