Prediction: The 2008 Democratic Ticket

Nobodyqmark
If you are like me at all (and you probably are if you are reading this
blog) then you look forward to January 20th 2009 with a mixture of
great anticipation and a certain nagging dread. Anticipation that the
long dark night of two misbegotten and utterly tragic Bush terms will
be over, and dread as to who will be taking the oath on that day.

I’d like to offer you some hope: I don’t think it will be another
Republican (but then I never do, so my objectivity is questionable as
to this point). In conjunction with the Republican Congress, Bush has,
for now, exhausted the credibility of the conservative movement with
the American people. I think I have some plausible ideas about which
Democrats may be taking the oath, and it may not be anyone you expect.

Many progressive Democrats have angst about current polling that shows
the most likely Democratic candidate to be taking the noontime oath
from Justice Roberts is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Let me reassure you,
it’s not going to happen that way.

There are several reasons why it won’t be Hillary: she’s a Senator with no significant administrative achievements, her negatives are far too high, she’s out of step on Iraq, she’s been soft on Bush, she’s perceived as too liberal, she’s perceived as too conservative (quite a feat, really), she’s perceived as over-weaningly ambitious to be President, and the elephant (or should that be donkey?) in the room – she’s a woman.

Americans are not going to elect any woman President – yet. It is progress that there is speculation about it and that Hillary polls so well now, but it is not enough for Americans to take that plunge.

Women need to make greater in-roads in the highest reaches of American national life before it can happen. Most importantly, women need to achieve a greater role in national defense policy and administration. Maddy Albright and Condi Rice have both done wonders for acceptance of women in national security affairs by taking strong leadership roles in the last two Administrations (though Condi’s general incompetence may offset her effect on gender roles somewhat). But there is still a glass ceiling in politics, specifically under the national defense establishment, that will have to be pierced.

A female Secretary of Defense, chairman of the House or Senate Armed Services committees, a head of a service branch, or chairwoman of the joint chiefs, or Vice President would advance the campaign for a female President. Some or all of the above will be needed before Americans become comfortable with a female Commander in Chief. Hillary may have the political savvy and influence to grab the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination, but despite a ‘strong’ national security record in the Senate, Americans just won’t accept her as Commander in Chief. And she knows it.

If there’s one thing the Clinton’s are not, it’s stupid. Hillary and Bill know that it just isn’t possible for a woman to make it into the Presidency in one grand leap. If Hillary has any chance of being the first woman President, she has to be Vice President first. Hillary Clinton’s 30-40% of the Democratic electorate will be used to be the king-maker, not the queen.

There is little doubt in my mind that Hillary (and Bill) will be decisive in who will be the Democratic nominee. Their control isn’t certain or absolute, by any means, but their influence will be substantial and the most public payment for their favor will be the Vice Presidency for Hillary.

So who will be their choice? To some degree that depends on the reception that the candidates receive from the electorate. The pre-primary season – the money race, the media’s reactions, the debates – will have substantial influence. The Clintons can’t transform a frog into a prince, as Clarke demonstrated in 2004. The early primary contests, broadened in ’08 to include two more caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire, may be very influential. South Carolina, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama and Mississippi are among the states under consideration for the new early caucuses. Should either New Mexico or Arkansas be chosen, it could give a substantial leg up to either of two Clinton associates with Presidential designs: New Mexico’s Bill Richardson, or Arkansas’ Wesley Clarke. Either of them has the stuff for the top of the ticket.

However, I think that there will be a clear leader of the pack long before the primaries, and it will be someone else. He’s got universal name recognition. He’s got a ton of sympathy and respect among Democrats. He’s about to become a major media property, and he’s long been astride a newly prominent issue that is standing on the moral high-ground and has broad and profound policy implications.

His name is Al Gore, and was the next President of the United States. Gore will be the presumptive nominee in the minds of Democrats even before the primaries begin. He’ll be very coy for some time yet, but ultimately he will be drafted and will serve when called.

