Al Gore has just made his second major contribution to our national political dialog.
His first, "An Inconvenient Truth," has helped make the perils of global warming real to the American mainstream.
Now his "Assault on Reason" is excerpted in Time Magazine. With it he paints a compelling portrait of a democracy being obliterated by money and television.
The content is very much on point. But the former Vice-President must finally face the huge personal responsibility he bears for much of the problem.
First, he was an important party to the complex but catastrophic Telecommunications Act of 1996. This Clinton-era corporate goodie bag enabled a huge spike in the monopolization of the electronic media Gore now decries.
To fight the problem, Gore should now become an active agent in reversing that horrific pro-monopoly give-away. He could fight to re-establish meaningful pluralistic media ownership and public access, and for reviving both the Fairness Doctrine and Equal Time Provision, which once guaranteed balance in media content.
Second, Gore was victim of the theft of the election of 2000, but he also enabled it. In the entire history of the United States, few events have more deeply damaged our democracy than the stolen Florida vote count and warped Electoral College outcome that followed.
The Electoral College was ostensibly designed at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to protect the rights of small states. But it also facilitated the ability of slaveowners to cast 3/5ths of a vote for each of their chattel. There are few more destructive monuments to electoral cynicism. Gore would be a welcome ally in finally ridding ourselves of this historic obscenity. After all, he won by half a million popular votes and "lost" the election.
That Gore was victimized in 2000 was largely his own fault. Amidst the carefully choreographed chaos of the Florida 2000 vote count, the Gore campaign inexplicably asked for a recount only in four counties, rather than statewide. This was a miscalculation of epic proportions. In recent years it's been proven that Gore did win the legitimate Florida statewide vote count, and would have prevailed with a full and honest recount.
The Florida 2000 recount was sabotaged by Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris, as J. Kenneth Blackwell did again in Ohio 2004. In both cases, a very sophisticated GOP apparatus aided by key technicians from partisan voting machine companies, has been bound and determined to steal the presidency at any cost.
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Gore's actions on the 2000 recount might be discounted as a stategic failure.
But they were followed by something much much worse. In January, 2001, the Black Caucus of the US House demanded a Congressional dialogue on the seating of the Florida delegation to the Electoral College. This procedure had been established in 1887, in response to the stolen election of 1876. It required the signature of one Representative and one Senator.
Tragically, Gore prevented this from happening. As the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress gathered to ratify the election, Gore repeatedly gaveled down those Representatives demanding a discussion of the theft of Florida's decisive electoral votes. This very ugly, politically catastrophic moment is forever memorialized in Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11.
Staff from the office of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone have said Gore told those Senators inclined to join in that he would not recognize them if they tried. Senator Hillary Clinton told the Free Press Editor that Gore "begged" her not to sign on to such a challenge.
The result: there was no Congressional challenge on the theft of the election of 2000. Ironically, with Dick Cheney presiding over Congress, there was indeed such a session on the stolen election of 2004, facilitated by Sen. Harry Reid. But following the cave-in of 2000, it again lacked the full weight of the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate.
In short, Al Gore and the Democratic Party were complicit in the most demoralizing and anti-democratic events in the recent history of our nation. It is fine for the brilliant and lucid former Vice President to decry the power of money and television in the destruction of our democracy.
But what can tangibly and irrevocably destroy a democracy more thoroughly than the outright theft of elections, especially when it happens without challenge from the opposition?
We welcome the heartfelt insights of Al Gore on the broader issues of modern democracy. But when will he finally come clean on what he and John Kerry did---and didn't do---in allowing the theft of our last two presidential elections?
When will Gore muster the courage of former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker in denouncing the role of voting machine proprietors and techno "insiders" in corrupting the voting process?
Most of all, we need to hear how Al Gore and the Democratic Party plan to guarantee it never happens again. And then we need to see them actually act on it.