Al Gore Was So Much More …

Dan Rather’s newsletter on Tuesday strikes a chord in many, many ways.  First, what he says about the physical environment is spot on, but then he turns his thoughts to the political/social environment where he is again spot on.  But the highlight of his piece is Al Gore’s acceptance speech at the end of a long and contentious presidential election in 2000.  If you do nothing else, please listen to this speech and consider it in context to today’s politics.  Quite honestly, I never paid a lot of attention to Al Gore back in the day, but this man had it all:  intelligence, charisma, and class of a sort we do not see today.  We need more politicians like Al Gore today!

Remember Al Gore?

2000 vs. 2020 (and 2022)

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

30 August 2022

A few trendlines have collided recently that got me thinking of a former vice president, Al Gore. Remember him?

For one, there is the existential threat of our climate crisis. It’s been 16 years since Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” debuted. During that time, the truth he warned about — our planet’s spiral toward a new climate reality, fueled by human activity and significantly less hospitable to human existence — has become only more inconvenient, urgent, and dire.

Drought in the western U.S. Severe heat waves across Europe. Unusually heavy flooding in Kentucky and elsewhere. Scientists say these kinds of dramatic weather patterns will become more frequent as climate change progresses. We hear about 100-year storms or even 1,000-year floods, terms that are meant to indicate rarity. But it is increasingly clear such events are no longer anomalous. A horrific tragedy is currently playing out in Pakistan, where immense flooding is causing widespread destruction and mass death.

The warming climate, as Gore warned us, will result in greater hardship and instability. It is a cruel injustice that the countries that contributed the least to greenhouse gas proliferation tend to be the poorest and will suffer the most.

On a more optimistic note, the recent climate bill passed by Congress represents exactly the kind of concrete action for which Gore has long advocated. Start somewhere. In the case of this legislation, that “somewhere” is quite significant, according to climate experts. Once you’ve started, keep going. Change the direction. Chart a new path forward toward carbon neutrality.

The climate is a grave and unending concern. It should dictate our policy choices and define our national security. Gore saw this clearly. His warnings will cry out from the history books to future generations. “Why were they not heeded?” they will ask in disbelief.

But it wasn’t only the climate that has had me thinking of Gore. There is also the matter of the clear and present dangers our institutions and democratic order are facing.

Donald Trump is still at it about the 2020 election (here in August 2022). He just issued a statement saying he was the “rightful winner” and at a minimum, someone (not exactly sure who) should “declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!”

Of course the former president is now under a serious investigation into his retention of highly classified documents (and what he might have done with them). One would have hoped that this grave matter would have Republican elected officials waiting at least to hear about findings before escalating divisive partisanship. But there was Trump’s one-time critic and current sycophant Senator Lindsay Graham, alluding to violence. “If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle, there will be riots in the streets,” he said. This is completely irresponsible and dangerous.

Against this backdrop, let us remember Al Gore and the 2000 presidential election. Gore won the popular vote, but of course that’s not how we choose our presidents. As for the Electoral College, it all came down to Florida, as anyone of memory age at the time certainly recalls. There was a lot of weirdness in that state — “butterfly ballots” and “hanging chads.” To make a long and sordid story short, ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. A majority of justices, all appointed by Republicans, stopped the vote count and effectively handed the election to George W. Bush.

It is hard to overstate how big an inflection point that was in American history. Unlike in 2020, when Trump lost decisively, Gore had legitimate claims. And also unlike 2020 (through today) when Trump is eager to blow up American democracy and even spark violence with his lies and refusal to act responsibly, Gore chose a path of reconciliation. His concession speech is one that should be studied for its graciousness and straightforward eloquence.

I have pulled some excerpts to provide examples of Gore’s words. Recognize how difficult they must have been for a man who had long harbored dreams of the presidency — and knew he might very well have earned it.

Gore addressed the finality of the rule of law:

    “Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

He called for common ground:

    “This has been an extraordinary election. But in one of God’s unforeseen paths, this belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground, for its very closeness can serve to remind us that we are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny.”

He argued for country over party:

    “I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am, too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country…While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America, and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.”