The Clintons can’t refuse to endorse him if he has momentum. The Chairman of the DNC owes him a political debt. He has both impeccable centrist credentials as a Senator and as Vice-President, and impeccable progressive credentials from his time in the wilderness being a savage critic of the Bush Administration’s most egregious errors and usurpations. He has a geographically-based advantage over most other candidates of his stature (the exception being Mark Warner of VA). He can tap a major source of grassroots funding and man-power through his association with MoveOn and other netroots organizations. He has had solid practical experience running for President or Vice President in every campaign since 1984 (except for 2004). He polls as high as Kerry, and he’s not even expressed interest in 2008 yet. Plus, a Gore-Clinton ticket has enough irony and nostalgia to make any Democrat a little vaporous. I’m not the only one thinking this way, of course. What is now a tentative exploration of possibilities will eventually become the Conventional Wisdom, and Gore will rapidly transform into the man to beat in 2008.

Most intriguing is that Gore is set to make the environment a truly central theme of a Presidential contest and the public is finally ready to respond to it in a major way. The utter debacle of losing New Orleans, the politicization of climate science by Bush, and the pocketbook impact of global energy prices have set the stage for this issue to mature into a bi-partisan issue of concern. Gore’s theme of Global Warming (and the underlying issues of carbon emissions, energy efficiency and alternative energy) touches upon every other aspect of American politics and policy, both domestic and international. I suspect that within a decade Global Warming policy will be as bi-partisan as foreign policy was during the Cold War – only a few wacky and marginal figures on the fringe will continue to deny the issues’ importance or the validity of the science, the only political conflict will be a competition to address it most effectively.

Gore’s new movie is the next logical step in Presidential campaigning: the campaign movie. Kerry’s “Going Upriver” was too relentlessly biographical and came far too late. The brilliance of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is that it isn’t really about Gore; it’s about the animating theme of the future Gore Presidency. People will see it even despite Gore’s association with the project. People can even buy into the theme and not support Gore.

Gore is using the most powerful media form on the planet today to frame the ultimate moral and security issue for the electorate: the continued existence of our civilization and the future of humanity. Beside that, gay marriages just seem a little trivial, don’t they? Just as national security is the ultimate topper in today’s politics, environmental security will be tomorrow’s. The DVD release, then the television broadcasting rights will propel Gore’s central theme right through 2008, and prepare a fertile ground for Gore’s dominance of the pre-primary season.

Few rivals for the nod in 2008 will be able to generate the sort of free media that Gore’s movie will. But Gore is not a one trick pony. As the recent Wired lead article relates, his activities as an entrepreneur in media and green investing are also a potential mine of campaign issues and free media attention. Gore will be able to address authoritatively issues of media consolidation and democratic access, intellectual property, the capitalist case for long-term and sustainable investment policies, and of course, Internet policy. These are all vital issues for American economic growth and global competitiveness. Except perhaps for Mark Warner, I don’t think there is another contender who can stay in the ring with Gore on these issues.

Finally, there is a certain poetic justice to a Gore Presidency in 2008. Even the most partisan Republican must admit that, at best, Bush and Gore split the difference in 2000: Bush seizing the electoral vote, and Gore winning the popular. The Supreme Court’s decision to halt the recount and give the Presidency to Bush marked the departure point for a potential alternative history. We will have had the 8 years of Bush that lurked down one fork of the road. And what an utter FUBAR it was, even in conservative movement terms. It seems only just that now America take a trip down the road not taken, and see what a Gore Administration holds in store.

For these many reasons it will be Al Gore taking the oath at noon on January 20th 2008. Hillary Clinton will have already been sworn in as the first female Vice President of these United States.

Of course, my prediction is only conjecture based on instict and the available data. I would love to hear other reasoned scenarios of who will take the oath.

