I'm An Al Gore Fangirl & I'm Not Afraid To Admit It

Erin Schrode is an environmental activist and former candidate for Congress in California. The views expressed here are her own.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised some eyebrows earlier this week: Al Gore is going to hit the campaign trail to help the Democratic nominee win over millennials.

Yes, you heard right. And no, that's #NotTheOnion. Al Gore, the 68-year-old vice president turned climate activist, once called the “highest-ranking boring man in the land,” may just be the campaign's secret weapon to woo young voters. Many twentysomethings like me were still in grade school when he last ran for public office.

But I have a confession to make: I loved the announcement! And think other millennials will, too.

Not everyone agrees, of course. Response to the news on Twitter was hilarious, albeit brutal.
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I am one of those pesky millennials, right on the cusp between older members of my generation, with whom Clinton is doing all right, and younger millennials, who are backing Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson in higher numbers. But do my peers even know who Al Gore is? To answer that question, I polled a few friends via text. The responses were mixed, but not negative.
"Al Gore is really cool in my opinion!"

"Sadly I have very few intelligible thoughts on Gore"

"al gore is [insert loads of 100 and sunglasses smiley face emoji here]"
"Hahahha. I like him! He likes the environment!"

"I think he’s great. What is he doing these days??"

"Idk. He’s great."

"1) lockbox SNL. 2) I'd vote for him. 3) I think of him as an environmentalist. He seems like a really interesting guy."

"Hmm I don't know. Is he doing anything relevant?"

My response is unequivocal: Al Gore changed my life.

Before the release of An Inconvenient Truth, I was just another tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, granola-eating hippie from Northern California who had co-founded an environmental nonprofit at the age of 13… because that’s what people believed in and did in our neck of the woods.

Gore’s documentary transformed the landscape. Suddenly, climate change was real; people took the film — and by extension, us — seriously. He presented complex, sobering science in a visual format that resonated with the masses. As I said in a short video celebrating the film's 10th anniversary, it “legitimized all of our efforts, as environmentalists, in the eyes of the public."
Photo: Joshua Blanchard/WireImage.
That is the Al Gore we millennials know and remember. He’s not the “stiff,” “monotone” guy our parents watched in the White House in the 1990s, a vice president more than half of Americans described as "very" or "somewhat" boring at the time. I remember parts of the Clinton presidency, but Gore as VP is pretty much lost on me. I was in fourth grade when the heated 2000 presidential election, the first that I recall, captured the attention of the nation. I headlined one homework assignment to make a political cartoon "Nader Later, Bush and Gore Fight to the End" — and yes, I am still proud of that wit.

But to me, Gore is more than the guy who lost because of some "hanging chads." He's the one who brought "global warming" into the mainstream (even if it was through his character on South Park, for some). The one who has remained a fierce, vocal advocate for climate action. The one who champions environmental issues, specifically clean energy.

Al Gore is Mr. Environment for countless members of my peer group. For a generation in which climate change consistently ranks as a top concern, that carries weight. He introduced the topic to us as kids, and Climate Reality, the nonprofit he founded, continues to reach and involve many millennials and others in education and advocacy through a large presence across social media, school campuses, and communities.
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Al Gore is Mr. Environment for countless members of my peer group. For a generation in which climate change consistently ranks as a top concern, that carries weight.

In addition to the climate angle, Gore can certainly speak to the potential of a third-party candidate to split the vote and lose an election for the Democrats, as some argued was the case with Nader in 2000 — and steer voters away from Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. He also understands the critical importance of every single ballot cast; Florida came down to 537 votes in the recount debacle that sent Bush to the White House.

And he's far from a digital neophyte. Sure, he didn't create the Internet, but he did pioneer content creation with Current TV at the turn of the millennium, targeting that valuable 18 to 34-year-old demographic.

And heck, he has a Grammy, an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Nobel Peace Prize! If you thought an EGOT was impressive, he's got an EGON. Can someone give the man a hug?
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Still, I get that a 68-year-old white man who joined Congress in 1977 seems an improbable messenger to reach the most diverse generation in history, to excite people under the age of 35, to mobilize a voting block that has surpassed boomers to become the largest segment. Such a scenario could be a headline out of The Onion, like much of this election cycle.

Of course, age alone doesn’t disqualify Gore from appealing to the millennial vote. My peers flocked to 75-year-old Bernie Sanders in the primary elections, after all.

As someone who ran for Congress myself at age 25 this year, I would love to see more young surrogates deployed to connect with and inspire voters in their 20s and 30s. Yes, Gore and millennials may seem an unlikely pair, but he's generally well-liked and not hated. And that's an asset at a time when polling continues to show both Clinton and Donald Trump with high unfavorables.

So, will my millennial peers actually embrace Al Gore as much as my climate activist self? That's TBD.

But if my focus group (cough, cough: my friends) is any indication, this Clinton strategy could be a winning one, with the right approach.

Only time will tell if our generation turns out at the polls or proves to be a rather inconvenient youth.
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