Prom time for Al Gore?
By Kimberley Jane Wilson
It's November and the wild roller coaster ride known as the Clinton Administration is just about finished. Whether you love Bill Clinton or hate him doesn't matter now. His era will belong to the history books. In just a few days the Presidential election will be-mercifully so-over and it's starting to look, as my late grandmother would say, like Al Gore is fixin' to loose.
From the moment we saw him slap that astonishingly artificial looking kiss on his wife, Tipper at the Democratic Convention I knew the Gore campaign was headed for trouble. Sitting on the couch with me my husband commented, "He looks like he's trying to suck the life force out of her!" Indeed the kiss did remind me of an old science fiction movie made in England called "Life Force." It was about vampires from space only instead of draining their victim's blood these space vampire's kisses sucked out their lives and souls. We laughed then and we've been laughing ever since.
When Gore, plastered in heavy pink makeup and posing like a Calvin Klein model appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine a great many people laughed. I've yet to find a single woman who will admit to finding the picture attractive and so far, the most common reaction I've seen in men looking at the picture is a wrinkled nose and a few choice words that are, alas unprintable.
When voters are laughing with a candidate he or she can be reasonably confidant but if voters are laughing at a candidate it's time to panic.
The Vice President must sense this because in the last couple of days he's been tearing around the country going from one black church to another instructing black ministers to tell their flocks to vote the correct way or the mean old Republicans will set them back fifty years. These visits usually set my nerves on edge because I've never liked the idea of any politicians peddling their wares in church. To my mind it smacks of the New Testament description of the moneylenders and merchants desecrating the Temple and I really don't like it when the politicians take up time that should be dedicated to saving my soul with lectures on how I should vote.
Except for the traditional visit to the NAACP convention and the usual polite nod to Jesse Jackson Gore really hasn't had too much to do with black folks for most of this campaign. Donna Brazille, is officially running the campaign but we really haven't seen or heard about her for many months. Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney commented that Gore has "a low Negro tolerance" and even if you wince at the way she expressed it facts seem to be on her side. I don't see any prominent or otherwise black advisors on the Gore staff and it's only now that he's on the verge of loosing that he appears to remember the importance of the black vote.
Al Gore has ignored us for most of the campaign and advisers now feel that a price will be paid for that neglect. In states like Florida and Louisiana the effort to get out the black votes has shifted into overdrive. The NAACP is spending more money on it's get out to vote push than ever before in the history of the organization. Suddenly at the last minute the Democrats have discovered that they need black people if they expect to win.
I think it's too late. The enthusiasm level for Gore was never exactly high but now it's lukewarm. There are no Gore/Lieberman posters in the yards of my friends and neighbors. At church and social gatherings I don't hear anyone, even folks whom I know work on Capitol Hill talking about the election. Mention Gore and Leiberman and most people mutter that they are voting against George W. Bush or that they are holding their noses but will vote for Albert Gore because he's the Democrat. So far I've met several people who have announced that they're staying home on Election Day.
The Gore campaign in it's present state reminds me of an over confident teenaged boy who assumes that every girl in his class wants to go to the prom with him. As the prom gets closer and closer he's horrified to discover that the girls he's interested already have dates. Finally with the big event just a day or so away he's forced to go the one girl he never thought he'd have to ask and is rejected.
Election night is going to be very interesting. Will the black voter "go to the prom" with Gore or will they find other things to do on November 7th? I don't know what's going to happen and neither does the Gore campaign. In the mean time Al will run to visit another black church.
Kimberly Wilson is a writer and commentator and an associate of the African American leadership network Project 21.
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