I hear lots of people express the sentiment, “If only Gore would enter the race (or if only Obama took the lead, etc.), everything would be OK and progressives would win again.” This is what I call “Messiah-Candidate Thinking.” The example that got me thinking about this was a DailyKos diary today: An Inconvenient Truth: Mr. Gore You HAVE to run in 2008,
Mr. Gore, you are the person best suited to rescue us from the assaults on reason, our Constitution, our environment, our security, and our domestic infrastructure perpetrated on us by the Busheviks and their allies.
I am not faulting the sentiment here. I love Gore and he would be a great President. I think most of the candidates would make great Presidents. But I don’t think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.
Do the conservatives run great candidates? Is that what has worked for them? Was Bush a great candidate? Or was it something else?
Here is what I think. Liberals and progressives used to win elections. They used to be a majority and everyone got used to it. So a lot of people think that all we need to do is find the right candidate who will articulate things well and get “the facts” out for them — and the public will turn out in droves again. They look for another John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton, thinking that’s all that is needed to turn things back around.
But times have changed. The “conservative movement” has spent more than thirty years bombarding the public with coordinated, professionally-crafted propaganda that has changed the thinking of the public. This propaganda has gone unanswered and we are seeing the effects all around us.
Think about this – most people’s political thinking developed since Reagan was elected. Heck, a good portion of the population doesn’t remember a time before George W. Bush! So most of them have never been exposed to information that positively explains what progressives stand for, or the benefits of unions — or even peace. This has had a terrible effect on the politics of this country.
This right-wing assault has eroded the public’s understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of – and faith in – science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.
Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.
So yes, I am all for Gore running. But I don’t think it is the be-all and end-all. There is a lot of work to do before America turns back to a progressive direction.