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Words We Never Thought We’d Say – Can We Have Al Gore Back?

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Image by johnsanderson12 from Pixabay

Al Gore spent sixteen years in Congress, eight years as Vice-President, and the last twenty years as a post-political environmental activist. Memorable moments of Gore’s long career include his claim of “creating the internet,” winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his movie An Inconvenient Truth, and his extraordinarily close Presidential Election loss to George W. Bush in 2000.  All these years later, we still occasionally hear jokes about Gore’s assertions regarding the worldwide web, and a favorite pastime of conservatives is to point out how absurdly wrong many of his climate predictions were. But if we reflect on Gore the politician and candidate, many of us remember him as an extreme liberal, even further left than his former boss Bill Clinton or most others Democrats at the time.

A closer look at Gore’s 2000 campaign platform and rhetoric paints a different picture, however, when viewed through the lens of today’s politics. Twenty years after his memorable election loss, as we fumble our way through the results of another razor-thin election, compared to today’s Democrats Al Gore is a right-winger. The Al Gore of 2000 would be a political outcast in today’s Democratic Party, and would likely have been incapable of even making it on the debate stage during the Democrats’ presidential primaries.

In the lead up to the 2000 election, there were plenty of aspects of the Gore campaign that would align well with today’s Democrats. Gore promised tougher gun regulations, for instance, though not nearly as stringent as someone like Beto O’Rourke pushes for nowadays. Gore also advocated for Gay Rights, promised pro-choice judicial appointments, and called for the obligatory “investing in distressed communities.” Gore was indeed liberal, particularly in contrast to Bush, but much of the rest of Gore’s agenda would have fit in well at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte this past August.

In the 41-page document that the Gore campaign published, the detail included an entire section on crime. Only six years after the bipartisan 1994 Crime Bill that Joe Biden now apologizes for, the Gore campaign correctly concluded, “More police officers and tougher penalties, including capital punishment, have helped reduce crime.“ With a large portion of Democratic lawmakers currently advocating for the defunding of police departments around the country, embracing the results of that bill would be heresy from any prominent Democrat in 2020. Imagine the reaction from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a key proponent of the “Defund the Police” movement, if such sacrilege came from a prominent Democrat today. 

Another item from the Gore campaign in direct conflict with today’s Democratic Party, was Gore’s call for an increase in military spending, including a bump in pay for military service men and women. Contrarily, in a recent OpEd, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who was Joe Biden’s closest competitor during the Democratic primaries, called for a potentially perilous 10% reduction in military spending, a sentiment echoed by many other prominent Democrats. Try and remember the last time you heard of a Democrat advocating for more money for our military, and then consider that Gore was campaigning on the issue a full year before the tragedy of 9/11 which resulted in a huge surge in our need for such spending.

While dozens of today’s Democratic leaders proudly proclaim themselves Socialists, promote plans for “Medicare for All,” and support spending $93 trillion to implement the Green New Deal, Al Gore ran on the budget surplus that was achieved during the Clinton Administration; with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, by the way. In 2000, Gore promised not only continued frugality and a surplus, but in fact committed to “paying off the national debt by 2012,” an idea for which he would be scorned today. The starkest difference between Al Gore then and Democrats now, however, has to be regarding race relations.

Whether it’s Joe Biden espousing the need to “achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country,” or Barack Obama lamenting the lack of “a true accounting of the consequences of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation,” Democrats today trip over themselves at the opportunity to denounce our country’s racial circumstances and accuse anyone within shouting distance of being a racist. And while Al Gore and other Democrats were beginning to engage in identity politics twenty years ago, they were amateurs compared to today’s Democrat race-baiters.

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Al Gore  professed his dislike for the Confederate flag, for instance, but did not call for boycotts like we see with today’s cancel culture. Gore sought an end to racial profiling, a racial hot-button issue at the time, but didn’t demonize the police in doing so. And Gore had an entire section in his platform dedicated to “Valuing our Families,” a counter-argument, essentially, to the Black Lives Matter philosophy of  dismantling the nuclear family. Perhaps Gore recognized his vulnerability with racial arguments due to his father, who was also a Democratic U.S. Senator and who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Whatever the motivation, Al Gore in 2000 did not engage in the extreme and accusatory racial attacks that are so common among Democrats today.

Other differences between Gore and today’s Democrats are easy to spot. Al Gore chose Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) as his running mate, a political moderate and pro-Israel Jew. Joe Biden’s running mate was Kamala Harris, one of the most radically leftist members of the U.S. Senate, and there’s little doubt the type of reaction we would see from anti-Semites like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) if Biden had picked someone like Lieberman. Gore signaled a willingness for imposing tariffs to protect American workers advising, ”We should use trade to lift up standards around the world, not drag down standards here at home,” while Joe Biden appears poised to cozy up with China again. Gore favored a moderate approach to immigration reform, whereas today’s Democrats want to abolish ICE. With virtually every topic we consider, Al Gore – the man so many of us were convinced was so far left that his election in 2000 would have been catastrophic – looks like a reasonable moderate compared to today’s radicals running the Democratic Party.

To be clear, the Al Gore of 2000 would be in direct and utter conflict with the Democratic Party of 2020, but then again that same 2000 Al Gore would probably butt heads with today’s Al Gore. Gore has undoubtedly drifted leftward with the same currents that have pulled his party, his opinions just aren’t relevant anymore. The entire party has shifted so far to the left, they’re barely recognizable to what they were just twenty years ago.

But perhaps there’s reason for optimism. On Election Day, Democrats lost double-digit seats in the House of Representatives, failed to take control of the U.S. Senate, and lost critical gubernatorial and legislative seats in key states across the country, all during an election with record voter turnout. There have been strong signals of unease and the potential for a moderate uprising in the party, and this is what conservatives should be hoping for. In a two-party system, there should be clear differences in the parties, but not polarization to this extreme. It’s not healthy for the government, it’s not healthy for our culture, and it’s not healthy for our country. So, here’s a thought we never thought we’d have twenty years ago – let’s hope Democrats lurch back towards Al Gore circa 2000.

PF Whalen