Al Gore reboots
Ezra Klein's story about the new Al Gore is on the cover of the latest issue of The American Prospect. The article is about how Al Gore reinvented himself as a new media mogul after losing/winning the 2000 election.
Since then, Gore has founded an alternative television channel, made a movie about global warming, and teamed up with MoveOn.org. The former VP circumvented the media by creating his own distribution channels and forging alliances with internet-savvy New Democrats. Ezra argues that Gore decisively repudiated his old political persona in December, 2003 when he endorsed Howard Dean over his own former running mate Joe Lieberman.
The Dean campaign’s architect, Joe Trippi, told me, “What I’ve learned from people who are close to Gore was that, had he gone in 2004, he had this vision of running a disintermediated, Internet-driven, decentralized campaign. His vision was the Dean campaign! So one of the things that attracted him to the Dean campaign was that he looked and saw that, ‘Holy shit, these guys are running the campaign I wanted to run.’”
In endorsing Dean, Gore did more than signal support for the chaotic, democratized nature of the campaign. For a wonk like Gore, the endorsement of Dean -- the DLC’s bête noire during the 2004 primaries -- was an embrace of the new “it” Democrat. If the DLC’s “New Democrats,” led by Clinton and Gore, were the buzzworthy wing of the Democratic Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the 2004 election ushered in their successors, led by Dean.
Call them the New New Democrats, MoveOn Democrats, or whatever you want. They were the liberal response to Clinton’s triangulation and Bush’s ascension.
Gore says he doesn't intend to run for president in 2008. However, this part of Ezra's analysis makes me very nervous...
Planned or not, Gore’s alliance with MoveOn and Dean’s army of online volunteers has ensured him unique access and affection among one of the richest, most easily activated cash sources in the Democratic Party. Trippi estimates that a well-timed entrance, under certain conditions, could raise Gore $50 million almost instantly, and hundreds of millions more if he won the nomination. “Remember,” he told me, “McCain in 2000 has 40,000 people sign up on the web and raises a couple million bucks. A few years later Howard Dean raises $59 million. The next [netroot darling] is going to be as exponential as Dean was to McCain.”I share Ezra's admiration for many of the policies that Gore has advanced in recent years, including single-payer health care. I also agree that Gore has given some very good speeches lately. That said, Al Gore should never run for president again.
And it could be Gore, if he wants it.
Irrespective of whether he would make a good president, Gore is a bad candidate. He's more interested in policy than performance art, and it shows. Any liberal will have a hard time in 2008. A non-telegenic liberal with a lot of political baggage will be completely unelectable.
Remember that the media hated Gore in 2000. Every one of his campaign mistakes was amplified by a hostile press that couldn't resist embellishing their giant in-joke with outright lies. Gore still hasn't debunked all the urban legends the press corps spread about him last time around. The media cared more about spinning a funny story about a pointy-headed liberal getting his ass handed to him by a good ol' boy than about covering an American presidential campaign (cf. Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media?).
And all that was before Gore declared war on the press. As Ezra stresses in his essay, Gore has embarked on a one-man crusade against the shallowness of mainstream campaign coverage:
Over the next 48 minutes, Gore laced into the state of the media, lamenting the “systematic decay of the public forum,” and echoing Walter Lippmann’s belief that the propaganda emanating from the press corps was rendering America’s “dogma of democracy” void. Journalism, Gore said, had grown “dysfunctional,” and now “fails to inform the people.”
The speech wasn’t just an isolated blast aimed at wresting some headlines or settling some scores. Gore has long been quietly obsessed with excising the media from the politician-public relationship.
Gore's outspoken criticism of the press reassures me that he doesn't intend to run in 2008. He probably understands the odds against him better than anyone else. Let's hope his fellow Democrats don't talk him out of a very wise decision.