In this year of historic firsts, it should surprise no one that political prognosticators predict Election Day turnout to exceed 60 percent of the voting age population for the first time in 40 years. Americans have “change” on their minds. But they’re getting decidedly different visions of it from two presidential candidates who stand diametrically opposed on almost every issue.
Despite the stakes, there remain some conservatives who see little reason to exercise that which Samuel Adams called one of the most solemn trusts in human society — the right to vote. So, with voter registration deadlines looming, let me offer three reasons why this year especially, to vote or not to vote should not be the question for conservatives.
Every vote counts. Some voters don’t vote because they feel their single vote will not change the outcome of the election. And while that statement may be strictly true, it’s also true that recent elections have often come down to just a few votes.
Ask voters in Washington State. In 2004, Democrat Christine Gregoire won the governor’s race by only 129 votes out of almost 2.8 million cast. And recall the 2000 presidential election, when a few hundred more votes in Florida (527) or a few thousand (about 3,000) more votes in New Hampshire would have given the presidency to Al Gore.
And if 118,000 or so conservative Ohioans (about 2 percent of Buckeye State voters) had woken up on Election Day 2004 and decided that their votes didn’t matter, we’d have John Kerry as president, defeat in Iraq and two leftwing Supreme Court justices.
With polls 53 days from Election Day showing a dead-heat between the presidential candidates, there is little reason to believe this year’s election will not be as close as the last two. Even Barack Obama’s top advisor agrees. At the Democratic Convention, Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod told reporters “This is a close election. There’s not a whole lot of play. We have no illusions that this is going to be anything but close.”
The Left is energized as never before. USA Today recently reported, “Outside groups have spent more than $25 million since Jan. 1, 2007, on ‘independent expenditures,’ and more than 70 percent has gone toward Democratic candidates.” Among the top spenders this year are Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union — all leftwing groups.
While conservative groups like my political action committee, Campaign for Working Families, are conducting get-out-the-vote campaigns, the Left is registering millions of new voters, and in some unlikely places. Recently, the Washington Post reported that a number of organizations — the ACLU and the NAACP among them — are leading a nationwide push to get as many felons registered to vote as possible. That’s right — felons, not ex-cons, but current inmates. The Post noted that in Ohio, “The NAACP will hold a voter-registration day at the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland…to register ‘people caught up in the criminal justice system.” In California, activists "register[ed] people visiting prisoners and encourage[d] them to take registration cards to their incarcerated friends or family members, some of whom can legally vote."
I’ve heard of all kinds of voter registration efforts, but this may be the first time there’s been a coordinated effort aimed specifically at those behind bars. But not all the Left’s “outreach” is on the up and up. In the past few weeks, there have been reports of voter fraud linked to the leftwing Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in battleground states like Wisconsin and Ohio. Voting is a cherished right, acquired by the blood of patriots. Voter fraud strikes at the core of our representative democracy, cheapening the value of your vote and mine.
All this should serve as a reminder to conservatives of how determined the Left is to win.
The stakes are as high as ever. I still encounter conservatives disillusioned with politics or still angry that their candidate didn’t win the presidential nomination. They often want me to give them one good reason to vote in this election. My response: Judges.
Judges matter for several reasons. Six of the Supreme Court’s nine justices will be 69 years old or older on Inauguration Day 2009, including all five of the court’s left-leaning members. Court watchers predict that the next president will appoint at least two justices.
Also, the average tenure of Supreme Court justices since 1970 is 26 years. While presidents remain in office for four or eight years, Supreme Court appointees have the opportunity to shape our laws for a generation or more. And they have. Conservatives rightly complain about judges who wield raw political power to redefine our most basic values. It’s the only way the Left can succeed. Since it cannot achieve its goals through the democratic process via elected legislatures it shrugs off the people and goes to the courts, where it relies on political activists cloaked in black who answer to no one. So many core issues today, from the sanctity of human life and definition of marriage to our religious freedoms, are determined by the courts.
But the U.S. Supreme Court is not the only court that matters. It is often overlooked that the next president will appoint hundreds of judges to fill vacancies that will arise in the federal court system over the next four years. The Supreme Court gets most of the publicity, but the lower federal courts make most of the rulings, on everything from abortion and marriage to immigration and gun rights.
With political experts predicting a strengthened Democratic majority in the House and perhaps a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, liberals understand that if their presidential candidate wins on November 4th, they will be able to ensure far-Left judges entrenched in the courts for a generation or more.
In such a close election and with so much at stake, to vote — or not to vote — should never be the question.
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