A few things are certain in American politics.NEXT: ELECTORAL VOTE, FRENCHIE'S MAD
First, at the end of it all, one side is going to win, and the other side is going to lose.
This finality; this "winner take all" ethos of politics, virtually insures that the winner's supporters will pat themselves on the back for a job well done, and for the loser, well, there is always the inevitable second guessing.
Indeed, the second guessing doesn't always wait around for the end of the election.
Remember back when the press fell in love with John McCain and it looked for a brief moment that the GOP moneymen who had poured tens of millions to insure the coronation of GW might not get their wish? Republican congressman, pollsters and strategists were all over the cable news shows, explaining in exact detail where the Bush campaign had gone wrong.
Later, when the bloom came off of Al Gore's post convention rose at the close of the first debate, their Democratic counterparts took over, offering precise prescriptions as to the reasons for Mr. Gore's fall in the polls. So now, at the end of this long and arduous process that has finally resulted in Mr. Bush being appointed the President, it is perhaps inevitable that Mr. Gore finds himself in the unenviable position of facing criticism of his campaign.
Don't believe a word of it. Al Gore ran a brilliant campaign. How can you tell? It's simple. The best measure of a campaign is the votes, and Al Gore got more votes.
I repeat; Al Gore got more votes.
If you want to get really technical about it, Al Gore won. He won the popular vote both nationally and in Florida. And with Florida's electoral votes, he won the Presidency. Granted, a dangerously partisan Supreme Court and a blatantly racist Florida election procedure stole the Florida electors, and thus the Presidency, from Mr. Gore. But Al Gore didn't lose it. He had it stolen. There is a difference.
He did what he needed to do to win the Presidency, and he did it against tremendous odds.
Throw any talk about his "advantages" of being an incumbent Vice President and inheriting the booming economy out the window. As a matter of historical fact, the Vice Presidency is hardly an overwhelming advantage in a Presidential election. Sitting Vice Presidents have won less than half of their Presidential elections over the course of U.S. history. Second, while there can be no dispute that Gore deserved much of the credit for the successful economy over the past eight years, there also can be no dispute that the benefits of the that booming economy have been vastly skewed toward the most educated and wealthy Americans. These are precisely the voters, whether Democrats or Republicans, who are the least likely to cross party lines in an election.
The battle for the White House is really a battle to first turn out your party's base, and second, attract a very small subset of the American electorate whose votes are actually in play. And in the past four national elections, the elusive swing voter has been a subset of white males ages 25-45 who earn less than $60,000 per year. For both parties, the challenge is wooing these voters without alienating their base.
For the Republicans, this means attracting these voters in a manner acceptable to the core of the Republican base of religious conservatives and the wealthy. For Democrats it means offering something to these voters that is also acceptable to traditional Democratic constituencies; labor, minorities, women, and environmentalists. Since these voters were the least likely to give Bill Clinton any credit for the economy, or indeed to even perceive that they had received any benefits from it, Clinton provided little real advantage to Gore. Further, since these were the voters most likely to harbor resentment for the real or imagined Clinton scandals, Gore ran real risks by closely aligning himself with the President. So ignore any talk of the advantages of President Clinton's popularity, or Al Gore's failure to leverage it.
Mr. Gore had other disadvantages as well. He faced a Republican party solidly unified behind its utter hatred for Bill Clinton. He faced a hostile press that had unfairly and inaccurately labeled him as a liar. He faced a strong and credible candidacy from his left in the person of Ralph Nader.
So while Mr. Bush had the far right elements of his party tucked neatly away in his shirt pocket, Mr. Gore was forced to fight his campaign on two fronts. He was forced to defend the progressive flank against Mr. Nader, while at the same time he was trying appeal to the middle.
But despite all these disadvantages, Al Gore did what he had to do. He played to both sides of his party. He turned out his base in droves. He ran the electoral college table. And, in the end, he got more votes. Given all that, blaming Mr. Gore for losing the Presidency is like blaming a rape victim for the crime committed against them.
© 2000 The Daily Brew