Monday, August 05, 2002

Gore’s Demagoguery

What a silly attempt at demagoguery Al Gore made in yesterday’s New York Times. Of course, none of the “average Americans” Gore is trying to court read the Op-Ed page of the Sunday Times; they were too busy at church, baseball games, and picnics. This most recent attempt at populism is out of character for Gore; it reminds one of the blue shirts Naomi Wolf once coached him to wear to boost his attraction to the ladies. In fact, his silencing of that non-partisan demagogue, that pure demagogue, Ross Perot on the Larry King show some years ago earned Gore considerable credit in this corner as an anti-demagogue.

In a piece that reeks of populism and lacks focus, Gore demands that “political power [be] used for the benefit of the many, rather than the few.” Lapsing into Perot-style rhetoric he bashes the Bush administration for being “bankrolled by a new generation of special interests, power brokers who want nothing better than a pliant president who would bend public policy to suit their purposes and profits.” Then, sounding vaguely Nixonian (though inversely because economically and not socially), Gore claims to be fighting for “the forgotten middle class.” The distinction between “the people and the powerful” pervades this attempt to rabble-rouse. (Interestingly, Democrats now don’t speak about the poor exclusively; after the Reagan Revolution they must show due deference to the middle class, that group of people the radical left of the Sixties called less-deferentially by their European name, “the bourgeoisie.”)

In his attempt to associate himself with the many (the poor plus the middle class), Gore even trots out that tired, old war horse of anti-Constitutional progressivism, the demagogic idea that the president is the “representative of all Americans,” which, among other things, obscures the consitutional basis of executive power (independent of popular opinion) and denies the healthy anti-populist elements of executive power. Gore’s rambling, free-wheeling piece moves aimlessly and awkwardly through policy themes such as prescription drugs, political attacks seeking to pin the current economic difficulties on the Bush administration, and political thought or American history such as linking the current economic crisis to the Depression and himself to FDR. What a tiresome hodge-podge.

The fact is that no criticism is sticking to the Bush administration, despite repeated attempts by Democrats to pin something on and fears by Republicans that something will adhere. This Bush, despite some problems regarding his own stock trades a decade ago, does not give the appearance of being disengaged; he’s not his father’s son in crucial ways that benefit him. Regarding the economic crisis, he is arresting corporate criminals without denigrating capitalism which is precisely the approach Americans want. Gore, by contrast, must go out of his way to explain that he is defending capitalism in his piece; even when he appears to be on the attack, Gore winds up being more defensive than Bush. With regard to the war on terrorism, nobody can fill a thimble full of criticism for Bush. Even the way in which Al Qaeda POWs will be detained and prosecuted has fallen off the radar at least for the time being. So the Democrats are in a tough spot and this pathetic, desperate piece by Gore proves it.

The Democrats may make some headway in the upcoming elections; but, if that happens, it will not be due to dramatic dissatisfaction with Bush. Moreover, even a double-dip recession should mean an improvement for the economy before 2004. Democrats will have to do much better than this to re-gain the White House. The St. Alban's-Harvard boy needs to find a different approach than populism; to his credit, he's not very good at it.


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