Elizabeth Warren versus Ted Cruz? Not likely. Only the most extraordinary circumstances could produce this improbable contest for the presidency in 2016.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the first to declare his candidacy for the Republican nomination, but his hardcore ideology and abrasive manner make him unlikely to be chosen by calmer heads closer to the center of the party.
And despite persistent efforts by left-wing Democrats to change her mind, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is emphatic in her refusal to run for the office.
Still, the remote possibility that these two could face off for the presidency brings this question into sharp relief: What kind of country are we?
Filmmaker Michael Moore has an opinion. In a chapter entitled "A Liberal Paradise," from his book "Dude, Where's My Country," he argues that the United States is a "land of liberal-lefty peacenik tree-huggers."
Of course, Moore is easy to dismiss. His politics reside at the far-left, semi-socialist end of the Democratic spectrum, and his style is often brash and abrasive. So consider the source.
Moore's book was published in 2003, so his statistics are a decade out of date, but many of the attitudes they reflect are probably durable.
For example, Moore cites polls from Gallup, the "Los Angeles Times," the Kaiser Family Foundation and "Newsweek," among others, to describe an America in which 68 percent of its citizens favor laws against discrimination against homosexual employees, and half say that gay and lesbian couples should be entitled to the same benefits that opposite-sex married couples receive.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that 59 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, and half believe that the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection gives gays and lesbians the right to marry. We're trending left on this issue.
But statistics take us only so far. Although the word "liberal" has been demonized by the right, on many issues Americans' attitudes tend to the political left, even if they often conflict with what Americans say and how they vote.
Big government versus small government? Small government, of course. But we like the security, stability and benefits that result from the collective energy of a government that provides services beyond the capacity of private enterprise. We like having policemen and firemen, good schools and the most powerful military in the world. We like good highways, and we like being able to drink out of any tap in the U.S. without having to worry about contracting cholera.
High taxes versus low? Low, of course. But even if we don't always realize it ("Keep your government hands off of my Medicare!"), we also like the social safety net -- as porous as it is -- that makes us different from many other countries, where the poor and the ill are left to suffer and die on their own.
Generalizing a little, conservatism hopes to restore a fondly remembered past; liberalism imagines that public policy can be wielded to improve the future. Maybe the best we can do lies somewhere in between.
Which may explain why we'll probably be treated to a conventional Clinton-versus-Bush battle that, no matter how it turns out, won't provide much chance for real change.
Too bad. The improbable Warren-versus-Cruz contest would tell us a lot more about who we really are.
John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas; firstname.lastname@example.org.