Former Vice President Al Gore on Sunday told black Floridians embittered by his narrow loss in the 2000 presidential election that “it doesn’t have to be this way” and urged them to turn anger into energy at the polls.
“Don’t turn it into angry acts or angry words,” Gore said at one stop during a tour of mostly black churches. He also urged worshippers to take advantage of a state law that permits voting before Election Day, Nov. 2.
“Early voting is a good idea,” he said. “You want to give them plenty of time to count all the votes.”
Polls show Florida’s 27 electoral votes are up for grabs again this year with the race closely divided between President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. Gore lost the White House by 537 votes in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to stop ballot recounts in several Florida counties.
“Turn all of that energy and all of these feelings into a nonstop effort between now and the time the polls close at 7 p.m. on November 2,” Gore said.
The former presidential candidate was staging a symbolic, two-day swing through Florida that ends Monday in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the epicenter of the 2000 election dispute.
Gore said he was living proof that every vote counts.
From Jacksonville to Tallahassee
“If anybody ever tells you that one vote doesn’t count, you tell them to come talk to me,” he said.
His day began in Jacksonville in the northeast, where black leaders argued that thousands of votes were discarded four years ago. Later Sunday, Gore was attending an early-vote rally in Tallahassee, in the Florida panhandle.
“Last election, 27,000 of us voted, most of us for brother Al Gore,” said Rev. Tom Diamond, of the Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church. “The Republican Party threw out 27,000 African-American votes. By all rights, brother Al Gore is the president-elect.”
Black churches are an important factor in turning out minority voters and are historically politically active. On the front lawn of Diamond’s church were twin signs saying, “The Power is In Your Hands Vote Nov. 2” and “Having Trouble Voting Ask Us.”
While Gore urged blacks to vote in record numbers, he also swiped at Bush. Gore said the president has little sense of where he wants to take the country during another term in office.
Invoking the Bible
“There’s a saying in the Bible, that when there is no vision people perish,” Gore said, using Biblical themes to make political points.
“When there’s a judgment on the part of the people that there is no vision on the part of those in charge, the people have a chance to make a change,” Gore said.
In sharp contrast to his days as vice president and as a candidate for president, Gore traveled the state with only a couple of aides and joked about his status.
“I’d like to see some changes in this economy,” he said. “I was the first one laid off.”
Gore also made light of those who argue that new jobs being created aren’t as high paid as the ones being lost.
“They’re not as good as the jobs being lost — and that’s true for me, too,” Gore said.
Watching for ‘accidents’
He said early voters would help “make sure there’s not any kind of, what’s the word I’m looking for, accidents.”
Gore, who was joined at church by Florida Rep. Corrine Brown, swayed in his seat, clapped his hands and hugged parishioners. He took pains to recall the record of former President Clinton, who remains very popular among black Americans but who was shunned by Gore’s campaign four years ago.
“We know what can be done in the White House, we know what a difference can be made in the lives of people and families and communities,” Gore said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Gore’s appearances were still more evidence of how intense both parties are fighting for Florida’s electoral votes. Bush and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned in the state Saturday. Kerry campaigned there on Sunday.