Dear American Statesman, Mr. Al Gore,
I know you would like to be president, and a lot of us would like that too. I also know that campaign politics is not any longer to your taste, and that all your so-called political advisers will probably want to talk you into the same methods of political campaigning everyone else is doing. We all (even the advisers) know this is stupid, but no one seems to have a better idea - except me and I am giving it to you for free. Be grateful - you'll never get better free advice anywhere (you could of course pay me, I need the money, but I'm also not going to hold my breath).
Your present stature (well earned) is as a Statesman. Don't give it up to become just another ambitious politician. It is possible to conduct an election campaign as an act of service and stay away from all the self-serving BS so common to everyone else.
The first act (very crucial) is to throw out the ambition. Don't run for president in order to win! Don't do it! This is the big mistake that everyone else is making and you can avoid it if you try. Why?
As soon as we inwardly form the desire to win, we start to make compromises, and it is as someone not making compromises that makes us a Statesman. Of course, some will say you have to have money to win and so forth, or even to campaign, and that is all true in the old way, but the new kind of service-directed campaign I have in mind here is not going to require much wealth at all. In fact, you'll succeed even if you don't get elected (which I suspect you will anyway, but cheaters are out there so who can say for sure), and you'll be such a good example that this very act of yours will change political life everywhere entirely. You'll set an example so high that others will look like fools not to copy it, and before the election even, you'll find them running around trying to do it like you are doing it.
Lets start by remembering the stupid way politicians now campaign. They raise a lot of money and travel around trying to get voters to vote for them in primary elections so as to get the nomination. Have to get on ballots advisers say. Have to raise millions advisers say. Have to run lots of TV ads, have huge state by state staffs, and at the same time run around giving speech after speech after speech (often the same damn one all the time, which has to be boring and not very good for your mind). In my method you don't have to do any of this.
You also don't have to court the media, for the very same process that will make the other candidates look like fools, will make the media look like fools. You see, there is this very strange fact (true in the present, and could be an opportunity lost if not acted upon). The American People are fed up with business as usual. Neither Congress or the President now gets even 30% in the polls. People are screaming for something different, and you have achieved the status of Statesman, and they love you for it. So the big danger for you is to come down from that status and becoming again a mere politician. Don't do it!
Plus, this process of campaigning (I know this is a big build up, but I'll deliver) will fold over into an entirely new way as to how to conduct yourself in office. That's right! You campaign the same basic way you operate as president, the one seamlessly blending into the other, all the while never leaving the status of being a Statesman.
The question to ask yourself is what do people want. What do the voters (and non-voters - don't leave them out) want? They want to be heard! It is the most simple need in the world, to have leaders who come to them and just listen. How strange (not!). The Press will go nuts, saying where is your position on the issues, why don't you have big policy papers, why aren't you telling everyone what to do (so as soon as your back is turned we can criticize you for your ideas).
But you aren't being a politician anymore, you are being a Statesman!
Now lets do a basic run through of the fundamental idea. Imagine...
Iowa. Al Gore's buses come to town, after a little advance work. There's a community hall set up, with certain technical functions (you bring them), which include some good lighting, some comfortable chairs around a big circular table, and some digital cameras (sort of YouTube stuff). You sit at the table, dressed casually (you aren't meeting bigwigs, just working people and farmers, school teachers and parents - all the really important people in our society). [Someone in the Press might make fun of King Al and the Knights of the Round Table - let them, and ask them if they know a better way for people to speak from their hearts to someone who might be THEIR president. And, ask them why they (the Press) think they know better than the ordinary people in America. You see, the Press isn't liked either, and you'll only gain stature and interest by being equally critical of the Press and when you see all this stuff from the point of view of the guy having to make 14 ends meet in a economy that is getting queerer by the minute.]
You see the way this is going to work is that the Press will first criticize and act all snotty. Then after a while they'll realize that folks are paying attention to you, perhaps more attention to you than to them. As this unfolds, the actual political conversation is going to change. Lets retrun to our picture...