0 responses to “Prediction: The 2008 Democratic Ticket

  1. Francine Shacter

    “People are tired of the shrill voices of ideologues. Common sense, practical, results-oriented pragmatists have a real shot of bridging the gap between red and blue America in 2008.” Add to that “very smart, excellent experience in the Federal Government” and who have you got? Why, Al Gore!! The problem with his candidacy is not that he lost in 2000 – because he didn’t – the problem is what he did. He grew a beard and went off, leaving the Democratic party without a voice as the “loyal opposition”, a role in public life that was abandoned. I am glad he has seen the light and come back – we need him!

  2. There are no more Henry Clays or William Jennings Bryans or even Richard Nixons. Lose once…and you’re done. Gore’s “loss” may have an asterisk next to it, but it’s still a loss. He is also, because of his run in 2000, a polarizing figure, although not as much of one as Kerry or Hillary would be.

    People are tired of the shrill voices of ideologues. Common sense, practical, results-oriented pragmatists have a real shot of bridging the gap between red and blue America in 2008. Thus, I am interested in hearing more from Evan Bayh, someone who has been elected a US Senator and a Governor from Indiana (a very RED state!) and who has an impressive record of accomplishment in both offices.

  3. Hillary Clinton’s agenda on Capitol Hill has been primarily on defense issues. Check out the articles recently in Time calling her an up and comer, or the other article on nyt recently describing her work on veterans. You’re right about Sen. Clinton and President Clinton being smart enough to figure out that a woman who doesn’t have strong foreign policy/defense background to back up the policy initiatives in that area.
    I disagree that a Sen. Clinton run is a “grand leap.” Female executive leaders have won in many other countries, and we have had plenty of successful female leadership in the capacity of senators, governors, and the cabinet secretaries. Sen. Clinton is often described as a polarizer, but thats mostly because she has suffered from bad branding by the other side (as have many democrats) as well as the noteriety she attained by being an “activist” first lady. There’s her “vice presidency.” One of the most ironic things about the people who write about the senator is how amazed they are at her policy knowledge and political deftness. She whispered in the ear of the leader of the free world for 8 years?!?! Could it be possible that during that time she came to learn somthing about leadership and policy?
    I love Al Gore (the internet is my favorite invention) and I think that this movie is going to help him a lot. It may be that Hillary is the target of Gore, Biden, and Warner. He who beats Hillary in the Primary gets to be the presidential candidate, and gets her massive PAC money (though Kerry has more). I just hope Bill Richardson gets on the ticket somehow…

  4. NO HILLARY–A Hillary on the Democratic ticket would be a sure loser for the DEMS–too much baggage. Her negative ratings are way too high. Also, she doesn’t appear to be an open person–too cautious, too political-appearing, not inspiring–and she is a horrible public speaker.

    If Gore runs, I hope that he is more “centered” then he was during the 2000 campaign. Sometimes during the campaign, he gave an impression that he wasn’t sure “who” he was, an impression of vacillation.

  5. I feel that the reasons that we admire Al Gore are the same reasons he will not run for office again. Like Carter, Gore’s compassion and integrity are not malleable enough to accomodate for the dirty work inherent to success at that level of political office. Nor would I wish him to run, since his relevance has increased tenfold since his 2000 loss. I would much rather have him stay in the private sector, in an advisory role to the next administration.

  6. Francine Shacter

    I very much like the idea of Gore as President. Somehow, I feel like I’d sleep better at night. I will never forget the TV clips of him rescuing the people from the hospital and using his own resources (money, ingenuity) in the face of the Federal indifference to the welfare of those people, having them safely removed to a hospital in Chicago. To me, it represented a determination to take action in a quiet and competent manner against the worst possible Federal (read Bush administration) indifference.
    Speaking as a woman, I think it is a real shame that one is a man or a woman first and a person second and I hope we get past that. There have been women national leaders – a woman was just elected in Bolivia – so I don’t see why the United States has to be so backward in that regard. My discomfort with Hillary is not her gender but her position on issues.

