Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On Gore

I have yet to see An Inconvenient Truth. I await its opening at a theater within a few hundred miles with bated breath, since reaction among the sane is quite positive, and the insane are reduced to babbling incoherence (Al Gore is, apparent, a Nazi).

And the success of his film is keeping the possibility of his running for president in 2008 at the forefront. Hallelujah! I'd rather have him than HIllary "Kids these days" Clinton.

In the alternate universe I create when wishing we all had a pony gets boring, I envision a very different 2001. Sometimes I imagine the Supreme Court didn't intervene with the Florida Supreme Court, Jeb Bush's illegal disenfranchisement of black people had been remedied, and Gore was given the Presidency he won fair and square. But usually, I accept some elements of reality. Scalia handed Bush the Oval Office, but Gore, rather than wussing out, growing a beard and looking for himself wherever he went, decided to keep on campaigning.

Sure, imaginary Gore gave a polite and gracious concession speech, one which explained that there were serious problems illustrated by the legal squabbling but that ultimately he felt that the nation's deserved clarity and that he wasn't going to tangle the thing up in courts.

Then he would announce his cabinet-in-exile. These people would go on and have real jobs doing whatever it was that they were doing, but this Democratic government in exile would propose legislation, advocate publicly for particular executive actions and decisions, and generally rally the opposition party. Gore had the popular vote and a mandate to lead. On September 11, he would have stood with leaders of both parties in demanding that the people who attacked us be brought to justice, but there would have been a set of Democratic proposals as an alternative to the Ashcroft Powergrab. When Supreme Court Justices resigned, the Gore administration in exile would suggest some names as alternatives. When Iraq loomed, the Secretary of State-in-Exile would propose an alternative foreign policy, perhaps generously offering to work with our UN and NATO allies, but never interfering in the process without a clear invitation from the acknowledged President and Commander-in-Chief.

At every step, America would be reminded that things could have gone differently, and in 2004, Gore would have marched to the White House with ease.

Of course, the Dean movement and the revolution in grassroots organizing that has brought would probably have remained nascent in this scenario. The Deaniac movement was a response to a leadership vacuum in the Democratic Party. That movement directly or indirectly spawned much of the progressive blogosphere – especially MyDD and DailyKos – as well as much of the new machinery of change that has come into view in the last few years. Crashing the Gate is largely a manifesto and a history of the seachange in attitude that the Democratic Party has gone through, from a comfortably bureaucratic and staid institution to a party buoyed and changed by activism on the ground and online. Dean came to power by following where the people were leading, and the Democratic party is stronger (in terms of money raised, candidates fielded and organization on the ground) than it ever was before.

So maybe my dream of Gore's government-in-exile is better off as fantasy. Perhaps the unanticipated growth of real democracy in the Party is a positive outgrowth of his decision to leave a clear field.

That doesn't mean he shouldn't come back in 2008. We live in complicated times, and there may be no politician in the last 30 years (barring Bill Clinton) more capable of grappling with complexity and recognizing the dangers and opportunities inherent in that complexity. The Bush solution to the Gordian knot is Alexander's, a swift blow of a sword (followed by confusion and entanglement in the remaining rope). Gore is a man who can use the Gordian knot to build something.