In Al Gore's just-released book, Assault on Reason, he argues that the Bush Administration has used "the language and politics of fear" to "drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest." The key phase here is "the public interest." For too long, the public interest in America, and in many other countries as well (democracies included), has been a function of unending and political compromise. Bipartisanship is held up as a positive value, when in fact it too often means institutional paralysis and special-interest corruption.
Having seen his passion and personality get filtered through the political process and yes, having witnessed his defeat in the 2000 election I believe Al Gore is tired of compromise. Certain issues are not negotiable: torture as a means of fighting terrorism, ignoring Global Warming, standing by idly while millions of Americans continue to live in poverty.
A warning to all those readers who do not like politics mixed with design, because frankly, I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate the two. Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.
Designers know that there are many possible outcomes to a design scenario, and understand implicitly the fact that a design problem will be handled differently in the hands of different designers. But the one method that seldom, if ever works is compromise. Let's make it pink, or rounded, or retro, or hip or all of the above because hey, we can't decide! On the contrary, the best and most effective design solutions are driven by a point-of-view not by compromise and at some point, no matter what the project, every designer worth anything derives his or her strength from being willing to take a stand. Great design does not, in fact, come from compromise; it comes from strength of character, persistence of vision, and expertise.
Meanwhile, among the most prominent issues we face as designers (and as human beings) is the question of sustainability. Ultimately, this single topic is worth changing the way we practice design, the way we think about successful design, and the modes by which we collaborate. Saying something is fundamental, at the core of contemporary design, is a radical shift. Al Gore has embraced this radical shift. There is no compromise on the environment, and one can only imagine the differences in policy if he were President from the Kyoto Protocols to the EPA's policies on emissions.
Designers are trained to have the ability to envision different outcomes to see, quite literally, different possibilities for the future. It's difficult, perhaps impossible to imagine a fundamentally different future under a McCain or a Clinton or an Obama administration. (What it is easy to envision is an even more political minefield.) But there's something about Al Gore's commitment to the future to saving the planet and protecting the future of our children that's compelling no matter who you are, no matter what your race, gender, nationality or your political leanings. Is it naive to cast a vote based on the candidate who most believes in the future, everyone's future? Or is it, quite frankly, necessary?
This plea is merely one among many efforts to Draft Al Gore for President (those curious can look here, here, here, here and here) and among some progressive Democrats, there's even been talk of a Gore/Obama ticket. Everywhere is talk of Al Gore: the movie, the book, the Oscar, the Nobel Prize. And there have been passionate arguments in the press, including one by James Traub who recently wrote, "Al Gore has attained what you can only call prophetic status; and he has done so by acting as he could not, or would not, as a candidate saying precisely what he believes, and saying it with clarity, passion, intellectual mastery and even, sometimes, wit. Everywhere he goes, people urge him, almost beg him, to run for the presidency."
Finally, David Remnick's editorial in The New Yorker, written last March, casts a Gore Presidency as an alternate universe. "It is worse than painful," he writes, "to reflect on how much better off the United States and the world would be today if the outcome of the 2000 election had been permitted to correspond with the wishes of the electorate. The attacks of September 11, 2001, would likely not have been avoided, though there is ample evidence, in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere, that Gore and his circle were far more alert to the threat of Islamist terrorism than Bush and his cabinet. But can anyone seriously doubt that a Gore Administration would have meant, well, an alternate universe, in which, say, American troops were sent on a necessary mission in Afghanistan but not on a mistaken and misbegotten one in Iraq; the fate of the earth, not the fate of oil-company executives, was the priority of the Environmental Protection Agency; civil liberties and diplomacy were subjects of attention rather than of derision; torture found no place or rationale?"
Say what you will, but the very concept of considering an alternate universe is, on some level, what designers do for a living. And at the end of the day, whether you're a designer or not, living is something we all do. Maybe Gore can help us do it better. And I, for one, truly believe he can.
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