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The Great Communication: Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and 2008

Posted by Thomas Nephew on June 6th, 2006

As I’ve mentioned, I had a chance to see “An Inconvenient Truth” last weekend, and want to share a few thoughts about it.

First and foremost, it is a must-see movie; well done, persuasive, honest, and as many have mentioned, surprisingly watchable for being a slideshow, however whiz-bang that presentation may be. And that’s because it isn’t just a whiz-bang slideshow, but one designed to (paraphrasing Gore) “explode one barrier after the other in people’s minds” standing between them and taking global warming seriously enough to do something about it. Gore has researched, refined, rehearsed, and brought his facts and arguments to the public perhaps a thousand times, and the result is honed to razor sharpness.

But the slideshow is also spliced to a documentary about someone who is driven to show that slideshow over and over again. It’s that marriage of facts and someone who won’t quit working to teach those facts that is both persuasive and inspiring.

The struggle I’ve had in thinking about the movie is whether or not to view it in the context of Gore’s political past and future. In one sense, it’s a silly question. This is Gore’s political future, whether it leads him to a White House bid or not. There’s more than one way to have an impact on the national politics, and Gore has found a great way to maximize his own impact right now, regardless of what comes next.

The question is, what should come next? Would a return to politics distract from or sully the cause of educating the public about this issue? Maybe. But suppose Gore is right in predicting to David Corn, “Six months from now … you and I will agree that the period between the spring and the beginning of winter was a period when the country changed dramatically on global warming. Now, I have felt in times past that we were close to a tipping point, and I’ve been wrong. I don’t think I am wrong this time.”

Now, say he’s right — would that be enough? Might not settling for that be a premature declaration of victory — a “Mission Accomplished,” so to speak? It would be odd for Gore to work so hard to prepare the field of public opinion about global warming — and then leave the critical “harvest” of turning that opinion into concrete action to others.

So I think that, yes, this could be the opening salvo of Gore 2008 — and that there’s nothing wrong with that: the activist outlook of the movie itself demands it. And between Gore’s message, the efforts of others, and the steady accumulation of facts on the ground about global warming, there could be a voting public rightly ready and willing to entertain a “global warming” candidate.

“An Inconvenient Truth” could prove similar to the Douglas-Lincoln debates or Reagan’s nomination speech for Ford in 1976: a “Great Communication” planting the seeds for future victory in the ashes of defeat. If all goes well with the public opinion he wants to affect, Gore will have laid the foundation for a landmark, issues-driven presidential campaign that would be truly his own.*

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* What’s more, it’s not as if Gore has nothing else worth saying; he’s been a steady opponent of the Iraq war, and made a memorable Martin Luther King Day speech about Bush administration lawlessness.

5 Responses to “The Great Communication: Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and 2008”

  1. eRobin Says:

    He’s our shadow president.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    That’s a great way of putting it. I think Kerry is bucking for that job, too, but Gore is more noticeable, because his positions are more emphatic.

  3. Cricket Says:

    I too thought the film was powerful and convincing, and have faith that that tipping point mentioned to David Corn is indeed at hand.
    But I’m glad Gore’s doing what he’s doing *outside* of the White House. While I’d give my eye teeth to be living in a just alternative universe, with Gore in his second term as prez, I’m not sure he’d be doing the whiz-bang job he’s doing now to warn us about global warming.
    First, he’d be beholden to those funding his campaign, which could well include automakers and other entrench interests (is that why, as vice prez, he did nothing to have CAFE standards raised?). Second, he’d be subject to political pressures from all directions, including aforementioned automakers and others.
    Let’s just pretend he’s wrapped up those two terms he should have been at the helm, and consider what he’s doing now as the same kind of post-White House legacy building in which Clinton is currently engaged, at such great benefit to humanity. Look what Clinton has done since he left office to fight AIDS, and compare it to what he did in office. Gore could be breaking similarly extraordinary ground in fighting global warming.

  4. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Maybe you’re right about what he would have done as president. But even if he hasn’t been utterly radicalized, I think he’s learned from and been changed by his years in the wilderness since 2000.
    You probably have a point about CAFE — I don’t know what role Gore played in CAFE policy in the Clinton years. But CAFE is not the only or even necessarily the best way to address pollution; as I recall, Gore supported a carbon tax and emissions trading, which seem to me to be two important and even more effective ways to go in curbing CO2 and other pollution. (I think CAFE is a compromise solution that gets gamed by automakers: build a few great gas mileage cars so they can keep their SUV lines open — and turn emissions policy into a fight about CAFE rather than more fundamental policy changes. I’m for tougher CAFE standards, but I don’t think they’re a litmus test.)
    Basically, I think some of the US measures to combat global warming will have to be national political decisions, and those will take presidents, congressmembers, governors, etc. to implement, more so than even AIDS policy. So far, Gore looks like one of the few national figures to address this issue. But if others address this issue as strongly as Gore is doing, I’ll give them a listen.

  5. eRobin Says:

    Gore supported a carbon tax and emissions trading, which seem to me to be two important and even more effective ways to go in curbing CO2 and other pollution.
    I heard a report on some NPR show that explained how carbon emissions trading is failing in Europe because corporations lied about their minimum emissions. It screwed up the whole system which is now in jeopardy. Foxes, meet henhouse.
    (I think CAFE is a compromise solution that gets gamed by automakers: build a few great gas mileage cars so they can keep their SUV lines open — and turn emissions policy into a fight about CAFE rather than more fundamental policy changes. I’m for tougher CAFE standards, but I don’t think they’re a litmus test.)
    At least it puts the power back in the hands of consumers a little bit because they can choose the more efficient cars.
    Are you looking forward to Who Killed the Electric Car? I am, but I know it’s going to be depressing as hell.

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