    Interesting that no one mentions John Edwards with whom I also feel very comfortable. He is another person who has put his money where his mouth is. Everyone talks about the damage Iraq has done to this country. Edwards not only talks but is working on an equally great problem – the division of Americans into the haves and the have nots. Global warming is huge – so is the rapidly escalating inequality of those who have and those who work.

  7. Voters generally don’t like “washed-up” politicians like Al Gore or John Kerrey…they also don’t like the polarization of Hillary Clinton. What we need is another southern governor that can understand the needs of average Americans. Take a strong, hard look at Mark Warner of Virginia. I met him when he was campaigning for Governor…he was unbelievable smart and incredibly charismatic. He ran a campaign that re-captured Appalachian-Americans, which have been going more and more toward the Republicans. Take a look at West Virginia, Southern Ohio, Western PA, Western NC and others for a look at where the Democratic party has lost its way.

    Kerrey alienated smart, hard-working, average Americans…Warner…does not. Check him out.

  8. Also, I like the way http://www.draftgore.com describes him:

    “Al Gore: The Conscience of the Democratic Party

    He’s eloquent, passionate, relentless, undaunted. The first and most outspoken political figure to oppose the Iraq war, Al Gore is also the lead champion in the fight against global warming, a passionate defender of our Constitution, and a relentless voice against the Bush Administration’s abuses of executive power.

    Again and again, Gore has put himself in the line of fire by speaking out against this Adminstration in a way that no one else dares. Democrats nationwise increasingly see him as the moral leader of our party and the Democrats’ best chance to win back the White House.”

    I’d note Gore not only opposed the Iraq war, he also strongly opposed the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping and torture methods. Clinton can’t make the same unequivocal claim.

  9. Totally agree. I’d back Gore as my favorite in a heartbeat. By a long shot – boy that’d be a great campaign to work on…

    I wouldn’t personally prefer Hillary Clinton as Veep, preferring a Veep Richardson or Warner, but I think your reasoning is sound. There’s no way she could be President, given the vitriol among the Republican base. But as a kingmaker Veep, she’d probably pull quite a few moderate Republican and independent women who see her service in that role as being a watershed for our country.

    Regarding Feingold, I’ve been extremely impressed with him as a man of integrity. I could see him as President, and I think our country would be better off for it. But honestly, I’d prefer to see Gore in the WH and Feingold continue to bring the funk in the Senate, where he’s a voice of integrity holding the rest of that body accountable. Until, that is, the next SCOTUS Justice retires and Feingold is nominated as the replacement.

    Regarding Richardson as Veep, I think he’s a superior public servant, quite experienced and knowledgeable and very charismatic, too. He’s an ideal person to be grooming for the Presidency via a Veep role for eight years. And the Latino community is fairly supportive of him, which could also be a very positive thing considering electoral demographics.

  10. I would whole heartedly support an Al Gore candidacy. I however do not support a Hillary Clinton Vice-Presidential nomination. I would prefer Russ Feingold or Barack Obama. Then again I would still prefer a Feingold Presidency over all else, so my bias towards him as a vice presidential pick goes for anyone who wins the nomination who isn’t Russ.

  11. We desperately need Gore now to rescue our ailing nation just as he rescued those poor stranded patients from Charity Hospital in New Orleans last Summer.

    Al Gore demonstrated real leadership in a crisis by his action as opposed to the phony photo ops of the Bush league misadministration.

    I would dearly love to see Al Gore be drafted for the nomination in ’08.

  12. “We will have had the 8 years of Bush that lurked down one fork of the road. And what an utter FUBAR it was, even in conservative movement terms. It seems only just that now America take a trip down the road not taken, and see what a Gore Administration holds in store.”

    This is an interesting point.

    Given the psychological and emotional damage wrought by Bushco, I see this as looming large.

    An opportunity almost, for Americans to obliterate the memory of the last 8 years.

    The alternate outcome that should have been in place in the first instance.

    An opportunity to begin undoing the crimes of the GOP starting with the theft of 2000….

  13. I agree….