Among Dems today, you've got plenty of Clinton loyalists and plenty of Gore loyalists. But not too many Clinton-Gore loyalists. In fact, hardly any. This is not just because they're so different personally. It's also because they now both carry a whole theory of Democratic politics trailing behind them like a string of tin cans trailing behind a newlyweds' car.
To Clintonites, of course, Clinton provided Gore with might may have been the most well executed assist in political history: a roaring economy, a troubled opposition party, every negative social indicator down, every positive one up, etc. etc. etc.
To the Gore folks, Gore never really had a chance, given the bad feelings over impeachment. Clinton, through his own reckless indulgence and irresponsibility, screwed things up for all Democrats in 2000 and particularly for Al Gore. Even the party's problems over social and cultural issues in the heartland -- that's really just about Clinton getting it on with Monica.
My problem is that I am a Clinton-Gore loyalist. I really, really like both these guys. Why that is I'm not completely certain, since they're so very different, and in some sense liking the one should make liking the other an impossibility.
Perhaps Clinton appeals to my inner Clinton (protean, reckless, ingenious, indomitable, always waiting till the last minute) and Gore appeals to my inner Gore (clunky rectitude, loyal, genuine, self-mocking, ardent, serious, earnest, shy). Okay, let's stop there. This is getting a bit too personal and more than a little embarrassing.
Back to the topic at hand.
Like so many long-standing differences of interpretation, the truth is that both of these theories of what happened in 2000 are true. Or at least both are true in parts. It's a bad sign that more in the party don't recognize this. And it's something that needs to get worked out if Dems are going to be able to think clearly about 2004.
We'll be saying much, much more about this.