I attended a school assembly in first grade to hear the campaign
speeches of the two candidates for Student Council President, Don Evits
and Pam Beard. Both were venerable sixth-graders, but what distinguished
one from the other were Pam’s promises.
If elected, she said, she would put Coke in the drinking fountains in
place of water. I believe that she intended for us student voters to
rely on her promise.
As it turns out, I didn’t believe she could deliver on her promise,
but I must admit that even if I had believed her I doubt that I would
have voted for her. The fact was that I was a little male chauvinist and
was not about to vote for a girl. To my minor disappointment, she won.
Al Gore’s campaign so far has reminded me somewhat of Pam Beard’s.
Though he has not promised soda in every fountain, he has promised to
enlist the considerable power of the federal government in virtually
every facet of society.
In Detroit in May, he called for reviving urban centers and reducing
traffic congestion. You heard me: Gore’s federal government is going to
micromanage suburban traffic.
In keeping with his declared war against the internal combustion
engine, he also called for shifting spending from highways to mass
transit. In addition, Gore talked about “livability” as an issue: Voters
are “increasingly stressed about traffic, congestion and destruction of
natural resources (and) are looking for answers from government.” I’m
not sure which clause in the Constitution authorizes “livability”
legislation or in which Federalist Paper this novel concept was first
advocated by Hamilton, Madison or Jay. But if we can’t find it, Gore
will doubtlessly find some Ivy League law professors who will.
Gore says he “has a compelling vision of where we want to go as a
nation, how we can get there and how we can live better lives when we
arrive.” I’m sure he does, and that’s what worries me.
In his campaign kickoff speech in Nebraska, Gore got even more
specific with his big-government proposals. He outlined a series of
policy initiatives. Concerning education, he said he would push for
making preschool universally available, reduce class sizes in all grades
through high school and encourage stronger educational standards and
On the social front, he promised to expand the Family and Medical
Leave Act, increase access to after-school programs, expand the Clinton
program that has sought to subsidize the hiring of 100,000 police
officers, toughen gun-control laws and increase partnerships between
government and faith-based charities to deliver social services.
On economic policy, he pledged to negotiate labor and environmental
protections in free-trade agreements, to raise the minimum wage and to
oppose any effort to privatize Social Security. (Note: The only
legislation he promises to oppose is that which would reduce the role of
the federal government — by partially privatizing social security.)
Last week, Gore further escalated his commitment to government
largesse by pushing for legislation against hate crimes and to end
discrimination because of sexual orientation in the workplace.
Upon reflection, it is difficult to remember a president, or
presidential candidate, who promised to involve government in as many
areas of our lives as Gore already has in this early phase of the
campaign. That is, except for any number of Bill Clinton’s State of the
No matter who the Republican nominee ends up being, voters are going
to have a clear choice if the Democrats nominate Al Gore. There is
apparently no activity Gore feels is inappropriate for governmental
During the debates on whether the Bill of Rights should be added to
the Constitution, Noah Webster voiced his strong opposition, reasoning
that it would be ludicrous to affirmatively set out rights that already
inhered in the people. Showing utter contempt for the idea of spelling
out every little “right,” he sarcastically quipped, “Why not include a
provision that everybody shall, in good weather, hunt on his own land
and catch fish in rivers that are public property and that Congress
shall never restrain any inhabitant of America from eating and drinking,
at seasonable times, or prevent his lying on his left side, in a long
winter’s night, or even on his back, when he is fatigued by lying on his
I wonder what Noah Webster (or any of the other Framers) would think
of Al Gore’s concept of government today. I wonder what words he might
find in his little book to describe him.