As posted here a couple days ago, Al Gore has been the target of a right-wing smear campaign attempting to refute his climate change credentials by bringing forward a series of irrelevant details about both his lifestyle and the Democratic Party. Painfully, as right-wing websites lap this material up, left leaning readers are also falling victim to this spin doctoring.
This tactic is old hat. We saw it in 2000 with the "Al Gore invented the Internet smear", it was repeated in 2004 with the John Kerry swift boat farce, and each time the Republican's face an opponent with genuine credentials, they use the same spin technique to falsely discredit the threat to their party line - and each time they do it far too many people on the left side of the spectrum fall for it and shoot their own efforts squarely in the foot.
For the progressive community to make real headway against these sorts of concentrated and broad reaching spin campaigns, they need to stay strong within the facts, and true to the real message at hand. Al Gore's choice of residence is irrelevant to his leadership on climate change, and each person who buys in to these irrelevancies is shoveling fuel on the Republican fire.
This isn't to say that progressive leaders should be free from dissenting opinion. A functioning democracy requires questioning and criticism at all times and at all levels of debate. But that criticism should be born out by facts and should be relevant to the issue at hand. The attacks on Al Gore satisfy neither of those two conditions, and serve only to spin the debate on the right-wing's terms.
Progress requires leadership, and leadership requires support from constituents. The right-wing is excelling in North American politics across the board by getting behind their leaders and fixing the terms of public debate. For progressives to gain a meaningful foothold, they'll need to stop reacting to conservative propaganda and begin establishing, and supporting, their own leadership and values.