NARDI: Civic Courage



Tom Nardi

If you don’t make a habit of watching “Current TV,” either on TV or on the Web, you should. Along with PBS and blogs, it provides a great alternative to corporate media that all too often misses the point. Importantly, what drew me to “Current” recently was a statement by Al Gore.

Now Gore obviously has not been silent since his election in 2000. But his “Current” video sent Gore into a new field: marriage equality. The former vice president said unequivocally that gay couples should not only receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples, but that they should be able to be officially married as well. That makes him one of, if not the, most high-profile political figures to support marriage equality in the United States.

He joins notably New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome. While I’m glad that Gore has thrown his support behind a just cause, the endorsement made me ponder a small question: Why isn’t this man running for president? After all, it isn’t every day that tens of thousands of people pay to take out a full page ad in The New York Times asking you to lead them.

It seems every presidential election we come down to two candidates who leave us with one aching, inescapable question: Are these the best candidates America has to offer? Unfortunately, we are headed in that direction again.

On the Republican side of the aisle, we have three frontrunners, none of whom deserve the office. First, Mike Huckabee. Among many other problems stemming from his being a Christofascist, he doesn’t believe in evolution. I think it’s safe to say that the leader of the free world should probably believe in science.

We also have Willard Mitt Romney, who was a liberal Democrat calling himself a Republican until he wanted to be president. Anyone who can say, with the absolute and unwavering self-assuredness of someone telling a bald-faced lie, that cutting the capital gains tax will help middle class Americans, is a disgrace to rational thought. Could he possibly believe Reaganomics worked?

John McCain treats war as if it is a joke. We should certainly be candid about the threats our country faces, and we shouldn’t be unwilling to fight for the things we love most dearly, but we shouldn’t consider sending young men and women – potentially you and I – to die as a primary option on the table.

Lest you think me more of a partisan than I am, I am nothing but upset with the Democrats. In a primary that fielded some of the most qualified men in recent memory – Joe Biden and Chris Dodd come easily to mind – we have found ourselves with the prospect of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Anyone who thinks, as Hillary does, that the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment does anything other than authorize war with Iran hasn’t been paying attention. Clinton, though, at least stands for things. I’m not sure I can say the same for Obama.

So you might be able to imagine my frustration with Gore. Here’s a man who’s been right about virtually everything, years before the rest of us caught on. Everybody knows what Gore has done for advancing the cause of dealing with climate change.

He was right that the United States shouldn’t have preemptively invaded Iraq in 2000. He was right that we needed to consider environmental and labor standards when negotiating trade agreements. You know all that fair-trade coffee you like to drink, Villanova? Gore supported fair trade before most of us were in high school.

Now we have people saying how courageous Gore is to come out in support of gay marriage. While I appreciate the sentiment, I have to offer a rejoinder. Kucinich saying on a national TV debate that each of his esteemed colleagues is wrong, that gay couples do deserve equality, is courageous.

Newsome, using the power of his office to commit civil disobedience and marry couples because it was the right thing to do, is courageous. Gore put out a video on the Internet. Which one of these things is not like the other?

I’m like most Democrats. If Gore jumped in the race, I’d do everything I could to help elect him. One of my underclassman friends told me he’d go so far as to take a semester off to help Gore’s campaign.

Gore has done more to push this nation in the right direction in the last eight years than any private citizen ever has. But if he wants to be a courageous voice for justice, he should do the courageous thing and get back in the ring.


Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].