Saturday, July 19, 2008

Governance without Government with Al Gore

Maybe you have seen Al Gore's Challenge to the American people. We should come together as a county and abandon oil in 10 years. There are some interesting aspects in the speech that relate to expanding notions of what counts as governance.

For example, the video looks a great deal like what such a speech would look like if an elected leader had made it. American flags fill the back of the video. He is wearing a dark grey suit and a plain dark red tie, a favorite of Presidential candidates and Presidents alike. The video's framing suggests an official act of government.

Mr. Gore's language also links his challenge to Presidential acts of the past. He explicitly compares his challenge to President Kennedy's successful appeal to send an American to the moon.

The address is almost Presidential. It has the potential to guide viewers to link this challenge with official acts of government, and to view Al Gore's appeal almost like an appeal by government. With Congress and the President suffering historically low approval ratings, what does it mean when other leaders reach out to the country? It reminds me a little of how many of us found more comfort from Rudy Giuliani than the President after the attacks in New York City of 2001.

In both of these cases, it seems the institutions of national government have not filled the needs that many around the county feel. And so we turn to others who we think will lead our governance better than our government is doing.

Its curious that there is a distinction between governance and government, and that the latter is not always doing the former, and that the governed will search for their own sources of governance when their government is getting them what they want (and there are probably plenty of dangers with a situation like that, as well as opportunities).

But abstractions aside, its a little frightening that its happening now. Why is the national government having such a difficult time responding to an increasingly urgent crisis?


Here's the speech (And here's to hoping that we accept the challenge!):

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