Gore: What if?

A little over a year ago, for U.S. vice-president and almost-president Al Gore commented on how the U.S. and beyond would be different if he had been elected president in 2000.

When asked how the United States would have been different if he had become president, though, he had harsh criticism for Mr. Bush’s policies.
“We would not have invaded a country that didn’t attack us,” he said, referring to Iraq. “We would not have taken money from the working families and given it to the most wealthy families.”
“We would not be trying to control and intimidate the news media. We would not be routinely torturing people,” Gore said. “We would be a different country.” cbs news

Though Gore’s comments are over a year old, I recently lapsed into this same topic of conversation with a friend of mine.

We have all heard people say either that one person cannot make a difference in the world or that, in fact, one person can make a difference and impact a community, society, or planet. The basic conclusion that my friend and I made is that Al Gore is one of those people who could have made a huge difference to the planet had he been elected president of the United States in 2000. In the true spirit of counterfactual history, Gore was emphatic in stating that the U.S. would be a very different place.

It is difficult to say how Gore would have directed American policy and interventions after 9/11 — if it had still happened — but it is safe to assume that he would not have been driven by the same familial legacy to invade Iraq. Given Gore’s history of leading international negotiations to achieve multilateral agreements, including the Kyoto Treaty, it is also likely that he would have had more respect for international bodies like the U.N. and avoided ‘with-us-or-against-us’ ultimatums. You could argue that Gore participated in several unilateral actions during his time as vice-president, but even the bombing of Kosovo was done as part of NATO.

Gore probably would have taken military action against Afghanistan and this would have remained the main front in the war on terror. The mess that is Iraq today would be non-existent. Also, with the continued isolation of Iraq and no major conflict in the Middle East, efforts could have been focused on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to create sustainable peace in the region. Instead of increased stability there is drastically increased instability. Gore would not have had the close ties to the Saudi royal family that Bush has and he could have pushed for greater democratic reforms in this autocratic state. This type of change will lead to greater popular participation in Saudi Arabia and will mitigate the rise of radical violence as the major effort at societal change in the kingdom. Gore would not have created the Big Brother laws that now invade the privacy of all Americans in the interest of national security. You don’t build fences to avoid attack, you try to address why you are being attacked at all. Gore also would not have cut taxes as Bush has done. With the cost savings in the billions from not invading Iraq and the stable government revenues from previous taxation levels, the Gore White House could have seriously tackled the astronomical U.S. debt, provided expanded services to the American people, expanded Medicare, improved education and invested in an economy that is rapidly being caught by China. Instead of international instability and a gargantuan debt, America would be safer and stronger.

The particulars of actions and interventions aside, the real difference would have been realized through his personality. Gore has an intense respect for nature and an understanding that business and the economy are important, but no more important than environmental sustainability. George W. Bush has surrendered environmental protections in favour of business interests.

Al Gore was part of a leadership team with Bill Clinton that was generally respected around the world for thinking socially at home and relatively responsibility abroad. Both Clinton and Gore travel extensively and are greeted warmly because of their interest in the major social and environmental issues that confront the world. Bush is primarily concerned with surrendering long-term economic sustainability, environmental integrity and international relationships in favour of unilateral action aimed at securing America’s short-term security and the interests of the wealthy.

Bush deals in arrogance. Gore favours respect. Bush wants to protect big business. Gore wants to protect the planet.

Basically, the world would be very much different today if Al Gore had been elected in 2000 because the dangerous and destabilizing hatred that much of the world now feels for the U.S. as embodied by George W. Bush would likely be much less.

Given their actions and attitudes since 2000, it is fair to say that Gore and Bush would have charted very different courses as the American president. The difference in the world with Gore as president can only be imagined, but the effect would have been substantial. It is amazing the difference that one person can make.

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