Politics is Power. A look at the trajectory of politics in America since Yalta shows a rise of the Power Principle manifest primarily in the Republican Party; Eisenhower and Reagan on a trajectory which is likely to continue. True Democrats like Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, interspersed regularly with levity and playfulness; the yin dancing through the yang, but always in yang’s house. Some, including myself see Obama as the new JFK; some say the new Lincoln. I have a friend who says Obama is the Chosen One – the Aquarian - and will lead a movement to last 2,000 years. But in the perspective of recent history, the most likely scenario is a happy one-term affair, like the breathing space between Watergate and Reagan, a time when the Republican Party was seen as dead in the water, as it is seen today. But Watergate was the best thing to happen to the Republicans. It allowed them to dump the trash and rebuilt within a decade, to dominate the political scene for the next 25 years.
Obama can awaken the new century, but he needs to build a fully original party; one which leaves history behind entirely. And for that he needs Al Gore.
Obama is showing organizational and conceptual abilities already that are superior to any candidate in our time. Our American history is North/South, but from his perch in Chicago, he sees the world East/West as it opens up to the new millennium. But if he doesn’t fully institionalize his vision with the right team, he will fall into history’s footnotes as one of the charming ethnics; like the Irishman from Boston and the Sunday School teacher from Plains, Georgia.
For this he needs to bring Al Gore out of the shadows and on to the main stage for once and for all. Obama needs to institutionalize himself and he needs to institutionalize Al Gore, or both will be remembered as in the Woody Guthrie tune:
. . . they come with the dust and are gone with the wind.
All the talk of Republicans falling apart is wishful thinking. Some of the most prominent Republicans today really seem to be looking for a breathing space. And others like Mark Sanford, Republican Governor of South Carolina, may actually be charmed by Obama.
Surveys are deceptive. Obama is slightly ahead of McCain in national polls, but we live in volatile times. Lincoln was widely expected to lose his second election. Surveys showed him well behind, but he won in a landslide. What the surveys showed was that the country was tired of war. But they were not ready to refute the Union effort when it came time to vote. We are today in a similar pattern. The country is tired of war. But is the country ready to refute the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein? Up to 75% of those surveyed at the very beginning supported this invasion; fiercely supported this invasion in a haze of war fever. Including most of the Senate and virtually all of the top editors and reporters. The Iraq invasion could well be recalled like the Mexican War. As Grant said, it was a war of the strong against the weak, but anyone who did not participate in it would not take part in the dramatic events to follow.
Obama can’t win running as an anti-war candidate and he is not running as an anti-war candidate. Negativity feeds a beast and it is its own reward: It likes to fail. (As with the Irish independence movement 100 years since: We don’t seek independence because we hate England. We seek independence because we love Ireland. Hating England is the unfortunate by-product.)
Obama has avoided this negativity. He is one of the few and the brave who opposed the war from its very beginnings but has shown sensitivity and understanding to those Senators like Clinton and John Edwards who voted for it then changed their positions as the surveys changed. Indeed, he has shown maturity and sensitivity throughout in the face of the most childish and dishonest strategies by some of his opponents.
Senator McCain’s entire candidacy is an endorsement of the Iraq war and the Bush so-called legacy. The better way to advance this position would be to put Jeb Bush on as VP candidate and fill the slots with Mitt Romney, Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jeb is no Boy George and is widely respected as a manager and a politician. That Quaternity would repair the Republican party pronto and with Jeb Bush running for POTUS in 2012, would give the newly Catholicized Republicans (W is widely expected to convert after his shift is up and Jeb, like many leading Republicans, is a recent convert) a permanent dynasty; possibly it would bring an end of republican government as we have experienced it on our continent, and give us instead an American regime akin to that of the Hapsburgs.
Obama is the only chance. And Al Gore is the singular politician in the tradition who does not look to the past ("my legacy") but to the future. He is still the uncarved block and the man of ideas who sees only the future. Some Republicans with an eye to the environment, Governor Schwarzenegger for example, who hopes to build a hydrogen highway from San Diego to Vancouver, and Governor Jody Rell of Connecticut and NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who had hopes of ridding New York City of pollution, have been frustrated by legacy and tradition in both parties. They all look ahead with energy and imagination. In an extended Bush legacy they will have to ignore the feds and look to sympathetic regionalism to advance their vision of rebuilt cities and rebuilt people and fast trains and hydrogen highways from New York to Chicago and on to San Francisco. But Obama/Gore ’08 shares their energy and enthusiasm as it is part of the continuum which spirals forward from the moment, not countervails behind from it in an opposite direction. Obama could easily poach Bloomberg and Schwarzenegger as Gore’s Eisenhower and Marshall on the war of the environment and my feeling is that they would rather work for him in a post-partisan political environment of new ideas.
I’m not sure if it has been discussed satisfactorily, but on the blogs there was wide discussion of why Al Gore did not earlier endorse Obama and questions arose as to why he was the last to speak up.
The reason is simple. In late March, it was reported by Joe Klein in Time Magazine, that it looked like we were going to the Democratic Convention in a stalemate between Clinton and Obama. Some of the most prominent Democrats told Klein that if that happened, it would break the party in half and hand the ’08 election over to the Republicans. But that wasn’t going to happen, because if two went in, only one would come out and that one would be Al Gore. The delegates would vote Gore in on a second ballot.
Al Gore spoke up only this week in Michigan in support of Obama. It means the coast is clear to November for Obama. Obama has the delegates and Gore was certainly not among the crowd of Hillary’s "secret police" (Dick Morris’s phrase) hoping to undo the Obama nomination even after he had the delegates; a strategy which could have led this country to race riots or worse and a complete and permanent division between black and white in our country.
The party relied on Gore to keep those things from happening. That is because Al Gore is the most solid, responsible and reliable politician in the Democratic Party today and he always has been.