With Hillary Clinton floundering, Democrats who thought they had the 2016 presidential campaign all but locked up can be forgiven for feeling desperate. Republicans, meanwhile, should be feeling gleeful about one of the left's proposed solutions: Draft Al Gore to run against Clinton!
Yes. Please. Do that.
It wasn't so long ago that 2016 looked great for the Dems. Republicans have a number of potential candidates coming from the gubernatorial ranks, most of them young and with substantial records of reform. Toss into the mix three freshmen senators with national followings, and the GOP side of the primary campaign begins to look like an unwieldy and messy scrum. Republicans could be expected to do a lot of internecine damage, on which Democrats could later profit in a general election.
In comparison, Democrats have been blessed to have almost no competition for the top spot on the ticket. Hillary Clinton learned the lesson from her failed attempt at a coronation in 2008, after watching a first-term Senate backbencher eat her lunch organizationally and politically in a cycle for which she spent eight years preparing. This time around, Clinton and her team have spent a great deal of time and effort to tie up the major donors and activists. Her fellow Democrats helped out by losing gubernatorial races over the last three cycles that might have produced real challengers from outside the Beltway.
Everything looked pretty well set up for the Clinton coronation — until last month, when the media discovered that the Clintons are, well … still the Clintons. First, The Wall Street Journal found out that the Clinton Foundation took millions from corporations during her tenure as secretary of State, including some whose interests were represented by the State Department during the same period. In rapid succession, the media also discovered that the foundation began taking big dollars from foreign governments after Clinton left State, and that those foreign-government donations — millions of dollars — began pouring into the family foundation's coffers well before she stepped down as America's top diplomat.
On the heels of that scandal, the House select committee investigating the attack on the consulate in Benghazi confirmed that Secretary Clinton not only used private email accounts for official government business, she had done so exclusively. This explained years of frustrated FOIA demands from media outlets and watchdog organizations attempting to look into Clinton's record at State. Furthermore, her aides had only recently turned over any emails for archiving, and only after State asked for those records, which should have been archived all along to comply with the Federal Records Act and the Obama administration's own stated policy on transparency.
All campaigns go through rough patches. Democrats could afford to wait to see how Clinton dealt with a little bit of adversity. And so they did … they waited. And waited. And waited. And as they did, the controversy festered into a full-blown scandal. Clinton's eventual press conference only turned out to be an exercise in fire extinguishment via liberal application of accelerants.
Needless to say, Democrats who had planned on an easy stroll through the primary season began to fret. Some of them went back in time to blame the "right wing," but others took a less nostalgic view. Even James Carville had to admit belatedly that the only reason to use a private server was to avoid Congressional oversight. Maureen Dowd blasted Clinton's "indefensible droit du seigneur" and her "paranoia and pre-emptive self-defensiveness." A CNN poll released Monday shows that 51 percent of Americans think the email issue is serious, and 44 percent view Clinton unfavorably.
Suddenly, Democrats need a Plan B! But they're not done with '90s nostalgia yet. Rather than look to the future of the party, Vox's Ezra Klein wants to resurrect another Clinton administration figure, Al Gore. "Gore offers a genuinely different view of what the Democratic Party — and, by extension, American politics — should be about," Klein gushes. "Though he's been out of office for 15 years, he's never left the climate fight. Gore has proven himself the opposite of those politicians who love the game more than they care about the issues."
That's true — and wildly irrelevant, not just to the election, but also to voters. The most recent Gallup poll on issues puts dissatisfaction with government as the most pressing issue for Americans. Government is the solution proposed by Gore to fight global warming. Meanwhile, climate change doesn't even make the list, nor do environmental concerns at all.
On top of this, even Klein notes that Gore most recently made news by selling off his media platform, Current TV, to Al Jazeera America. The media outlet needed Current's cable-market penetration and paid $500 million for it. That money came from their sponsors in Qatar, whose wealth comes from oil production — the very carbon-based energy against which Gore has railed ever since losing the 2000 election.
But let's not be hasty in ridiculing this choice. Republicans have every reason to embrace an Al Gore challenge to Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary. Not only would it advance the cause that Democrats will continue a war on coal, but Gore's return might actually convince voters in coal-rich states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and even Illinois that Republicans will be the better bet for blue-collar voters. As Clinton and Gore tried to out-progressive each other on the "war on women," the GOP could continue to eat away at the Catholic vote, already dwindling away from Democrats.
Young voters won't exactly be psyched about two Democratic throwbacks from the '90s while the GOP backs younger, energetic candidates with track records of accomplishment in executive and legislative roles. But hey, at least Democrats can revel in the debate between two people born before the Korean War.
Don't be surprised to see Republicans for Gore banners appearing soon … along with peals of laughter. Although the latter won't come exclusively from Republicans.