I hear mostly from two kinds of Democrats these days: Those who understand exactly why Al Gore should run for president, and those who insist he shouldn't, warning, "The media will rip him to shreds, just like the last time."
Let's get one thing out of the way right now. The media is going after anyone we put up. Period. I won't even entertain that objection anymore, because it's not grounded in reality as we know it. Now, on to the rest.
Certainly, Gore has buzz - and with the growing popularity of "An Inconvenient Truth," he finally has bloomed with a quality Molly Ivins once christened "Elvis". (She was referring to his lack thereof and stressing the necessity for a successful run. She later said the same thing about Kerry.)
He's definitely strong in the netroots. Gore won big in a recent Alternet poll:
The results are in. More than 13,000 readers cast their straw vote in AlterNet's reader survey and poll conducted during the last two weeks of June. Readers came out in droves to state their preference for Al Gore as Democratic Presidential candidate for 2008.
Gore, whose popularity appears to be growing with the success of his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, received 35 percent of the vote, followed by Senator Russ Feingold at 20 percent and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards at 11 percent. Wesley Clark received 4 percent, and John Kerry and Mark Warner 2 percent.
What's changed since 2000 - or even 2004? I'll tell you: The internet.
I don't believe the netroots all by our lonesome can win elections. But we do sway them, and the liberal blogosphere, galvanized by the infuriating 2004 presidential loss and the Kerry campaign's weak and tepid response to the right-wing smear machine, has learned to work the media refs as effectively as the much larger Republican media network. (For free, I might add. Imagine how effective we would be with actual funding! Hint, hint. But I digress.)
How can the netroots help Citizen Gore take back the White House?
First of all, because we can mobilize massive cash contributions virtually overnight, we make it possible for him to stay out of the lengthy and bruising pre-primary fights. He can delay his entry until the last possible minute, when the netroots can go right to work raising money from small donors. (Under the radar, with little national publicity, the Draft Gore 2008 PAC raised almost $10K in one month, mostly in $5 contributions. They'll take $500 contributions, though. They're not proud.)
Most importantly, we can keep the media in line this time. We can force them to do their jobs fairly and competently by refusing to let them get away with their "he said, she said" travesty of journalism.
I know first-hand how lazy and susceptible to flattery the press can be. When I was an editor, I was not easy on that kind of reporter, and I'm even less inclined to let them slide now, because there have been such devastating consequences in the wake of their shortcomings.
Their addiction to repeating half-truths and right-wing spin as fact helped create the nightmare of the past six years. We can't - and won't - let it happen again. The survival of our democracy depends on it.
The blogosphere on its best day can't hold a candle to the numbers of even the lowest-rated cable news show. But I'll tell you what we do very well: We influence the influential.
During the Kerry campaign, liberal blogs were still largely unknown. (Hell, blogs were largely unknown.) The mass media constantly referred to the same dozen right-wing bloggers and one or two liberal blogs for "balance," but we weren't all that strong back then. It's a different ballgame now. (Just ask Joe Leiberman.)
Now, picture the liberal blogosphere, battle-tested and ready to protect Al Gore's back. Because that's what we'd have this time. In 2004, the Republicans caught us off-guard when they attacked Kerry's war record, the very thing we thought was unassailable, and we waited for Kerry to fight back. He didn't. The next time, we won't wait.
Some liberal bloggers say if Gore hasn't shown himself willing to brave the primaries and announce his candidacy, they're not interested. That attitude is not only counter-productive, it's just plain dumb. I'll tell you why: Playing by the rules doesn't work anymore. What we need to take back the White House is a guerrilla marketing campaign, and drafting Al Gore is the perfect way to do it.
I'm sick of the media picking off our best candidates (and thus, our best ideas) like ducks in a shooting gallery. The very same bloggers who so brilliantly delineate media flaws need to follow that thread to its logical conclusion: Is it smart to let them keep doing it? Why paint a target on Gore's back one minute sooner than we have to?
We already know the corporate media works very, very hard to protect its interests, and that includes ridiculing and diminishing our candidates based on the media elites' own organizational and personal agendas.
Let's face the unpleasant facts. The media narrative is already written, and it's Hardball Hillary vs. St. John McCain. That's the steel cage match they want to see, and they'll do whatever they can to make it happen that way.
So ask yourself: Why on earth should we let them? And why should Al Gore subject himself to it? What, exactly, will it prove? Does any reasonable person (i.e. people who don't watch Fox News) question Al Gore's suitability for the office? (George Bush did extremely well in the primaries - and look what a great president he turned out to be. So much for that theory.)
And while you're at it, ask yourself why Gore has been subjected to a steady stream of attacks by the Republican machine for the past year. He's the last person they want. He'll win again, only bigger, and they know it. Why do you suppose all those prominent Republicans are publicly announcing they won't see "An Inconvenient Truth", and attacking the very idea of global warming? They don't want to strengthen his credibility with the swing voters.
Let's sum up: A "Draft Gore" movement takes the power out of the hands of the consultancy/media elite and puts it back where it belongs - with the voters. It frustrates the media, stymies the special interests, drives the Republicans up a wall and puts global warming solutions on the fast track. It drives the Democratic party back to what used to be the middle, and it gives the Iraq war the prominence it deserves. (And not incidentally, voters overwhelmingly say it's the war that is their key issue.)
It makes ideas the center of the debate, and not the color of Al Gore's sweater.
I have my own theory about why Gore hasn't decided to run. It's that Al Gore doesn't want to be king; he wants to lead a democratic republic, which means a government in which its citizens are fully engaged.
A draft movement is a damned good beginning. And even if Gore says absolutely not, he won't run, we're still the ones who moved the debate away from the big-money special interests and back toward the concerns of ordinary Americans. And that's no small thing.