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It's Got to Be Gore: Part V-- What Gore Should Do

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This is the last of a series of five essays promoting the idea that Al Gore is the man best suited to provide America with the leadership it now needs. To this series, many have responded with enthusiastic support, and many have also expressed disagreement. The disagreements have mainly been of two kinds. Some do not believe that Gore has the moral and rhetorical power to do the job. Others argue that, whatever his assets, we ought not look to Gore because he's not going to run. While my main purpose in this last series is to propose the approach I think Gore should take, I hope also along the way to address satisfactorily those two criticisms. *************** I began this series with the notion that America needs two things from its next leadership: to help the American people understand the meaning of this era of the Bushite abuse of power, and to set about repairing the damage to American and to the world inflicted by this present regime. With respect to the first of those two jobs, Gore can make an important contribution whether he runs for the presidency or not. And either way, here is what I would suggest he do in the coming months. THE BASIC IDEA
Gore should make public speeches dealing directly with those pressing issues that are front and center in America at that given moment. He should weigh in on the side of what is right and what is true and what should be done NOW. By addressing CURRENT issues, he makes his comments topical and newsworthy, part of a story that's already being told. But each time he speaks about such topical matters, he should also go beyond the current issue to place the matter at hand into THE LARGER CONTEXT OF WHAT AMERICAN VALUES NEED TO BE RESTORED. By connecting the specific issues of the moment to the pattern of damage this evil regime has been doing, he can educate Americans about the larger meanings of this dark era.
FOR EXAMPLE For example, in countering the bogus arguments the Bushites are throwing out to prevent rational deliberation about our options in Iraq (cf. the piece at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=486), Gore can go on to talk about the whole pattern of dishonest statements with which the Bushites have sought to manipulate the American people. And he can take the next step and speak of the need to re-establish a culture of truthfulness in our democratic processes. For example, in supporting the efforts to tie the president's hands from single-handedly launching a whole new war (this time against Iran, cf. the piece at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=442), Gore can go on to talk about the whole pattern of usurpations of power by these Bushites, and speak out for the restoration of our constitutional system of checks and balances. For example, in talking about the challenge of climate change, he can go on to talk about the larger pattern of Bushite policy in which national policy has been twisted to enrich their cronies at the expense of the long-term health of our nation and the planet. THE MORAL AUTHORITY QUESTION: If I'm right about Gore's ability to project moral authority --and a couple of talks Gore gave more than a year ago that suggests I am-- then such speeches can have a powerful impact on the country whether he's a candidate or not. If his voice has no such power, he simply will not catch hold with the public-no harm done. We have nothing to lose from testing the hypothesis. As for the idea that he's crippled by what Americans think of him from the past, I would suggest: IF HE STANDS UP AND PLAYS THE ROLE POWERFULLY, THE PAST WILL QUICKLY BECOME IRRELEVANT. Consider Keith Olbermann. Who was he, after all, before he began to speak with a voice of moral passion? He was a smart-alec TV guy, a bright and clever former sports reporter with a funny and glitzy news-oriented, semi-tabloid show. But then Olbermann stood up and did something remarkable. He faced the camera and told it like it is. And suddenly, there he was: a prophetic voice, a special presence on the national stage. Do you think that if Gore stood up and spoke the moral truth with moral conviction, it would be any different for him. Instantly, I propose, Gore would be a prophetic force to be reckoned with. In other words, it doesn't matter if millions of people do not right now see him as a leader for our times: if he speaks with power, their minds will change virtually overnight. And it doesn't matter if he's determined not to run: he can still play a major leadership role. TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN: EITHER WAY, IT WORKS The right path for Gore to take in the coming months is the same whether he wants to run or not. Either way, he should just speak the moral truth about the path America has been on and the path we are called to take instead. Even if he wants to run, I recommend he make no such announcement anytime soon. As a reader on NoneSoBlind aptly put it: "No talk of the presidency, just BE 'presidential.'" Act like a leader, and let America come to him. America does not need a conventional politician right now, it needs a leader. It would be best for America if Gore can be seen as answering a call and not, like most people running for the office, pursuing an ambition. If, on the other hand, Gore is entirely clear that he does not want to run for public office, there are two courses of action to consider. One is indistinguishable from the previous scenario: he acts like a leader, but never announces and, if the country comes to him, he says thanks but no thanks. In the other course of action, Gore makes a Shermanesque, wholly unambiguous declaration that he will not run in 2008, will not accept a draft, etc. The advantage of the first is that the media will likely pay more attention if they think that Gore might be part of the horserace, which the media always prefer to cover rather than anything substantial like the fate of the nation. The advantage of the second is that Gore would thereby transform himself into something beyond politics. The cloud of suspicion that comes with the perception of ambition would be dissipated. And removing himself from the competition for power would also cleanse Gore of much of the taint of "partisanship" that interferes so much nowadays with effective political communication, especially across the divide of our polarization would be cleansed away. I lean toward the latter approach, but really don't know which set of considerations should be given more weight. GORE'S THE MAN TO GIVE US BACK OUR COUNTRY Remember that "Saturday Night Live" piece Gore did last year, pretending to be President Gore addressing the country after having been in office for almost six years? It was hilarious, and heart-breaking. Hilarious because of how exaggerated was the implicit comparison he was making between the country being imagined under his presidency and the grim reality that we, the viewers, all know has actually unfolded under those Bushites who snatched the presidency from him down in Florida in 2000. And painful because, exaggerated though the contrast was, the reality of the difference is stark and striking enough. The saddest words, the poet says: "it might have been." Deep down, the country recognizes in Gore the image of a better future America might have had back in 2000. This, too, is part of what gives Gore a special standing in America at this unhappy time. (It was the intuitive understanding of that meaning of Gore, as a figure, that underlies the genius of that "Saturday Night Live" skit.) Over 70 percent of the American people now tell posters that the country is "on the wrong track." The combination of this sense of the wrongness of the present with Gore standing there as a vivid symbol of the path that America SHOULD and COULD have taken provide Gore with an almost mythic possibility to touch and to move the American people. This, too, is part of the potential power of Gore as our NEXT leader. Beneath the level of pure rationality, he can offer America a sense of the possibility of undoing. "OK. This has been a nightmare. Let's wake up. OK, we botched that version. Let's go back and take it from the top." If Gore's apparent new growth as a man, if his new capacity to speak with authority, if his unique standing as the alternative to the Bushite path, can all be brought together, a powerful and positive political force can be unleashed in America. [As I indicated in the first installment of this series, part of what might help this scenario to unfold is for as many people as possible to seek ways of forwarding to Gore and those around him whatever ideas you find -here or elsewhere-that they think might help either to persuade Gore to answer the call or to guide him in providing effective leadership at this crucial moment in our nation's history.]
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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