Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Gore 2004

I am not saying, "Go, Big Al, Go!". And I have heard plenty of Democrats saying "No, Big Al, No!". But the world's finest English language newsweekly offers these thought on Gore:

"The Democrats' former champion had a point about corporate America. Will it do him any good?

AL GORE won dismal reviews for his decision to reinvent himself, in the middle of the last presidential campaign, as a people-versus-the-powerful populist....

Whatever the merits of running as a populist during a boom, Mr Gore's campaign is now looking more far-sighted by the day. Even the briefest reading of the press cuttings produces some choice quotations. Mr Gore gave warning that his rival was being bankrolled by “a new generation of special-interest power-brokers who would like nothing better than a pliant president who would bend public policy to suit their purposes and profits”; that these special interests were determined to “pry open more loopholes in the tax code”; and that “when powerful interests try to take advantage of the American people, it's often other businesses that are hurt in the process.” The people who would benefit from Mr Gore reining in the corrupt moguls would be “the small- and medium-sized companies that are playing by the rules and earning profits the old-fashioned way.”

.... Mr Gore still looks prescient. He argued that the country needed somebody in Washington who was willing to hold corporate America accountable for its misdeeds. Now even George Bush (MBA) is swotting up on his Teddy Roosevelt and threatening errant chief executives with a visit to the woodshed.

You might imagine that the Democrats would be falling over each other to praise their prophetic candidate... You would be wrong.

Why are Democrats so reluctant to praise their former champion? Many are still nervous about populism. They worry about reviving their party's reputation for business-bashing, a reputation that Mr Clinton spent a decade expunging. And they think that Mr Gore's brand of populism is exactly the sort that the party needs to avoid: a populism of the heart rather than the head, of grand rhetoric rather than concrete proposals, of sabre rattling rather than scalpel precision. You can search his campaign speeches in vain for ideas about accounting reform and outside directors—and that is certainly not because of any aversion on Mr Gore's part to tedious detail....

Disillusionment with Mr Gore is not confined to the party's peerage. Many Democratic operatives are about as keen on another Gore candidacy as Sony is on renewing its contract with Michael Jackson. They point out that the real problem in 2000 was always the messenger rather than the message. Mr Gore seems to be capable of only two modes of behaviour: the stiff and charmless, and the outright bizarre (remember his decision to paint his face orange during the first presidential debate, or his gorilla-like attempt to crowd Mr Bush off the stage during the third debate?). A prescient Al Gore is still Al Gore.

Yet strategic silence may not be enough to save the Democrats from Mr Gore. One inspiration for him might be another much ridiculed vice-president who blew one election but stubbornly came back to win another. Richard Nixon long ago proved that deeply unattractive politicians can overcome both the doubts of their colleagues and the sneers of the punditocracy to bounce back from defeat.

Mr Gore left the 2000 campaign with important advantages: astronomical name-recognition; a network of fundraisers; and a bitter sense that the election was stolen. Now he can add the fact that he warned America against putting a corporate dupe in Washington. The party barons may not like it. Many party operatives may even dread it. But the unlovable Mr Gore is still in a stronger position than any of his rivals. Each corporate scandal increases the likelihood that the 2004 election will be a rematch of 2000—and even, perhaps, that Mr Gore may win it.

I slimmed this down a bit, but the original does come together beautifully. Anyway, links to the Economist require registration, sorry.

As to content: among Al's advantages, they left out the front-loaded primary schedule in 2004. And I have an additional comment on the "stolen election" issue. The Dems run the risk of a puzzling contradiction in their message. Suppose they energize their base with a chant of "We wuz robbed, Gore won". OK then, some wise guy will say, nominate the guy who won. Go with a winner, go with Al. Oh, not so fast, respond "the leadership". Yes, Gore won, but really, it was a team win, and we need someone else who can win even more, or differently, or anyone but Al.

This contradiction is not insurmountable. I have "leadership" in quotes not as a cheap shot, but because the Dems are anything but monolithic regarding Presidential candidates in 2004. Each of a number of prospective leaders will attempt to explain this seeming conundrum in their own no doubt stylish way. And whoever knocks off Big Al may gain credibility as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence". So exciting, so long to wait.

UPDATE: The free-spending Jeff Hauser evidently subscribes to the Economist, and gives us a view from the Left in the 7-12-14 Hauser Report. His bold prediction - Bush wins in 2004. My addition - Bush is Major League Baseball Commissioner in 2009. If we still have Major League Baseball.

Comments: Post a Comment