So much for Al Gore’s centrism. So much for his Southern strategy. So much for his caution, prevarication and wariness. Al Gore has let his inner liberal fly free.
Gore’s endorsement of a left-leaning, war-opposing, Yankee former governor of an inconsequential state has rocked the Democratic establishment and the presidential contest. If Gore can at times appear awkward and plodding, a man always clapping on the wrong beat, his timing here was near impeccable. Precisely at the moment when Dean was building a case for being unshakable in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gore showed up to seal the deal. Gore’s endorsement will shove a number of other candidates to the side of the field. Gore’s decision also pulls along the support of considerable numbers of Southern Democratic Party insiders who didn’t exactly feel comfortable with Dean. In many ways, the circle has been closed, the fight has been joined.
That said, it was still peculiar in many ways.
When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1984, Al Gore would not so much as mention the name of his party’s presidential candidate that year. Running on the Democratic ticket was Walter Mondale, whose liberalism Gore considered anathema to his chances. So much did Gore avoid saying Mondale’s name that Gore’s opponent finally pledged to give Gore $5 every time he would utter “Mondale.” Gore never got a cent.
Now we witness Gore advocating the man whom some see as the most liberal of the bunch. Either Gore has changed, or a flock of doves has gathered around his head.
Also unsightly was the carcass of Joe Lieberman now slumped by the side of the road. Having faithfully avoided announcing for this year’s presidential contest until Gore made up his own mind, Lieberman must have harbored some hope that his former running mate would endorse him. But that was not to be. It was well within Gore’s purview to endorse someone else, but it was classless for the former vice president not to warn Lieberman earlier.
Aside from the personal dimensions of the endorsement, which ultimately matter little, what is more cosmically important will be the Democratic Party’s tough and uphill struggle to convince the nation it has what it takes. And in analyzing Gore’s decision, several things are instructive.
These are Republican times, no matter how you slice it. To a nation largely dominated by fat, happy, white Christians who find government irrelevant to their needs, Republicans have offered a jingoistic foreign policy strategy, tax cuts everywhere you turn and enough Bible verses to please the Jesus people.
But in his endorsement speech, Gore made two points. In the first, the typically hawkish politicohe was one of few Senate Democrats in 1991 to vote for the first Iraqi warsaid Dean was the only major candidate who had made the correct decision to oppose the war (although, let’s face it: he didn’t have to cast a vote). Obviously, with soldiers dying nearly every day in what is becoming a protracted struggle, Gore must feel that there’s traction to be gained in arguing against the conflict. Gore himself came of age in the Vietnam War, and perhaps he senses that there’s something in the air that has the potential to overturn the Bushies based on what might be a foreign policy quagmire.
But Gore’s second point was perhaps more important, and it was one with which we at the Scene would certainly agree. The candidacy of Howard Dean is establishing a new and different connection with younger, disaffected, alienated grassroots types. The depth of this connection is hard to figure precisely because these people don’t show up on conventional radar. The campaign’s Internet communications and its ability to raise money from people who have never made political contributions before could be signs that the party is reenergized. For a dozen years now, the Democratic Party has been the provenance of Bill Clinton, his wife and their raging personal ambitions. But Gore has chosen to help overturn the old and usher in something new.
Al Gore may not sing real pretty, but he’s no idiot. He’s also a futurist, the kind of guy who likes to look around corners. When it comes to endorsing Dean, we choose to believe he was trying to regenerate a political system by going another way. The odds of success are long; but they’d be longer with the party standing still.
About as seriously as bobs invitation to Lock 2 Park.
@Jim Collins: Nixon knew nothing about Watergate until after the fact. He lied under oath…
zumba is like a bad gonorreah contracted from gast, it keeps coming, and coming, and…
is anyone in here taking gast and bobs guns seriously?
We should invite Goad back to town and show him the real Nashville - have…