All across America, Al Gore supporters nervously count down the days to October 12 -- that's the day when the Nobel Peace Prize is announced. Many expect the former Vice President to win the award, and if he does it will cap a marvelous year of accomplishments -- Oscar, Emmy, Live Earth, bestseller. It will also immediately fuel speculation that Gore will jump into the 2008 presidential race.
Late last spring, when he was busy barnstorming on talk shows to promote Assault on Reason, Gore was constantly asked by interviewers, "Are you going to run?" Though he always said that he was not, he'd embellished his answer with a coy qualifier that left open a sliver of daylight for a possible candidacy. Like he told Larry King, "I am not thinking about being a candidate. I have no plans to be a candidate. But, yes, it's true, I have not made a so-called Sherman statement and ruled it out for all time. I see no reason or necessity to do that."
Around that time, the New York Times quoted Gore as saying, "Having spent 30 years as part of the political dialogue, I don't know why a 600-day campaign is taken as a given, and why people who aren't in it 600 days out for the convenience of whatever brokers want to close the door and narrow the field and say, 'This is it, now let's place your bets.' If they want to do that, fine. I don't have to play that game."
True to his word, Gore hasn't played that game. Could the Nobel become the catalyst for Citizen Gore to tell America, "I'm in!" Furthermore, will he be able to raise sufficient funds, build a campaign staff with field offices in key primary states, and re-introduce himself to Democratic voters as their next president?
One of Gore's favorite lines which he likes using to warm up audiences during slide-show lectures on global-warming is, "Hi, I'm Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States." That line will be pure gold on the 2008 campaign trail.
I know of many Democrats who still get angry whenever the subject of the 2000 presidential election is brought up in conversation. Like them, I believe that the election was stolen, and the wrong man got the job. Some blame for Gore's defeat can be attributed to those vexing butterfly ballots which affected voting in southern Florida. A fair electoral system would have mandated a complete statewide recount, something the Supreme Court wrongly dismissed. And so, all that has happened to our nation since then is straight out of chaos theory: the slight turbulence created by a butterfly flapping its wings can set into motion atmospheric disturbance that results in a hurricane on the other side of the planet. Instead of our country being led by Gore who won the popular vote, we've suffered through eight dispiriting years of Bush/Cheney and a catastrophic war in Iraq.
There are a number of Net activists and grassroots organizations also banking on Gore's rendezvous with destiny. They have kept the faith. They are waiting for Gore. But they have also been busy building an independent infrastructure of volunteers as well as conducting an online petition drive urging Gore to run. The most successful web group is DraftGore.com, which was founded by Monica Friedlander, of Oakland, California, four years ago and is its current chairperson.
Last July, Eva Ritchey, of western North Carolina, who is a member of DraftGore.com's five-person executive committee, hand-delivered 100,000 names and addresses on a computer disk to the Gore office in Nashville. Her visit made national news. Now, over the next several weeks, DraftGore.com will pump up the volume with email newsletters, radio advertising, and help create a national network of volunteers. Its main objectives are threefold: to get the word out, to demonstrate that there continues to be a strong, viable nationwide interest in a Gore candidacy, and to be prepared for instant mobilization of campaign support if he does enter the race.
To date, DraftGore.com has collected over 125,000 signatures in its petition drive. And the momentum is accelerating for this unique kind of presidential outreach. Just this past Friday, its web site gathered 10,000 new signers; yes, all in one day!
While DraftGore.com is certainly the most visible group and the one with most clout, it is just one of at least a dozen online organizations all determined to see Gore become our next president. Pro-Gore volunteer groups also have representation in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New England, California, and elsewhere. Go to AmericaforGore.org to see the full list.
In An Inconvenient Truth, Gore talks about radical climate change that can seemingly happen within the space of ten years-of the Earth going from warm to a new ice age. Gore's late-in-the-game candidacy will be the political equivalent of rapid climate change. It will alter the political campaign environment overnight. It will throw into turmoil the electoral strategies of the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards camps. Hillary's lead in the polls will vanish within weeks, and thus exposing her tepid baseline support. Gore should easily become the new anointed frontrunner by pundits and polls. For Republicans, Gore represents an unbeatable foe in 2008. He's bulletproof on the big issues: experience, Iraq, national security, global warming.
Several potential hurdles, of course, lay in wait for Gore. There is his legendary awkwardness as a political campaigner and whether the fault-finding media will shabbily treat him like they did in 2000.
Gore is the first to admit his own limitations as a crowd-pleasing vote-getter. "Most people in politics draw energy from backslapping and shaking hands and all that. I draw energy from discussing ideas," Gore told New York Magazine in 2006. Yet one of the biggest surprises about An Inconvenient Truth is his persuasive and genuinely captivating performance. He's the best science teacher you never had. Absent is the wooden Democratic nominee clumsily duking it out with his flat-footed Republican opponent in three 2000 presidential debates. The old, stiff Gore is stashed away in a lockbox. The new, limber Gore is a man on fire.
What has been so refreshing about Gore's comeback following his demoralizing defeat in 2000 is that finally freed from the choke-chain grip of consultants and advisers, he could openly express his outrage over a broken political system hijacked by democracy-destroying zealots from the Republican Party.
A pivotal moment of Gore's resurrection was marked by his speech at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club on September 21, 2002 where he voiced strong doubts about the White House's ill-considered decision to go after Saddam Hussein who had nothing to do with September 11. The media did an instant double take. They asked, "Who is this new Al and why didn't he talk like that during the last election?"
He continued giving speeches that criticized the Bush administration -- its frontal assault on civil liberties, penchant for secrecy, institutionalized dishonesty, lack of accountability, endorsement of state-sanctioned torture, and the Iraq War. He astonished listeners with searing eloquence and astute insights. His confidence to let it rip and speak his mind grew with each talk.
It's this type of candor and perspective that has endeared him to Democrats and independent voters. Assault on Reason solidified his wise-man stature and turned more Americans into Gore believers. And it's this groundswell of genuine support that has found voice and hope in groups like DraftGore.com, which, on its home page calls Gore "the conscience of the Democratic Party."
Even if Gore doesn't win the Nobel, it would be premature to count him out yet either. The call of fate, duty, service, and history just might be too great for him to ignore. Gore's entry in the presidential race could be the ultimate October Surprise.
Bill Katovsky is editor of the just-published "The World According to Gore: The Incredible Vision of the Man Who Should Be President," SEE LINK HERE: