Thursday, March 13, 2008

Al Gore is a political failure when it comes to leadership in the Democratic Party

I'm going to ask a very simple question that has really been bothering me as I contemplate the long-term consequences of the increasingly bitter battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: where the living hell is Al Gore? He is perhaps the sole figure in the Democratic political hierarchy who, by virtue of a speech, conference, or interview, could change the dynamic and propel one of the two candidates towards the nomination. Normally that role would fall to the last Democratic president, but since Bill Clinton is the spouse of one of the two candidates, that is an impossibility. So Gore, with his impressive credentials and widespread popularity (not to mention his having won nearly every non-political award of late other than the Cy Young), is the one guy who could step up to the microphone and urge some way forward.

So what's the problem? Is it that he, for example, doesn't like either Clinton or Obama? That seems possible, but certainly he understands the importance of electing one of them over McCain. (Unless, of course, he's planning his own run for 2012.) Does he feel a sense of loyalty to the Clintons, and is he therefore staying out of the way for fear of stepping on their toes by endorsing Obama? It's hard to say, as he has remained, frustratingly, on the sidelines for the past few months. The party is in dangerous territory here, with one candidate seemingly hell bent on attacking the states, voters, and racial groups that have so far propelled her opponent to the lead. It seems highly unlikely that the Democrats would stand an easy chance of winning the general election with a fractured base, yet no "distinguished elders" in the party have lifted a finger.

The three people who garner the most respect in Democratic circles, and who are not affiliated with either campaign, are Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and John Edwards. None of them has made the slightest move to break this stalemate. Gore, because of his role in the 2000 elections, is, I think, the most important of this threesome, so it is his absence that is the most frustrating and maddening. Gore, I suspect, is still living in his "the work I do is so much MORE than politics" dreamworld. It would be nice if he bothered to return to reality.