Mooney on Gore's Message and Impact

In a new regular column over at DesmogBlog, Chris Mooney elaborates on the arguments first offered here. We should applaud Gore, writes Chris, but we also need to draw on data and evidence in order to accurately evaluate his impact and consider what else needs to be done:

However, there's one arena in which we seriously ought to criticize the Gore communications juggernaut--it just isn't the realm of scientific accuracy. Rather, the true issue is the one that Matthew Nisbet has been highlighting, and what I might term the "Gore paradox": Gore is our top mass media communicator on climate change, and yet Gore turns off many audiences that we definitely need to reach. This fact puts anyone who cares about the climate issue in an awkward position: On the one hand, we must applaud Gore for drawing dramatic new attention to the crisis; and yet at the same time, we must lament that too many Americans distrust Gore and simply won't listen to him.

Because while it's funny as hell to talk about "Gore Derangement Syndrome," the truth is that we need the people who currently suffer from this malady to join the climate cause. And Gore, because of his immense political baggage, because of the many preconceptions that persist about him, seems unable to reach them.

The data on this are clear and stark. As Nisbet explains: "Despite Gore's breakthrough success with Inconvenient Truth, public opinion today is little different from what it was in May 2006 when the movie was released." Gore is mobilizing the base, and Gore is generating tremendous media attention, but he doesn't seem to be winning converts. A huge gap still exists between the two parties' rank and file in terms of how seriously they take the global warming threat.

And that should hardly be surprising: As Nisbet further notes, thanks largely to our partisan politics and in particular to the bruising 2000 election and Florida recall, only half of the U.S. public has a favorable opinion of Gore, while only 24 percent of Republicans think he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. If you think about it, that makes perfect sense: Millions of conservative Americans spent the 2000 election season bitching about Gore on a daily basis, and then vigorously pulled their levers against him, and then bitched some more about why he wouldn't step down and let Bush be president during the Florida recall.

Fair or unfair, right or wrong, on some level Gore may never be able to overcome that political baggage.

That's the Gore paradox, and it may be the Gore tragedy as well. He is awesome, he is a hero, he should have been president--and yet thanks to our goddamn partisan politics, when it comes to communicating on global warming he still may not be good enough.

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