In its longing for American culture to take some major steps backwards, the Republican party wants for its own repressive values and so-called "norms" to be mirrored by the rest of the country
When presidential candidate Al Gore shared a prolonged kiss on with his wife Tipper before a worldwide television audience at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, it met with much applause and criticism. Following the Vice President's public display of affection, women came out in droves for Gore on election day. The unsubtle embrace gave voters a glimpse of what American life under a Gore administration might be like, and offered a stark contrast of how women are treated by Democratic men versus their Republican counterparts.
Naturally, many women loved the Gore kiss. In clear view was a sensitive, caring candidate who, if elected President, would help create a more loving and tolerant America, where individuals may feel unafraid to openly show their feelings for one another.
As expected, conservative pundits and other political adversaries blasted the Democrat's open embrace of his wife. From under the surface, they decried the spectacle out of jealousy and for the moral fiber the Vice President had appeared to dismiss so blatantly. Much resentment stemmed from the fact that any conservative moral code dictates respectful citizens would never dare treat their significant others so flamboyantly at any time, let alone in front of a national television camera.
Gore's boldly open display was seen by some as a slap in the face to the pre-1960s values and Victorian era society many Republicans wish to recreate. If it were a conservative's utopia, American culture may one where women are quiet and tame, sex is never discussed, and affection is absolutely kept out of public range.
Conversely, Republican candidate George W. Bush stayed in a hotel room with wife Laura during his party's convention, where a small camera caught a glimpse of the then-Texas Governor offering a peck that may have been longer and deeper had he been kissing his mother before leaving for school.
Gore's kiss showed America which party is indeed the more mature and affectionate one. By offering a stark comparison to the insignificant Bush kiss, Al and Tipper Gore may cemented in the public's psyche an image reflecting one of the Republican party's biggest weaknesses: its long standing inability to win the female vote. Well before the days when John F. Kennedy's youthful good looks helped endear the President and his party to early television audiences, the emotions of women have consistently been captured, and led to the ballot box by the red-hot dashing Democrats.
In its longing for American culture to take some major steps backwards, the Republican party wants for its own repressive values and so-called "norms" to be mirrored by the rest of the country. This means restricting exposure to anything having the potential for inconveniently provoking an emotional response, as the Gore kiss clearly did for such a sizeable majority of women (and perhaps some men) in the voting population.
With a little help from his brother and the Supreme Court, the less affectionate candidate was handed the keys to the White House in the 2000 election. The Bush administration has shown America, if anything at all, that the architecture of the times, including social decorum, is designed within the office of the Presidency. Sadly, many of the same women who swooned at the sight of Al smooching Tipper may have more recently been cheering for war under the not-so-loving current administration. Perhaps they would have been wearing flower necklaces in the event of a Gore presidency.
Voters will undoubtedly remember the Al and Tipper kiss for years to come. If there is a glimmer of hope for a more adaptable American society to emerge, light must be shed upon the glaring differences between the two major parties' expectations of the very public they are elected to serve. At stake is the degree of freedom within the nation's unspoken social code that dictates how one is expected to behave, look, speak and think, based on what elected leaders in Washington declare "normal".
Whether or not Americans are aware of how much influence is wielded by those in power, one thing remains beyond certainty: America's cultural values, including what actions, speech, and even thoughts may be deemed acceptable, are determined in large part by he or she who holds the title President of the United States.
Derrick Steven is a freelance American writer living overseas