A YEAR LATER…. Jan. 20, 2009, one year ago today, was a pretty exciting day for a lot of Americans, and the promise of a brighter future brought hope to much of the country.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to imagine what my reaction would have been if someone had told me one year ago today….

* Voters in Massachusetts, who still support President Obama, would elect a dim-witted conservative Republican to the Senate seat once held by John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy.

* Republicans and much of the political establishment would decide that a 59-seat Senate majority — the largest in a generation — is not only too small to be effective, but would have to do more to cater to the demands of the 41-seat minority.

* A core group of prominent liberal bloggers would be almost desperate to kill the Democrats’ health care reform plan.

* The economic recovery package that prevented a depression, generated growth, created jobs, and brought some stability to the economy would be deemed a failure.

* Dick Cheney would be considered such a credible national figure, news outlets would run his missives without scrutiny, and major media outlets would hang on his daughter’s every word.

* Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would signal their serious interest in the next presidential campaign, without inviting widespread laughter.

* A landmark health care reform bill would pass both the House and Senate, only to find its fate in great peril.

* The Democrats’ health bill would have no public option and no Medicare expansion. It would also feature considerable cuts to spending and the budget deficit, but would nevertheless be deemed “too liberal” by large swaths of the country, a majority of whom have no idea what is and isn’t in the proposal.

It’s certainly possible I picked the wrong field to study.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.