A local store or whatever has been paid to provide some refreshments of a local variety - stuff the people at the table will enjoy. You are going to sit and break bread with the people you are going to serve, and find out about their needs and listen to their voices. You do get to ask a question or two, but not in order to represent your views. Rather your role is to bring your experience in government to the situation, and to help the people talking find good questions. They might want Washington to do a certain thing, and you are going to be very honest with them about how difficult that is. They might then say what do we do to fix that, and you ask them why they keep voting for the same people all the time. Not hard questions meant to make them feel bad, but honest questions, neighbor to neighbor about what to do about the bad dog down the block who is making everyone's life miserable.
They will ask you questions. The first rule is tell the truth, even if it means confessing to having done less than your best in the past. All of these people know about failure and mistakes - they live life in the real world, not in the fantasy America that exists in the language of most political speech.
The point is not to always have glib and easy answers. There aren't any easy answers! Just shared problems and maybe good hearted intentions to work together. Someone might say to you, that you are just going to be another politician regardless of this "listening" meetings you are having, and you say that you hope not, but they could be right. In point of fact, they will say a lot of stuff that might be painful to hear and the best response will be agreement.
They are going to ask you about money, your money. You should ask yourself first. How did you get so rich? What are you doing with it? Why are you charging so much money to do speeches? You need to recognize that in the present time, as the middle class is disappearing and more people are falling downward economically, that an excessive display of wealth is getting to be just as egregious in the eyes of ordinary people as the thoughtless displays of wealth of the aristocrats in pre-revolutionary France.
People will tolerate it if they believe you understand how insane this all is, and how America needs to change course economically as well as politically. Think of this work as a kind of steam valve - letting people talk about difficult questions, perhaps presently unsolvable questions - lets the pressure off a bit. They not only get heard, they get a release.
Now expand the above imaginative scenario a thousand-fold. Instead of giving speeches you go around listening to people. Then, to top it off, you get them to sign releases so that their thoughts and ideas get on the Internet. You also make CDs of each event, and distribute them locally for free. Everyone you talk to gets one, and all their neighbors. In the beginning it will all seem strange, but as you do it there will be a kind of informational wave front running out ahead of you. People coming to events like this will after a time have already looked at other people's stuff. Maybe your advance people can make prior conversations available in the upcoming communities. Instead of dividing the country up with hard and fast positions, you are actually enabling the country to talk to itself! Getting the picture yet?
Some questions might need some experts to ponder. So for every 10 meetings with ordinary people, you do one with experts from a specific field that has come under question by the people to which you have been listening. You put the questions to the experts, and these are people you can make sweat. Don't let them dodge into cliches and other usual BS. Invite folks across a spectrum of point of view in that field, but stay away from the usual talking heads on TV. People are tired of yelling and screaming. They want to see intelligent discourse. That too goes on the Internet and on ahead via CDs.
CDs should also go backward. After talking to farmers in the center of the Country you take their questions to the so-called experts (actually a lot of farmers know a great deal more than the experts). So you loop around again, visit some of the same folks, making sure that they've had a chance to see how the dialog went onward after it came by them the first time. Maybe you put some ordinary folk in with the so-called experts. You invite competing candidates to sit down with ordinary people and talk to them. Everyone gets included!
This then is your work as a Statesman. You facilitate a huge national conversation, one that gets taken into the deepest questions (the content of many of the great speeches you gave the last few years about the real nature of government, our constitution and the troubles that face us). I guarantee you'll blow minds everywhere, and even if not elected, you will change the face of American politics forever. Plus, if you do get elected, you will not be carrying into office the baggage of a lot of self-serving semi-honest useless positions on the issues. You find yourself free in a way you never felt before, and if in office you then get to...
Continue to do the same thing!!! Imagine...
A government cable channel, where you and every Secretary and Under-Secretary of a department has to sit at a round table with citizens discussing with them their needs, and listening to their concerns. The variations on this theme are considerable and will lead to huge transparency. The corporate folks will go nuts, because their whole power base is rooted in secrecy. Think what it will do to the Legislative Branch, and maybe the Judicial Branch as well. They will be under tremendous pressure to institute similar kinds of relationships to the People for whom they work. Such dialogs don't have to always generate answers, but its well past time the folks in government that work for the People had to actually sit down with those People in a public (cable) forum and answer questions.
Of course, you could get shot on the way to doing this, but as John Perkins, the author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, is going around saying: Isn't it time we all took the same risks and pledges as our founders, when they signed the Declaration of Independence, with its last line: "And for support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."