Few Democratic influencers with an interest in preserving their futures within the party will go on the record questioning Hillary Clinton’s viability as a presidential candidate, but plenty are providing background quotes in which they express reservations about the party’s presumed 2016 nominee.
In the press, some on the left are wondering whether it has been smart for the president’s party to put all their 2016 eggs in Hillary’s basket, and who may succeed her if her nascent candidacy collapses in on itself.
“How dumb is it for Democrats to count so completely on this one person?” asked US News columnist Jill Lawrence after conceding that Clinton’s ability and resiliency may yet save her. “What is their Plan B?”
“If Clinton folds under political attack or has an unexpected health emergency, absent a bigger and better field, Democrats might as well hand Republicans the White House with a bow on top,” she continued.
“This Hillary-or-bust attitude bespeaks a certain complacency: Democrats have been getting a little too used to ‘being the organized party’ for once and rallying around a single candidate, while Republicans struggle with an unwieldy double-digit field,” Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher observed.
He went on to expand on what a post-Clinton 2016 field might look like, and his conclusion – that the Democratic Party would fail to collapse entirely – is certainly correct. Scher considered a variety of Clinton alternatives, many of whom have made their presidential aspirations clear while others continue to maintain that they have no interest in a White House bid. But one figure he failed to consider is former Vice President Al Gore.
And why should he? Gore has been out of politics for nearly a decade and a half. Well, no trip to Iowa in the months before the start of a non-incumbent presidential year would be complete without some baseless speculation, and that’s precisely where Gore is headed.
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which will be held May 5-7, will bring together a select group of individuals committed to addressing the impacts of climate change and implementing the solutions that will define us to future generations. This training is an opportunity to join a global network of leaders committed to solving the climate crisis.
Gore is the founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project and he will address the impacts of climate change and implementing solutions that will make an impact on future generations.
Over the course of the three day event other speakers will include scientists, strategists, communicators, and technical specialists in the area of climate change. Other speakers will include Ken Berlin, president and CEO of the Climate Reality Project and Mario Molina, director of the Climate Reality Project.
Now, let’s get this out of the way: I don’t think Gore is interested in another presidential campaign, nor would he likely be willing to surrender his lucrative career as a climate alarmist. For the sake of the thought experiment, though, it’s also probable that the present incarnation of Al Gore would capture the liberal zeitgeist and speak to the Democratic soul far more so than he did in 2000. In fact, Gore would probably prove more appealing to the Democratic base than Hillary Clinton.
In the 15 years that have elapsed since Gore last mounted a White House bid, the Democratic Party has grown markedly more liberal. Al Gore, too, has tacked to the left along with his party’s ideological center of gravity (There would be no Joe Liebermans on Gore’s short list of potential running mates). Hillary Clinton’s ideological moorings, meanwhile, have remained relatively static.
In 2006, Clinton was described as the standard-bearer for her party’s “liberal wing.” Her chief competitors for the nomination in 2008 were thought to be politicians like Virginian Sen. Mark Warner who represented the Democratic Party’s moderates. The political class learned just 18 months later that the Democratic base of presidential primary voters had little use for moderates.
Today, though, Clinton is considered a representative of the party’s centrist wing. She is seen by the party’s activist class as too close to the wealthy, Wall Street traders, and business leaders. What’s more, her calculated hawkishness on foreign policy matters remains out of step with the party’s grassroots enthusiasts.
Gore, meanwhile, has rebranded himself a progressive in the years that followed his 2000 defeat. Moreover, his embrace of the issue of catastrophic climate change has proven prescient insofar as he was ahead of curve of his party generally. According to polls, the Democratic rank and file are apt to view the issue of climate change as one of if not the single most important matter facing the country today.
Recent Pew Research Center polling revealed that a majority of Democratic partisans now see the threat of climate change as a “top priority for the federal government.” The general matter of “protecting the environment” is a key issue for nearly two-thirds of self-described Democrats. While their concerns are not shared by independents or Republicans, the matter of climate change would be a galvanizing issue in the event that Democrats had a competitive presidential primary.
Only a progressive like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is best positioned to own the issue of poverty and inequality, is perhaps better able to sell a candidacy to the Democratic Party’s presidential primary voters.
All of this speculation is likely just that. Al Gore is probably not running for president in 2016, even if Hillary Clinton vacates the position of presumed frontrunner. But if he wanted to relight a fire under his presidential ambitions, Gore would find that a significant constituency within his party is probably eager to give him another shot.