How different would the United States be today if Al Gore had ... well, if Al Gore had what in 2000? Oh yes, I remember. He won the popular vote and was on a possible (likely) path to victory in the Florida recount (Gore was gaining) when the Supreme Court preempted democracy, stopped the recount and awarded the presidency to Mr. Bush.
I didn't talk much about the 2000 race at the time — I was a senior advisor to Gore — because Al Gore made it clear he wanted his gracious concession speech pledging support to the new president to be the final word. And I don't talk much about it today; 12 years is a long time.
But memories of 2000 are now part of this year's political dialogue. In a new Obama ad, we see images of the 2000 recount with a voice-over reminding voters that their vote — every vote — truly counts. The ad implies that only a few hundred votes separated the nation from greater peace and prosperity and the debacle of the Bush years. I think the ad will be effective as a complement to the Obama ground game in its crucial and perhaps decisive effort to motivate the Democratic base.
As you can imagine, the ad strikes a chord. While Gore moved on years ago and doesn't indulge in this kind of speculation, I can’t help thinking about: what if? Gore would indeed have made very different choices from Bush, and the country would have been better for it. Gore would have invested the surplus in making Social Security solvent, given a tax cut to the middle class, invested more in education, infrastructure, medical research technology and, yes, green energy. (Despite what you may have read, Gore's interest in green energy dates back to his college days and continues in a straight line throughout his 25 years in public life. He certainly didn't discover it as an investor.)
Oh, and the war in Iraq. The best indicator there is what Al Gore said in a speech before the vote on the resolution authorizing the war. He called it the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." He also predicted that if we pulled forces from Afghanistan to go into Iraq, we would not only miss the target but prolong the war there. He said, “Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another.”
So forgive me. Last time I'll say it: Elections matter.