Originally published in the San Antonio Express-News, October 31, 2004
by Susan Ives

At the Wednesday evening drink-latte-and-fight-about-politics club, one of the regulars announced he had decided to vote for President Bush.

We all laughed. You’d have to know this guy: the man least likely to cast a ballot for George W. This is a joke, right?

“I’m serious!” he insisted.

Look at it this way, he explained. There’s no way that anyone can fix the quagmire in Iraq. Even the Pentagon admits we will have troops there for at least another five years. It’s too late for a real international coalition, and we can’t just pull out.

The economy will get worse, he predicted. The national deficit is up to $7.4 trillion. No matter who gets elected president, the next four years are guaranteed to be a disaster.
So why not let the Republicans fall on their keisters? Let them have one really, really bad term and we’ll be rid of them for a generation. Why should the Democrats take the rap for Republican mistakes?

It made a weird kind of sense.

“Let me think about that,” I said.

By the Thursday morning meeting of the sip-cappuccino-and-drop-famous-names club, I had my comeback ready.

“The Supreme Court,” I announced, leaning back in triumph.

The next president could name a couple — some say as many as four — Supreme Court justices. At 80, Chief Justice William Rehnquist is the second-oldest person ever to serve in that post. (Chief Justice Roger Taney died at 87 while in office, back in 1864.) Clarence Thomas is the only justice younger than 65.

I met Rehnquist in 1973, just a year after he was appointed by Richard Nixon. Our small group of congressional interns expected an old fart in a black robe, but he bounced into the courtroom dressed in tennis whites.

Rehnquist has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and although I wish him well, his days on the bench might be numbered.

We can’t elect Supreme Court justices, but we can elect the president who will nominate the justices. The court is evenly balanced now, with moderate Sandra Day O’Connor providing the swing vote. Two appointments could tip the balance. These appointments are for life.

During the campaign Bush has been circumspect about his criteria for nominating justices. He said at the Republican National Convention, “I will continue to appoint federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.”

In past interviews, though, he held up Thomas and Antonin Scalia — the two most ideologically conservative justices — as his ideal jurists.

What’s at stake? Only civil rights, reproductive freedom, voting rights, workers’ rights, environmental protections, privacy rights, disability rights …

“OK, OK, you’ve convinced me,” he said.

I was hoping for a break from the political chit-chat at the Friday night meeting of the kick-back-and-smell-the-decaf-unemployed-philosophers club, but the vote-for-Bush guy had a new plan.
“I’m not going to vote at all,” he declared.

In the 2000 election Bush took Texas by 21 percent, he reminded us. This year the polls are showing Texas as being just as committed to the Republican ticket. Let’s face it: Our 34 Electoral College votes are going to be cast for Bush/Cheney no matter how I vote. So why bother?

It made a weird kind of sense.

The winner-take-all Electoral College racket allows candidates to play the numbers so that it’s possible to win the popular vote and still lose the presidency. It discourages voters in the solid blue or red states from going to the polls.

“Let me think about that,” I said.

By the Saturday afternoon sip-chai-and-save-the-world club meeting I had my comeback ready.

“There other races at stake,” I said. Congressmen. State representatives. A bunch of judges, the sheriff, constables, the tax collector and railroad commissioner. County commissioners, a seat on the Edwards Aquifer Authority, justices of the peace. There’s a transportation initiative on the ballot. None of these are a shoo-in. They need your vote, and while you’re in the voting booth you might as well touch the screen for president.

“OK, OK, you’ve convinced me,” he said.

I won’t be at the Tuesday meeting of the brew-of-the-day-and-let-them-eat-cake club. You’ll find me at my polling place. Maybe it’s because I spent more than 25 years casting absentee ballots, but

I relish the energy of the community coming together on Election Day.
Hope to see you there. I’ll be the one with the to-go cup.

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