Hilzoy applies a little bit of analytic philosophy to Geraldine Ferraro’s claim that Barack Obama would not be a serious candidate for President if he’d been white or female:
If I were Hillary Clinton, I would have asked Geraldine Ferraro to resign, since if I were Hillary Clinton, I would be running a different sort of campaign. And if I were a black man and had wheels, I would be the first black male trolleycar ever, not to mention the first being ever to be both a public transit vehicle and a mammal. Aren’t counterfactuals fun?
Footnote In the comments section, Hilzoy explains that she was riffing off what she identifies as “a philosophy joke (‘if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolleycar’) told to illustrate certain properties of if/then statements in logic classes.”
Well, yes and no. I don’t doubt that the joke is used in philosophy classes, but that isn’t where it comes from. It’s actually a cleaned-up version of an old Yiddish expression, Az der bubbe vot gehat baytzim volt zi geven mein zayde: “If my grandmother had testicles, she’d be my grandfather.”
Update A reader reminds me of another version of this: “Balls! said the Queen. If I had a pair, I’d be King.”