[Seri column]It’s too late for an Al Gore revivalAs the nomination process for the Democratic presidential candidates wears on, with the mud flying ever more freely and the outcome seemingly blurrier with each passing day, the prospect of a Gore campaign has re-emerged. Some senior Democrats are now touting Al Gore as the only candidate who can unite an increasingly fractured party and win the presidential election in November. While this would have been a good idea when all of the candidates first entered the race, the window of opportunity for Al Gore has now closed.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been campaigning for more than a year in the closest and most widely participated presidential campaign in decades. As of last week, 17 million more Democrats had voted in this year’s presidential primaries than in 2000. In 17 of the first 24 primaries, the voter turnout was higher than it had been in the last 40 years, illustrating how inspired voters are by this election. A spike in interest by younger voters has lifted the turnout, particularly among Democrats, as they have so far made up 14 percent of the Democratic electorate. In 2004 they made up only 9 percent of the total electorate, and in 2000 only 8 percent.
Each Democrat has had a similar degree of support in fund-raising, as Obama reportedly received a record-breaking primary campaign total of $192.7 million compared to Clinton’s total of $173.8 million by the end of February. John McCain reportedly only raised $60.2 million by then. The crucial point to take from these figures is the depth of interest and involvement by Democratic voters in this year’s presidential nomination process.
Voters have shown their support in record numbers, both financially and in the voting booths, and an endorsement by the Democratic National Committee for Gore as the presidential nominee at this point would be an affront to Clinton, Obama and the voters.
The Democratic Party began digging themselves into a hole the minute they failed to uphold the decision not to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan. Those states had defied DNC regulations by moving their primary dates ahead. Consequently, the Democratic presidential nomination process is now shrouded in uncertainty, with everyone waiting for the DNC to resolve the matter. At this point, however, any resolution will likely succeed only in fracturing the party further and building support for McCain.
That’s not to say that Gore would not have been a successful candidate in this year’s election — in fact, as the candidates began declaring their candidacy last year, Gore supporters came out in droves to try to encourage the former vice president to run. Now, however, the atmosphere has changed. Nominating Gore at the Democratic convention this summer would undermine both the Clinton and Obama campaigns, their supporters and the primary election process.
The DNC would run the risk of further alienating voters who may at one time have backed Gore, but who would balk at essentially having their presidential candidate chosen for them. The situation the DNC would be attempting to avoid, driving voters to support the Republican candidate rather than shifting their support from one Democratic candidate to another, would likely arise anyway.
For Korea, a Gore presidency would be nothing to shy away from. Gore has been a proponent of free trade and was instrumental in passing Nafta in 1993, which would bode well for the future of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
Gore has also been highly critical of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and has highlighted the importance of international cooperation while condemning U.S. unilateralism, indicating he would likely continue to pursue diplomacy with North Korea through the six-party framework.
Gore’s primary focus since 2000, however, has been on climate change. He would likely put pressure on Korea to begin reducing carbon emissions sooner rather than later. Under the Kyoto Protocol, South Korea will not be required to meet mandated emissions cuts until 2013.
There is no simple answer, but the key to a successful resolution lies in implementing clear and transparent voting by superdelegates, who act as free agents and could hold the decisive swing votes at the party convention without DNC interference. In the end, some Democratic voters may support McCain anyway, but the DNC risks alienating far larger numbers of voters by taking independent actions contrary to the wishes of the majority of Democratic voters. Gore, for his part, has stated that it is very unlikely he would ever run for president again. For the sake of the DNC’s credibility and the legitimacy of the nominating system, he should not waver.
*The writer is a research associate in the Global Studies Department at Samsung Economic Research Institute.
by Kaitlin Bonenberger