Al Gore – The Last Patriot?

Perhaps it is a function of my age, but it seems like only yesterday that America was living through the immediate aftermath of the 2000 election unsure of whom the President would be in a matter of weeks. With the benefit of hindsight a patriotic hero arose and put the good of the nation ahead of his own. Do such patriots exist today? Let’s explore.

Please allow me to set up the scene for the benefit of my younger and foreign readers. (My college and high school age grandchildren were either babies or unborn when all this occurred). On November 7, 2000 Republican George W. Bush and Democratic Vice President Al Gore, Jr. faced off for the open presidential seat being vacated by the term limited Bill Clinton. DC and 49 states were decided that night while Florida remained uncertain. Through “gyrations” by Florida’s Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Republican Governor Jeb Bush (George W’s brother) Bush was declared the winner throwing the election to him by a single electoral vote. Legal maneuverers by both sides ensued culminating in the Supreme Court effectively electing Bush on December 12, 2000. Keep in mind the inauguration was constitutionally mandated for January 20, 2001.

Gore could have pursued other avenues and probably mobilized people to take to the streets. Bush failed to win the popular vote by a margin of about a half-million. Many of us feel we will never know who truly won Florida. Gore placed American political stability above his personal desire to be President and conceded in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision (Bush v Gore). Like a true patriot he placed his nation first recognizing the need for stability and the preservation of democracy.

Gore took a little time off, grew a beard and took a visiting professorship for a bit. Then he set off on the mission of trying to save and protect the environment which had been one of his passions for decades.

In 2008 Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain for the right to succeed Bush in what Republicans viewed as a stunning and surprising upset. Pundits were predicting the demise of the GOP as anything other than perhaps a regional Party of old, disgruntled white men. Many Republican elected officials and Party “fathers” shared that despair.

With the 2010 mid-terms around the corner and their brand in the toilet the GOP saw a movement that promised energy and voters. These people called themselves the Tea Party and were financially viable because they were funded by a handful of Republican donors, most prominent among then being the Koch brothers. This group had baggage. Their primary motivations were a racist hatred of Obama who was America’s first black President, structured government and taxation. In the interest of preserving democracy, a patriotic political party would have rejected this group leaving them to eventually die on the margin. The post-2008 Republican Party, hungry for voters and energy, made a pact with the devil. Sadly for early 21st century American it would not be their first.

The short term results were fantastic for the Republicans. They took back the House, gained six seats in the Senate and had huge victories in state races in 2010. This was mainly a combination of Tea Party votes and Democratic apathy. In the larger turnout 2012 election the Tea Party proved insufficient to take back the White House but in the 2014 low turnout mid-term they proved potent again.

That set the stage for another open seat presidential year in 2016. The Republican field numbered 17 at the beginning. Among them was the unqualified and inexperienced Donald Trump. At first many, including Republican insiders, viewed the Trump candidacy as a joke and publicity stunt. The smart money going into the primary season was betting on a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush race. Clinton ended up being the Democratic nominee, winning in a small field with wide Party establishment backing. On the Republican side there were a few other establishment candidates as well a few who would most charitably be described as comic relief. As the race wore on and Trump not only failed to fade, he ascended to the lead. The GOP establishment failed to coalesce and support a single legitimate candidate who could have easily defeated Trump as part of a united effort with some individuals making personal sacrifice for the good of the Republican Party, the nation and the world. Interestingly, they all ended up losers to Trump as a reward for their sin of pride.

The larger story of the 2016 election is Trump winning the Republican nomination, not the general election. Of course he had a shot on Election Night; he was a major Party nominee in a two party system. It was the combination of a “perfect storm” of conditions and lack of internal Republican leadership that allowed him to be the nominee in the first place. A large field and low percentage of Republicans who bothered to cast a vote in the primaries helped select Trump. Only 7% of eligible Republican primary voters actually cast ballots for Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries. Had the legitimate Republican candidates joined forced and backed a single candidate he could have easily overcome Trump.

To carry it one step further after Trump won the nomination patriotic Republicans could have ensured his defeat by backing Hillary Clinton. I know they didn’t like her or her policies, but at least she was qualified to hold the office.

Al Gore sacrificed political party, political philosophy and personal gratification for his country. America could have used some “Al Gores” in 2016 and could certainly use some today!

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One thought on “Al Gore – The Last Patriot?”

  1. One could make the argument that Al Gore’s “patriotism” did the country no good…and even set a sort of precedent which would contribute to 2016. Perhaps the outrage which is Donald Trump will be enough to wake up the electorate. But…I am less than optimistic, even while I do believe that Trump will not survive his first term.

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