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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, June 25, 2006


Gore and Obama, Yin and Yang

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, June 25, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
There's some kind of fundamental symmetry at work here, like a String Theory of Politics: for every story about Obama running in 2008, there must be a story about Gore not running. Case in point:

Nashville, TN (AHN) - Former Vice President Al Gore says at a book signing in his hometown that he will not run for the White House in 2008.

The Associated Press reports an attendee asked Gore whether he would seek the presidency while he was promoting his documentary and book on global warming in Tennessee.

Gore responded to the question by saying, "I'm not planning on it, but thanks for encouraging me."
According to the AP, Gore says his time is best used by educating people about global climate change, not running for president.

It's interesting that Obama and Gore both deny that they will run, but only Gore's denials are taken seriously. The pundits assume that Obama will run, but they draft letters to Gore begging him to reconsider. That said, that piece by Peretz in TNR is actually pretty persuasive:


on foreign and military policy generally, his record going back decades is tough-minded without being belligerent, conciliatory without being soft. I do not doubt his resolve about Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons. I doubt Bush's resolve much more. This has become by now a political calculus for him, calibrated by Karl Rove. On domestic economic matters, Gore is a free-market realist rather than a free-market fanatic. The issues he has tended to are issues on which he is truly expert.

He is not afraid of science and technology because he knows science and technology. And, yes, he did more to foster the democratization of the Internet than anyone in public life anywhere. That democratization is always and, in fact, under threat right now, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Gore would protect it from the corporate vultures.
Let me tell you a few words about the question as to whether Al Gore has changed. Actually, to me he is essentially the same young man I met in a Harvard freshman seminar 41 years ago: inquisitive, respectful of learning and scholarship, emotionally connected, committed to his friends and family, incandescently smart, believing in an order of the universe he still genuinely refers to as God. These are not easily carried into the universe of politics, where cynicism leaves little space for authenticity. But he fought against the demons of triangulation that subvert moral clarity. Al also came out whole, very whole. Yes, he was singed by the president's troubles that the oh, so facile president made for himself. Gore took the advice of some of the usual Democratic four-flusher professionals in his campaign in the year 2000. Right now, I make this assertion with complete confidence: that Gore would not, will not defer his own instincts or convictions to anyone else. Yes, he can be persuaded. But he cannot be pushed.

I think that the essential difference is the last sentence. Gore may indeed be persuaded. Obama might well need to be dissuaded.


Gore/Obama 2008 is an unbeatable ticket, I believe. Gore already has an immense and sparkling history as a public servant and, of course, was part of the executive branch during the height of American prosperity and global influence in the late 1990s. On his own, however, it might be a difficult sell to much of America who might feel that he is far too left-of-center to relate to. Gore's America might resemble nothing that they are aware of. After all, Gore failed to carry even his own state of Tennessee in 2000, indicating perhaps a difficult sell in any of the red or battleground states.

We must remember a few things we talking about Gore as the '08 candidate, however. First, of course is his recent push for global warming activism. It is hard to underestimate how powerful of a political allignment this is. To anyone that has not yet seen "An Inconvienent Truth," watch it now, or as soon as possible. It is no longer possible to debate the truth of global warming. There can be no more reasonable attacks against the validity of the scientific data which demonstrate the reality of this frightening phenomenon. What is more disastrous for the American conscience is that there is equally no doubt that Americans are BY FAR the worst contributors of greenhouse emissions to our global atmosphere. Phrased differntly: America is the fundamental driving force behind this global catastrophe.

I have come to realize that most Americans, like citizens of other nations, want nothing more than to have a positive image and regard for their own motherland. This often takes the form of some national myth which provides a sense of meaning and dignity for the citizens of that nation. Witness, for example, the overwhelming popularity of the Iranian nuclear program among its home audience. Even though Ahmadinejad is a totalitarian leader pursing a narrow-minded fundamentalist vision for his country, on the issue of nuclear "energy," he has become a national hero, perhaps even a hero of muslims everywhere. Why? Because Iranians, just like citizens of every country, want and need to believe some sort of mythic truth about there homeland, that place where they live which gives meaning and value to their lives.

I just took a roundabout way to come to this basic point: the truth of global warming, aside from its obvious environmental and climatic issues, is devastating to America's sense of self-worth. This is one of the reasons that America has fought so bitterly to supress, or ignore, its reality. Gore's movie essentially denies any realistic possibility that this can be ignored any longer. If he ends up campaigning for president, these facts will be brought further into the light of day.

Let us think for a short moment about the practical effects of this. The Republican governmental agenda will now be linked with global catastrophe wrought at the hands of American policy. The moral superiority which the Republicans tout so successfully to the American public much of the time will be seriously undermined. I am not naive enough to believe that this will send right-wing conservatives running into the open arms of the DNC, but it does make the present repbulican agenda, which has sustained the GOP since at least 1994, much harder to maintain, and much less palatable to large swaths of the population which so desperately want to believe in it.

Of course, it is still far too premature to have a clear vision for 2008. The upcoming two years, particularly the progress or lack thereof in Iraq will determine much concerning the 2008 atmosphere (barring any other major diversions such as that experienced in 2001). Let us assume that Iraq continues to falter for the next two years (I see no reason at this point why the situation would begin to improve suddenly). The continued failure of Iraq represents the failure of the Republican agenda to deliver a meaningful America to the citizens who demand it. The
Republican agenda at this point includes such sentiments as "being tough on terror," backing a "strong economy" and representing other "American values," such as Christian agendas on marriage, strong border security and so on. From this vantage point, "liberals" are that queer species of American which believes that the country can dillute these various "core values" or military powers and still function effectively as a nation. Despite the fact that such sentiments are completely devoid of objective reality, they are true in the sense of national-mythmaking outlined above, and democrats have struggled to overcome this type of effective pigeonholing.

A failed or substandard Iraq might make it tough on any Republican candidate in 2008. However, Gore and Obama represent the ideal, even unbeatable combination to take the presidency in 2008 if Iraq continues on its present track toward becoming another quagmire. As mentioned, Gore's strong assoication with global warming, he is essentially the voice for this potential catastrophe, is an enormous counterweight to Republican tactics because it stands them on their head completely. The republican agenda, pursued comepletely and without hesitation for 8 years will have yielded, not only a reckless military adventurism and financial incompetence, but also a reckless practice of fossil fuel consumption which puts America on a direct crash-course with the survival of the planet. This may be the death knell for Republican leadership for years to come. The GOP may have to compelely reinvent itself in order to become a viable political force in the future. Meanwhile, Gore and Obama represent the ideal team, and symbol, of the new America, the alternative to the GOP vision. Even with his credentials and his global warming activism, Gore suffers from the possibility of being too far left, and thus alienating more moderate swaths of America. This is another way of saying that many Americans will have trouble connecting Gore's America with their own sense of an ideal motherland, an America which they can be proud of. Obama is a black, centrist democrat who has staked much of his political currency thus far on communicating the the American center and reaching out even to conservatives to express his message. He is, in short, an incredibly charismatic poltician whose ability to connect with voters and citizens directly and to reach across party lines is becoming legendary. Obama is thus a counter-balance to Gore's supreme "leftness." But together, Gore and Obama are a package that literally cannot be challenged by Republicans. What better image for the new America than the elder liberal visionary with the younger African-american charismatic diplomat? Both candidates were against the war from the outset, and together, white and black, elder and younger, global vision with domestic sensitivity, Gore and Obama represent the winning ticket in 2008 and the beginning of a new understanding of America as a cosmopolitan, integrated, and forward-looking leader of our increasingly global world.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.