As I mentioned once before, that Meltdown piece arose from a desire to find a non-tedious way to talk about the economic and fiscal imbalances building up in the mid-2000s. The solution I came up with, at the prodding of Cullen Murphy, was an imagined history of the Presidential Election of 2016, with the "MacGuffin" of its plotline being the big (and at the time also imaginary) housing/financial crash of the late 2000s. The idea was that prolonged economic chaos discredited both of the main political parties and cleared the way for a third, "let's cut the crap" party to take the White House. It's written in the form of a "What do we do now?" memo from the new party's Karl Rove equivalent to the candidate destined to win in 2016.
Obviously a lot of the details and color in the story are now quaint or out of date. For instance, a few months before writing this piece, I had been in the hall at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and heard young State Senator Barack Obama deliver the rousing keynote address that propelled him to national attention. But in the plotting for this article, I assumed that first black president, elected in 2012, would be a Republican and a war hero -- what we'd now see as a cross between Colin Powell and David Petraeus. Still some of the patterns of the projected meltdown will not seem so outdated. UPDATE: I forgot to mention that a lot of the conceit of this piece depends on David Foster Wallace-style abundant footnotes. In the print magazine they were on the same page as the relevant main text. Online, you should click on the little footnote icons to be taken to them, then use the browser back-arrow to get back to where you were.
In the wake of this past weekend's NYT-driven discussion on why the roof seems to be falling in on the Obama Administration, I wanted to mention an even older Atlantic article: "The Passionless Presidency," from 1979. Because I had worked for Carter, that article was extremely controversial at the time. I was reminded of it by, among other things, the web title on the controversial NYT piece by Drew Weston: "What Happened to Obama's Passion?" The print version was just "What Happened to Obama?"