OK, I still think it would have been better if Gore had won in 2000. Still (and whether or not McCain loses on Tuesday as everyone expects), it's hard not to think that things would have gone a lot better if McCain had won in 2000 instead of Bush. It would have been much less likely that the US would have invaded Iraq, and the shame of torture scandals almost certainly would not have happened. We would have missed out on Sarah Palin. McCain was 64. 2000 was really his year, I think, but the GOP heavies outsmarted themselves. Ironically enough they were worried about the party getting saddled with a right-wing Christian candidate so they looked around for a safe, conventional candidate and settled on George W. Bush, in the process passing over the loner McCain. Just another clusterfuck for the old Navy airman (if you've wondered why the old military men tend to be full of rage).
But I can think of some things that would probably not have been different. For one thing (thinking of McCain), whatever happened to the conservative idea that the United States should avoid foreign entanglements and the corruption of empire? The Republican isolationists who fought against America's entry into World War II were pillars of the Senate, senior Republican senators like Robert Taft. Whatever the wisdom of their policies, look at how far the parties have transformed between then and now, when conservative Republicans are the self-conscious champions of empire, considering inviolate a military budget that is larger than all others combined, and assuming the American garrisoning of the world as a natural fact, to be sustained indefinitely.
Meanwhile we can also safely assume that there wouldn't have been any health care reform during a McCain administration, and not much would have been different in regulatory oversight of the financial industry either. McCain might have done better than Bush has with privatizing Social Security, and we all might have done a lot worse if he had.