Finding a viable and worthwhile democratic candidate
There is a campaign to draft Gore now. The reason is sadly obvious. The democratic field is dominated by three people, a woman, a black man (both risks since US voters have never had a candidate of either type for President) and a previous loser, John Edwards. The full-on campaigning has also weakened democratic hopes by starting too early. Candidates could be burning themselves out before things have even really gotten going.
DFA, Democracy for America, "Social Progress, Fiscal Responsibility, Grassroots Activism"--a new online grassroots political group-- has just done a poll
(Nov. 6, 2007) asking participants which Democratic Party candidates for President they preferred right now. Gore was a write-in possibility.
The DFA poll results looked like this:Representative Dennis Kucinich 31.97% 49364
Former Vice President Al Gore 24.77% 38242
Former Senator John Edwards 15.6% 24078
Senator Barack Obama 13.86% 21403
Senator Hillary Clinton4.21% 6504
Governor Bill Richardson 4.09% 6309
Other 2.05% 3171
Senator Christopher Dodd 1.56% 2415
Senator Joe Biden 1.12% 1723
Former Senator Mike Gravel 0.77% 1182
Gore came in second even though you had to write him in. Gore was my own personal first choice--I want him to get attention as a real contender. He really won numerically before--why not give him his due? And look how he has grown since that dim moment seven years ago. Paradoxically, in the context of the recent democratic campaigning, he has the advantage of not having burnt himself out, because he hasn't even been there; he's been out on his own winning an Oscar and a Nobel prize and generally looking smart and independent and influential. The trouble is, Gore thinks being president is not the best place to accomplish the things that he wants to accomplish and that sadly may be true. The presidential campaign is a very traumatic memory for him too. But in view of the absurdly drawn-out and premature campaigning of a confusing and somewhat lackluster field of democratic candidates, Gore is looking more and more like perhaps the only possible Democratic Party candidate (if he chooses to become one) who might have both the vote-getting ability and the true leadership to be worth supporting in 2008.
Otherwise my first choice would be Kucinich. He's the only candidate who is truly progressive and smart on all the issues. Unfortunately, as fellow progressives who have watched him over the years as an outspoken congressman and previous presidential candidate well know, he has no pizazz--the stuff you need to win big. As YouTube progressive politics prodigy Theo van der Deer puts it
--Theo's only 16 but is just about the wisest political voice on that huge site--Kucinich is "a 'girl'" on too many issues. Kucinich is right, but he doesn't know how to make being right sound sexy
enough. And being right and being green, progressive, and compassionate on issues is
sexy and could be very profitable and everything else, but you have to make people see that, somehow. This is where Gore might come in. But he still remains an unknown, and he has only said he does not want to run again for President, that he strongly dislikes the idea.
Winning a national election is an extremely pragmatic issue. Theo and I both recognize Kucinich is the smartest and the most compassionate of the candidates by his voting record in Congress and his stated positions. And so do all those nice tens of thousands who participated in the DFA poll. But he lacks that macho spark that excites voters and gets you elected. Of course Hillary is plenty macho. Women political leaders are often more man than any man. See. Ms. Thatcher, Elizabeth I, Golda Meir, and many others. Not only does this not
make her appealing: it makes her slightly disturbing. She has the possibility of being more brutal than her husband was, and he was not exactly a softy when it came to bombing countries randomly. As for Obama, he has probably flip-flopped more than Hillary, because he came from further behind and so he changed his face more when he realized that he had a chance (Theo says this in the video cited above--he says a whole lot in a nutshell, there. Cool kid.) It's nice to see Obama out there, but he seems too inexperienced, too green, to be President.
This poll made me feel happy, for a little while at least, knowing that I have some kindred spirits out there. It's also cool, as you can see on the nifty interactive map DFA provides, that Kucinich carried the vast majority of the states in this poll. Of course this is only a few tens of thousands so it doesn't mean much. Or does it?
It doesn't seem to take too many thousands of the right votes in the right places to make a President. And had Gore been a current candidate and not a write-in, he'd probably have been at the top of the DFA poll. And a lot of more mainstream ones.
Pragmatism is daunting to the progressive. Considerations about viability vs. worthwhile-ness in presidential candidates are always troubling. But do we need so much to compromise or do we Americans as a people simply need to get cracking, start caring, awaken our slumbering outrage at the abominations that have been visited upon us over the past seven years?
What we need is a huge grassroots movement--and to get the sanctity of our vote back, assuming we ever had it. It seems like progressives are continuing to win in Latin America, witness the victory yesterday in Guatemala of Álvaro Colom, a center-left businessman, who defeated a scary right-winger, retired general Otto Pérez Molina. In this election the rural vote played an unprecedentedly important role. That's grassroots action.
The thing is, in the US it's still not a foregone conclusion that a democrat will win the next presidential election despite a campaign with the immediate background of the worst presidency in living memory. You can always fumble the ball when your team is slated to win a tie game. And every US presidential election is a tie game. Those Diebold gnomes who stole the last election have been working out with steroids and are eager to try out their new muscles in the next one. Besides which, the democrats have been visibly fumbling the ball ever since their slim victory last November. And finally, after this administration, the idea that the "lesser of two evils" doesn't matter--Nader's rallying point--has lost its credibility. It darn well does
matter to have the lesser of two evils.