Speaking of George W. Bush, Al Gore, and political conventions of yore, today is the tenth anniversary of the commencement of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, held at the TD Garden (then known as the FleetCenter) in Boston, Massachusetts. On the first night of the convention, 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore delivered a tremendous speech:
Nothing against John Kerry, but looking back, one wishes that Gore had pursued a rematch with George W. Bush, despite the understandable concern about possibly being ripped off a second time. As Gore himself noted that night:
The second lesson from 2000 is this: What happens in a presidential election matters. A lot. The outcome profoundly affects the lives of all 293 million Americans, and people in the rest of the world, too. The choice of who is president affects your life and your family’s future.
And never has that been more true than in 2004, because let’s face it our country faces deep challenges. These challenges we now confront are not Democratic or Republican challenges; they are American challenges that we all must overcome together as one people, as one nation.
And it is in that spirit, that I sincerely ask those watching at home tonight who supported President Bush four years ago: did you really get what you expected from the candidate you voted for? Is our country more united today? Or more divided? Has the promise of compassionate conservatism been fulfilled? Or do those words now ring hollow?
For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all? For example, did you expect the largest deficits in history, year after year? One right after another? And the loss of more than a million jobs?
By the way, I know about the bad economy. I was the first one laid off. And while it’s true that new jobs are being created, they’re just not as good as the jobs people have lost. And incidentally, that’s been true for me too. Unfortunately, this is no joke for millions of Americans. And the real solutions require us to transcend partisanship. So that’s one reason why, even though we meet here as Democrats, we believe this is a time to reach beyond our party lines to Republicans as well.
And I also ask tonight for the consideration and the help of those who supported a third party candidate in 2000. I urge you to ask yourselves this question: Do you still believe that there was no difference between the candidates? Are you troubled by the erosion of America’s most basic civil liberties? Are you worried that our environmental laws are being weakened and dismantled to allow vast increases in pollution that are contributing to a global climate crisis? No matter how you voted in the last election, these are profound problems that all voters must take into account this Nov. 2.
And of course, no challenge is more critical than the situation we confront in Iraq. Regardless of your opinion at the beginning of this war, isn’t it now abundantly obvious that the way this war has been managed by the administration has gotten us into very serious trouble? Wouldn’t we be better off with a new president who hasn’t burned his bridges to our allies, and who could rebuild respect for America in the world? Isn’t cooperation with other nations crucial to solving our dilemma in Iraq? Isn’t it also critical to defeating the terrorists?
If Gore had defeated Bush in a rematch, we would have ended the Iraq War sooner. We would not have dithered as a superstorm fueled by carbon pollution destroyed New Orleans. We would not have had two right-wing judicial activists on the Supreme Court. We would not have been embarrassed the way we were in the mid-2000s.
One thing I’m not going to do is start praising the wisdom of the electorate and bowing to its judgment. The outcome of this election is bad news for anyone who cares about a more just, equitable, peaceful, and diverse society. It’s bad news for gays and lesbians, poor people, scared single women who need an abortion, soldiers, you name it. It’s good news if you make more than $200,000 a year.
That outcome could have been avoided if Gore had defeated Bush in a rematch. I completely understand why Gore wasn’t interested in potentially being jobbed twice in four years. Nevertheless, one can’t help wishing he had given it another go—we could have finally had President Gore, for all we know.
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