For those many Americans hoping Al Gore may bring his green and growing statesmanship back to the Democratic Party and compete to become the Democratic nominee for the Presidency, check out Tuesday's New York Times op-ed page to see how Republicans are likely to go after him. David Brooks (remember he's the 'moderate' conservative!) pillories Gore for being a "Vulcan Utopian," implicitly contrasting an icy and inhuman "Mr. Spock" with the down-to-earth and all-too-human President Bush cum Captain Kirk.
See, Brooks says from the evidence of his new book The Assault on Reason, Gore believes in things like reason and the Enlightenment which makes him a "technological determinist." You know, when you fantasize in reason's nutty name that limiting carbon emissions might actually reduce global warming. Or that we can actually develop alternative energy policies. Or imagine that history is "driven by machines" like automobiles, computers, industrial dyes, and the apparatuses of industrial capitalism. Crazy stuff like that.
See, Brooks admonishes, Gore worries that TV can immobilize the reasoning centers in the brain and empower the conglomerates and facilitate demagogues. I mean what planet does Gore live on, sputters Brooks. Surely this proves that Gore is "impervious to reality," and points to the "chilliness and sterility of his worldview." (I guess it takes a chilly nature to worry about global warming).
But no, see, the real problem is Gore has this "bizarre" rationalist view of human nature that makes a distinction between lower and higher parts of our brains even though "the reality is that there is no such neat distinction." Actually, David, it was folks like Christ and then Sigmund Freud who preferred this view about higher and lower parts of human nature, and I don't think either was exactly an Enlightenment rationalist. It's about ethics. You know, good and bad as in higher and lower?
No no, says Brooks, Gore is actually "utterly at a loss when asked to talk about virtue and justice." Indeed he tries to "shift attention to technology and methods of communication." He imagines "by altering machines" he can "alter the fundamentals of behavior, or at least avoid the dark thickets of human nature."
Well, David, we can agree on that. We've spent six years witnessing the "dark thickets of human nature" in action in an administration that has made a fetish of ignoring reason, science and the Enlightenment. So if you want to make the '08 race a choice between reason and stupidity, between science and superstition and between Enlightenment and the "dark thickets of human nature," let's do it.
I don't know who you want as the flag-bearer of the dark thickets of human nature (Bush isn't constitutionally eligible, though you may see the constitution as one of those disposable products of reason and the Enlightenment). But me, I will be happy to have the "Vulcan Utopian" in my corner -- though I agree with you Gore is partial to dispassionately "exchanging facts" in order to "arrive at logical conclusions." Something you apparently disparage. And something for which President Bush and those Republicans who still admire him have shown little interest and still less talent.
So here's our election bet, David: you put your money on an America that wants to continue staggering around in the dark thickets of human nature led by a kind of 2007 all-too-human Captain Kirk (the one who appears on TV's Boston Legal, where William Shatner can be found playing a charming, irrational racist pig who still believes in the war in Iraq though he can't tell you why) and I'll bet my bottom dollar on Mr. Spock.
I'll bet, that is, that most Americans are ready for policies rooted in fact rather than fiction, and will welcome a President capable of reaching "logical conclusions" and thus be thrilled to elect Al Gore as President of a United States of America that once again manifests the spirit of (yes!) the Enlightenment.