When Vice President Gore and a few hundred of his most loyal supporters gather in Nashville this weekend, Gore's staff wants you to know, none of the events will have anything to do with his presidential ambitions.
Having a political action committee has become standard operating procedure for a politician considering a presidential run. Would-be presidents since Ronald Reagan have used PACs as financial and political launching pads that allow them to raise and spend freely without having it count against the strict limits that kick in once they formally enter the presidential race.But wait, there's more!
Asked about his $5,000 contribution, New York businessman John Catsimatides said, "It was to help the vice president become president some day." Another giver called the PAC "the first step in a two-year-plus journey" and noted that donors to Gore's presidential campaign would be limited to $1,000 contributions, compared with $5,000 to the PAC. "If you want to try to be sure he's the nominee, this is the best way there is," this contributor said.Wait a sec--did that read $1,000 instead of $2,100? This part of the article might be helpful in explaining what is going on here:
The events are for supporters of Gore's fledgling political action committee, Leadership '98, which has been raising money and, in the process, helping Gore solidify his national fund-raising network and win the favor of candidates who receive contributions from the Gore PAC.In 1998, Al Gore knew he was running for President. That is why he started his Leadership PAC. Over at Open Secrets, you can see that around 200 politicians, many of whom are retired, have Leadership PACs. Here are some of the names you will see on that list: Wesley Clark, Russ Feingold, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, and Mark Warner. If you dig a little further into fundraising, you will also discover that Tom Vilsack has his Heartland PAC, and John Edwards has his One America Committee. It will also come as no surprise to anyone here that Governor Bill Richardson is actively raising money, and has loads of campaign staff (and lots of other staff too).
What you will not find anywhere is Gore PAC. It has been shut down. This is because Al Gore is currently not taking steps to run for President in 2008, as he himself has said on multiple occasions. However, to dedicated netroots activists, that should not be a serious problem. In 2003, two Democrats were drafted into the race by the netroots: Dennis Kucinich and Wesley Clark. In fact, these draft movements helped them make up for a lot of lost time. Clark raised $3M in about two weeks in late September, largely because the Draft Clark movement had spent so much time building up a list of people who had pledged to donate upon his entry into the race. Kucinich began his campaign with an email list of around 25,000 people, thanks to a petition that was circulated by his supporters in the month before he joined the race. While neither was ultimately successful, both of these candidates went on to make significant impacts on the 2004 Democratic primary, largely thanks to their strong netroots support--support that started with strong Draft movements.
Over the past few months, I have seen "Gore in '08!" after "Gore in '08!" diary run up the recommended list at Dailykos. Naturally, as someone obsessed with the netroots, I figured there was a strong Draft movement behind all of this. So, I went to fec.gov to see how such movements were progressing. Here is what I found:
The People, Not the Powerful 08: $0
Patriots for Al Gore: $389 raised, cash on hand $38
Over the last five fundraising quarters, the two federal PACs associated with Drafting Al Gore for President in 2008 have raised a combined $389. And zero cents. That is about half of what I have personally donated to the combined netroots page this cycle.
I bring this up not to chastise people for supporting Al Gore in 2008. I won't be supporting Al Gore in 2008, but I'm not going to chastise people who do so. That is their right as Democrats, and Al Gore is a pretty darn good man for the job. However, I am writing this diary to chastise the many people on Dailykos, MyDD and elsewhere in the blogosphere who are to utterly adamant about supporting Al Gore in 2008, even drafting Al Gore in 2008, and who are clearly doing absolutely nothing to make it happen. Exhibit A is the person who started The People, Not the Powerful 08 PAC and didn't even bother to donate to it him or herself. Few things could better demonstrate an utter lack of seriousness about your ambitions than not even donating to your own PAC. This reminds me of my post-Alito Edjamacation article all over again. What is the nature of netroots activism here? How can there be so many people in the netroots, which I have repeatedly trumpeted as the core of the progressive activist base, saying they support Al Gore but doing absolutely nothing else except saying it? From what I have seen among Gore supporters online, they are not delusional about Gore's chances to run in 2008, and are well aware that they will probably have to draft him into this race. And yet they are doing nothing to make the draft a reality.
