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Al Gore Explains "America’s Alternate Universe"

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Al Gore’s Stab at Explaining “America’s Alternate Universe”

Former Vice-President Al Gore gave a speech recently that ranged from cultural commentary to political philosophy to a prescription for saving American democracy. He covered everything except the real reason he lost to George W. Bush in 2000, and how it relates to present global events.

Gore begins the speech by rhetorically asking, “How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered ‘an alternate universe’?” That’s an admission of a fact, one that is perceived from abroad only through the distorting prism of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. More importantly, it’s a provocative question deserving comprehensive study.

However, after illustrating his point by saying that “on the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and asked: ‘Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?’ ” Gore plunges headlong into obscure references and hackneyed explanations.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Al Gore, and am certain he would have made a better president than John Kerry, and an immensely better one than George Bush. But his speech (, raises far more questions than it resolves.

Gore’s analysis doesn’t come anywhere near explaining his botched campaign, nor his obtuse post-election strategy (which effectively handed Bush the election that Gore had probably won). Instead his explanation for ‘America’s alternate universe’ spans the spectrum from the credible (“our democracy has been hallowed out…the opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created”) to the forgettable (“ideas…no longer mediate between wealth and power”).

Ten years ago in America if you said you were a philosopher you were sure to hear stunned silence and see slacked jaw. Now everyone is a philosopher, including Al Gore.

In describing what has gone wrong in America, Gore blithely quotes the German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describing the present political process as ''the refeudalization of the public sphere.”

“The printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, [whereas in] the feudal system wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant…and their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.”

Completing his vaguely triumphalist picture of the American experiment, Gore declares, “Self-government was understood [by the founding fathers] to be the instrument with which the people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Enlightenment enshrined a new sovereign: the Rule of Reason…which under-girded and strengthened the rule of law.”

“Rule of reason” and “knowledge is power” are tired philosophical themes. Adhering to them, and trying to resurrect the Enlightenment ideals of America’s founders, is not just quaint; it doesn’t begin to explain how “our democracy has been hallowed out.”

Al Gore is a world order behind, and four commercial airliners as missiles short, of explaining “why we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens.”

In 1991 Al Gore was arguably the most powerful member of the Senate. Bush Senior was in the White House, having been head of the CIA before serving as vice-president under Ronald Reagan, who supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Bush the First signaled Hussein that he would turn a blind eye to America’s old ally invading another ally, Kuwait, and then prosecuted the war. Gore, after struggling with his conscience for a few weeks, voted for the war, taking just enough senators with him to pass the resolution.

Bush Senior said he would have launched Desert Storm anyway, but Gore’s vote meant that the nation supported the evil doing of the first Bush Administration. It was at that point that the death of America’s soul occurred.

As many misguided adventures in the Middle East and Latin America as this country had authored up to that point, Gulf War I was the straw that broke the spirit’s back in America. For that reason, I said then that Gore would never be president.

What does it mean for a nation to lose its soul? It means that the essential intactness of its people has been shattered. There can be no return to the way things were, to the imperfect order prior to the spiritual collapse.

However, if Gulf War I under Bush Senior was evil, and was the straw that broke the American spirit, what is Gulf War II under Bush Junior? Reflect on the drumbeat of death that the present Bush Administration has made of Iraq, the numbing regularity of suicide bombings that no longer even register on the emotional seismograph of most people.

Bush Senior, with Al Gore’s senatorial imprimatur, killed the American spirit. Bush Junior is about killing the human spirit.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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