Tuesday, October 18, 2005

If I Had the Time: The Electable Gore

If I had the time, I would definitely have to discuss a recent article in The New Republic that seems to support the idea that Al Gore is “more electable” than Hillary Clinton.

But the logic of the Gore candidacy is that, unlike other Democrats, he could attack Hillary as both out of step on the war and unelectable come November. If he runs for president he would be the only candidate in either party who instantly passes the post-9/11 threshold on national security issues. Hillary’s credible case that as first lady she engaged in diplomacy and was treated abroad like a world leader would be dwarfed by Gore’s eight-year record as vice president sitting on the National Security Council.

And Gore might be the only Democrat who can solve a vexing issue facing the party: How does a candidate establish a reputation for toughness on national security while simultaneously criticizing the war? Gore supported the Gulf War and, in most Clinton administration battles over the use of force, he took the more hawkish position. He is the party’s only credible antiwar hawk.

First, while there were people who supported John Kerry on his own merits, there is no doubt in my mind that a large portion of the activist left supported Kerry only because they believed he was “electable"--that is, he would be the man who would save them from another term with Bush in office. Falling into the trap of merely gauging electability instead of relying on strong messages and idea would probably spell failure for whomever Democrats run against the GOP.

Second, the idea that Gore has credibility on any subject is a stretch. Sure, he has some resume padding in that direction, but in the years since his loss, he has been preaching only to the hard, activist left on issues ranging from the environment to the war. He has no standing with moderates and I don’t know anyone in that camp who considers him to have a credible voice in respect to the war on terror. Hillary Clinton, as hated as she is by some and as affeted as she seems to be in positioning herself for a presidential campaign, seemingly has a better reputation with moderates.

Third, Gore’s bearded years are a goldmine for the kind of ads that run during election years. Without resorting to really nasty tricks, Gore’s image would be of a bearded, lost outsider with no feeling for what the rest of the country has been most concerned about. The images and speeches may play well with the Howard Dean/Wesley Clark supporters, but Iowa and Ohio will reject him out of hand.

So, yeah, if I had time, I would beg the Democrats to put their support behind a man who couldn’t ride economic prosperity and general (if slightly misplaced) national optimism to his own presidency. Focus on the “electability” of a man who has grown even more out of touch with Main Street instead of developing messages and leadership that can sway a majority of Americans to vote Democrat.

The party of Pelosi and Dean seems to be bent on suicide in the face of a Republican breakdown.

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