What is going on here? Is there anything behind this Gore "movement" besides howling at the moon? Why is there so little action? Gore '08 after Gore '08 diary goes up on Dailykos, and yet most of the websites I find on this page haven't been updated in the last month. Gore '08 after Gore '08 diary goes up on Dailykos, and yet there are no substantial Gore groups over at MySpace. There is no email list of any size. There is no fundraising. There certainly is no staff, even on a volunteer level. Basically, there is nothing. All there seem to be are diaries on Dailykos.
I don't want to hear excuses about everyone waiting until after the 2006 elections, because I have seen far more expansive unofficial online movements for Warner, Clinton and Feingold (and Clinton is at what, 2% in the Dailykos straw polls?). Speaking of straw polls, I don't want to hear that excuse either. The lack of an activist element in the Draft Gore "movement" is not the fault of any poll. The straw poll, like all polls, measures support. It does not create it. If there really are loads of people looking to Draft Gore for 2008, and I believe that there are, then it shouldn't be hard for even an incompetent activist element to start putting a far more noticeable and effective movement. I especially do not want to hear excuses about "A-list" bloggers keeping such a movement from happening. Not only did A-list bloggers not stop anyone in 2003, five years ago there weren't any A-list bloggers. They built their own position through exactly the sort of blood, sweat and tears that the Draft Gore movement is utterly lacking.
I am writing this post because what I am finding in the Draft (fixed) Gore movement is all too reminiscent of a disturbing trend I am noticing among the netroots: inaction. What has always made the netroots powerful is its burning activist core. However, I worry that may be changing. Like I complained in my Edjamacation post, on Alito there was virtually no action until it was too late. As we can see in the Draft Gore thing, there are tons of words, but very little action. And getting people to sign up for the fifty-state canvass next weekend is like pulling teeth on a donkey. Howling at the moon? Yes. Action? Not so much these days.
Over the last month, I have been the main blogosphere proponent that the Democratic leadership is not doing enough to excite progressive activists for 2006. I have managed to bring this message directly to some of the highest levels of power within the Democratic Party and the progressive movement. I have told this theory to the head of every major progressive news outlet, to every major blogger, to extremely high level House and Senate aides, and even to Rahm Emmanuel and Chuck Schumer themselves (yeah, I really did). Now, however, I am wondering if I made a mistake. Gore clearly excites the base, and yet jack shit is being done to support him here in terms of real activism. No one is stopping anyone from making this thing happen, and yet no one is making it happen.
I don't care if you support Al Gore in 2008 or not. I do care if you are only willing to say that you support him, and then do nothing else. Various "whether he wants to or not" diaries have been huge in these parts, but where are the people making plans in case of the quite likely "he doesn't want to" contingency? I want the netroots to always be a place where people take action, and of people who will do so on their own initiative if necessary. I very much worry that we are losing that edge. If we do lose that activist edge, then everything we stand for, all of the reforms we want to see enacted, all of the broad prosperity, practical government, free expression, common good, and better future we all hope for will become a much more distant dream (the parts in italics are my ten word elevator pitch, BTW).
Draft Gore in 2008, but only do it if you mean it. Back up you words with real action. Don't whine to me about how I or some other leadership element is keeping you down or preventing this from happening. Give over your persecution and get to it. The Draft Clark movement wasn't damaged in the slightest because Markos didn't include Clark in his Cattle Calls until a week after Clark officially announced. Instead, the people behind that movement, who included my brilliant comrade Matt Stoller, did something. Hell, they did a lot of something. They were the white-hot burning core of a new wave of progressive activists who shook the very throne of power in DC. They were a perfect example of why people pay attention to blogs now, and why what we do here does in fact matter. Actions like those are why it is now possible for Ned Lamont to make a serious run at Joe Lieberman. They were netroots activists. Are you?