He ended with a recognition that our country must be bigger than our politics and any single individual:

    “Now the political struggle is over and we turn again to the unending struggle for the common good of all Americans and for those multitudes around the world who look to us for leadership in the cause of freedom.

    In the words of our great hymn, ‘America, America’: ‘Let us crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.’

    And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it’s time for me to go.”

Contrast this humility with the last president, who will never relinquish the spotlight. Contrast the passionate pleas for unity with January 6. Contrast Gore’s appeal to the sanctity of our institutions with the election lies sweeping Republican politics. Contrast how he led in a moment of potential crisis with the enablers and toadies who appease Trump’s destructive behavior. Contrast the appeal to reason with Sen. Graham’s wink at violence. Contrast how he tried to tamp down passion with those who use their perches in right-wing media to spew divisive hatred.

The Republicans rail against their political rivals for being out of control, violent, subverters of democracy. It is, in poker terms, the ultimate tell. What they complain the loudest about is often what they themselves are pushing. I have said it before: There are so many projectionists among the GOP that they might as well open a chain of movie theaters.

Looking back at what lawyers call the “fact pattern” of the 2000 election, we can see one that had all the hallmarks of bringing American democracy to its brink. But at that moment, Al Gore made the determination that to wreck our constitutional order by undermining the results of a very flawed process was not what leadership demanded.

He stood there, surely believing in his mind that he should have been president. He knew that a majority of American voters had agreed. Imagining “what could have been” must have been intensely difficult. Looking back at what happened in the presidency of George W. Bush, we can see how fateful that election was. But Al Gore knew that to preserve our constitutional system, there really was no other option. He accepted his fate, and so did his party.

As Trump still rages after an election that was not nearly as close, after he lost in the courts, after he spurred a violent insurrection, Gore’s example is all the more striking. The Republican officials who are playing along with this attack on American democracy are old enough to remember 2000. And they’re old enough to know better.

31 thoughts on “Al Gore Was So Much More …

  1. Jill, in some respects, Al Gore may have served a greater good by not winning and heightening the focus on climate change. In other respects, George W. Bush winning exposed us to the machinations of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who knew how to game the system in their personal favor. Invading a country under false pretenses was not our finest moment and we hurt our reputation with our allies.

    Gore was magnanimous in his concession speech. He could have pushed more, but the SCOTUS decision made it harder for him to win. As for comparisons to the last former president, after losing 65 out of 66 court cases, every recount, audit and review after spending a lot of money, the former president would be hard pressed to lose any more than he has. When funders of the lawsuits want their money back as they felt the Trump people misled them, that is a telltale sign that the former president is what he likes to call others with respect to the election – a loser. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make excellent points on both sides of that question … we’ll never know the answers.

      Yes, he could have pushed more, but it was likely a lost cause and would have caused, perhaps, the same craziness we’re seeing now with Trump’s Big Lie Theory. Gore did, I think, the right thing and put country before party, before self. Indeed, there is no comparison between a man’s gracious concession speech and the ravings of a clownish lunatic. Sad that the GOP doesn’t seem to see nor care what they’ve done.


  2. As I was reading this article, I remembered that Al Gore was Vice President before running for President himself, but I could not remember who he was Vice President /to/. Not until someone mentioned it in comments did I remember Bill Clinton. What I do remember most clearly is buying and reading Al Gore’s book. That book took climate change from the realms of ‘some time in the future, maybe’ to ‘OMG…the Offspring will have to live in that world!’
    Gore’s integrity and honour will be remembered long after the worst President in American history is forgotten, or remembered only as an ugly footnote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, Gore was vice-president under Clinton for both of his terms. You are ahead of me, then … I haven’t read Gore’s book! For one thing, it was rated a YA book, intended for teens, but now I wish I had read it! I think you’re right, that Al Gore will be remembered for a number of things, but mostly as a frontrunner in the fight against climate change. I wonder if we would have made significantly more progress in that area if he had won in 2000? We’ll never know for sure, but perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, those futures are closed to us, but I personally believe the world would be a better place now if he’d been elected. Then again, if he had been elected then perhaps Obama would not have been, and that would have been another great future denied to us. All we can do now is make the best of the situation we do have. Let’s just hope it’s enough to stop the Homo Sapiens extinction event.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. After twenty years and sixteen years ago would it be ever too snarky here—but totally justified and right—for Al Gore and millions of other well-educated Americans to (arrogantly?) loudly say…

    “Umm, I TOLD YOU SO!!!”

