Common Cause; Purloined Example

Sometime the best way to convince people that what you are talking about is important to them is to tell them a story. I tend to be a big picture, statistics type guy but most Americans are not. I recently read Gloria Steinem’s book, My Life on the Road, and the example cited in this article is purloined from it.

Voter turnout is the most crucial factor in winning elections. In any close election it boils down to whose supporters show up to vote. Americans are cynical and lazy when it comes to voting. Too many have lost all confidence in politicians and feel it doesn’t matter who wins. They also feel that their single vote doesn’t matter. I’m certain a lot of people will be using the recent tie election in Virginia as an example but in truth ties are extremely rare; close elections are not. There is an old axiom in politics that elections matter and Steinem’s story speaks to that.

In 1982, (a mid-term election, just like 2018), sitting Republican Senator, John Danforth, narrowly defeated the lone female Senatorial candidate that cycle, Harriet Woods, in a close contest in Missouri. When Danforth returned to Washington he took with him an unknown attorney by the name of Clarence Thomas. While Danforth went on to serve three terms in the Senate his service in that body did not leave an indelible mark of our nation. The same cannot be said for Thomas who was a deciding vote on such matters as Citizens United, Concepcion, McCutcheon, and Bush v. Gore. In Bush v Gore Thomas effectively elected George W. Bush as President of the United States (while his wife Virginia was working for Bush). Along with the late Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas has been a champion at taking money (often via his wife) from interested parties to Supreme Court cases.

The moral of the story is that if Danforth wasn’t reelected in purple Missouri in the mid-term election of 1982 Thomas probably never gets to D.C. and almost certainly never gets a seat on the Supreme Court.

Elections have consequences and your vote matters. If you don’t remember that in November you are part of the problem.

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