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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Looks Like Gore's Out

I've always thought it was kind of weird that in any presidential election cycle, there's some guy waiting in the wings who people hope will jump in the race. Sometimes, they're guys like Fred Thompson, who seems to be dancing around the edges only for the attention (poor Newt Gingrich -- this was the guy he hoped to be this go round). At others, it has been Mario Cuomo, who's name came up because it seemed a logical next step for him . And there are guys like Al Gore -- a former candidate enjoying newfound popularity.

Those of you waiting for Al to announce are likely to be disappointed.

The Caucus (NYT Blog):

There were campaign-style buttons passed around last night at a gathering of former Al Gore donors in Washington, but they did not augur a presidential run by Mr. Gore (to the disappointment of some). "Al Gore Reunion 2007," they read.

Over beer, wine and buffet, about 50 people mingled in the home and backyard of Peter Knight, a close friend, former adviser and fundraiser, of Mr. Gore's. The purpose of the event was to get some of the old gang back together, in essence, to mark the 20th anniversary of Mr. Gore's first run for the presidency in 1987.

There were no rumblings of a Draft Gore movement per se.

"There was a clear belief, among people chatting, that he is not going to be a candidate in 2008 unless something dramatically unusual happens," the stroy quotes one partygoer as saying, "It's too bad, because he would make a great president. But he's happy where he is."

Does it say more about politicians or more about voters that among some twenty candidates who have so far announced, there's a significant portion of voters who's reaction is 'none of the above?'

I kind of think it's the voters. One thing I used to come across a lot in fundraising was people who'd tell me, "I like this candidate, except..." And the exception would either be major or minor, but it would always be that one thing. I used to tell these people that if they needed a candidate who agreed with them on everything, they should probably run themselves -- because that's the only way you're going to find that candidate.

People tend to have unrealistic expectations of politicians and these expectations are one reason why politicians are among the least popular professionals in american life. We make it so easy to be disappointed.

Yet, on the other hand, there's the mythic movie-politician. The guy who fights the good fight, the character in a Frank Capra movie. That's what we want, but those are movies. We've got people to vote for, not jungian archetypes. The warrior-king and the saviour aren't on the ballot.

So we project our beliefs onto other people. Barack Obama is learning that it was a lot easier living up to people's expectations when no one knew what he actually believed or who he was. People from both parties look at the current slate, fail to find someone exactly like they are, and turn to someone who's not running and hasn't made any of their positions clear. They'll be the one who 'get's it,' they're the guy from the movie with the swelling strings. The candidate you know the least about becomes the one who's easiest to believe in.

Every once in a while, the real thing does show up -- the Lincoln or the FDR. But it's only hindsight that proves them. In their times, the opposition was just as convinced that they were fools, that their policies would be disastrous, that someone else would be a better choice.

My advice to voters this cycle (like every cycle) is to stop fetishizing perfection. Perfection for you is perfection for you alone. And that person you wish would run? They're probably not exactly who you think they are and maybe you'd be a little better off if you never find that out.

So, if you're waiting breathlessly for Al Gore, breathe. There are about twenty candidates out there, that should be enough. They're all people and that means they're all imperfect. Just choose the one who's least imperfect and be willing to change your mind.

At this point in the game, there'll be plenty of time to do that.


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