    The many disciplines of Earth and Climate sciences have all been screaming the same dire, critical message/warning to us hyper-politicized people for over 20-yrs… actually the glaring hints of the signs have been 30-40 yrs minimum, over and over and over again. Remember this 1985 climate crisis?… But actually the key scientists were discovering the impending signs and calamities as far back as the 1970’s!!!

    And Jill, your point about civilized, honorable statesmanship, in both victory OR defeat, is sadly a once proper decorum yet dying tradition in today’s pseudo-anarchist movements.

    True Constitutional democracy cannot thrive nor survive without constant responsibility, accountability, laws, as well as upheld and enforced laws, in widespread EQUALITY and thorough due processes. The terms “freedom” and “liberties” cannot exist as our Core Founding Fathers meant it to exist between 1774–1781 WITHOUT accountability, civil responsibility, and common decency/decorum between opponents. Period! A nation must possess ALL of those living variables and components to be truly democratic under a Constitution of Laws, I repeat: of Laws, not men (persons). Period, period, exclamation point!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed, I believe many have said just that … “I told you so!” … but with no great pleasure, for the ignorance that has kept us from addressing climate change is killing us all and our future generations. And STILL, despite the evidence, people are calling climate change a hoax. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, some of us are unable to even step outside lest we choke to death on the unsafe air.

      You may be right, that Gore and others of that time are a dying breed, that common courtesy in politics is dead, but … I surely wish we could go back to a time of “more civilized, honourable statesmanship”. The ranting, the lies, the conspiracy theories, the loud voices and the threats of violence are NOT how a democratic nation deports itself! They are NOT getting us anywhere and they are costing us dearly.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Sorry to say but i don’t remember much from VP Gore under President Clinton. He was very low key and unimpressive, sorta like the Mike Pence of his day. It’s good to review old video footage of a humble man. Sadly these days, extreme polarization in society demand megalomaniacal celebutantes prevailing among presidential candidates (zero qualifications but big mouths). The quiet sane ones don’t have a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As it turned out, Gore should have fought a little harder, and a little longer. I realize he acted as he thought best at the time, but in retrospect he allowed the Republicans to believe they could use dirty tactocs and get away with it.
    In 2016 it allowed Trump to win an election he lost, and in 2020 it allowed him to think he could do it again. Fortunately for America, he failed.
    The difference between Gore’s accepctance-of-defeat speech and Trump’s refusal to accept defeat graciously really underlines the difference between the present-day Democrats and Republicans. Democrats want to goverm, while Republicans want to rule!
    Election 2022 is a choice between governance and absolute power. If the Repiblicans somehow win this election, and take over Congress, the Liberty Bell will be broken for its last time.
    Vote wisely, America, and vote for America.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There would have been little hope for a change in the outcome once the Supreme Court had ruled, and any fighting over it would have only led to the type of divisiveness and violence we’re seeing today. Gore did the right thing.

      You are spot on when you say “Democrats want to govern, while Republicans want to rule.” That is exactly, in a nutshell, the situation! You see it so much more clearly than about half the people in this country!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Al Gore Was So Much More … | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

    • Funny thing, though … we didn’t realize just how good those of the past, like Gore and others, really were. Probably because we didn’t imagine, couldn’t imagine, the ones we have today. Who would have ever guessed 20 years ago that an ignorant, greedy lunatic like Trump could actually be made president??? Sigh. Who knows what the future holds? At this rate, I don’t think I want to know. xx


    • Funny you should mention that, because just two months ago Gore appeared on “Meet the Press” and was asked that very question, whether he would consider another run for prez. His response was ““Oh, well, thank you for making the suggestion. You know, I’m a recovering politician. And the longer I go without a relapse, the less likely one becomes.”

      Liked by 3 people

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