Garance Franke-Ruta reviews the Gores’ new books for The American Prospect. More than simply a review, the author considers what these two books mean politically; they are quite different than standard campaign fare. We don’t know for sure that Gore will run in 2004, although I think he surely will. In any case, Gore appears to be shaking off the constraints of standard campaign/political practice (or, perhaps, making it appear so).
I said earlier that I thought the book tour was a good idea for a man seeking to reassert himself into the fray. And the topic of family is, I believe, exactly the right foundation because of the metaphorical connection between family and politics. Of the book of photographs, Garance Franke-Ruta says:
For a coffee-table book on the American family, this is pretty hip, edgy stuff. For a politician reaching out to a mass audience, it is completely unheard of — no political consultant who didn’t want to be sued for malpractice would ever approve such a thing. It is so unusual, in fact, that it’s the one thing Al Gore was never able to be during the 2000 campaign: cool.
If the Cleavers and the Nelsons are no longer metonymies for the average American family experience, then this idea that the photo book and the treatise might be wrong for a mass audience may be ill-considered. And this could mean that a competent consultant would indeed be comfortable with these books. I think this part of the review speaks to this issue:
In Joined at the Heart, Gore recognizes that we do not live the lives we hope to; we live the lives we can. And that very often, we need help from government to mitigate the external factors that combine with our own internal limitations to create family collapse.
Help from the government is a political issue. Lived experience, among other factors, shapes our ideologies. Has Gore tapped into an undercurrent of new reality? Time will tell.