Six more days till the election. As of this writing (October 27), nothing is certain. The election polls are bouncing around like yo-yos. Clinton is back on the campaign trail, and we are reminded of what a luxury it was when all we had to worry about was Monica-gate, but the surplus was in the billions.
Politicians are running around and around the swing states, chasing those last slippery undecideds. According to some analysts, Bush enjoys a sudden uptick in popularity among black voters. That threw many for a loop, until it was explained that Republicans have been working black churches, bastions of social if not political conservatism, for their opposition to gay marriage. Now 18 percent of African-Americans seem to fear same-sex matrimony more than the doctrine of pre-emptive war or having their vote not counted. Jesse Jackson recently asked a group of black parishioners how many of their members had been personally confronted by some aspect of the crisis in affordable housing, or underemployment, or police corruption, or record rates of imprisonment, or the war in Iraq. Every hand in the room went up. Then he asked how many had a relative intending to marry someone of the same sex. There was not a single hand. Yet how completely has the latter displaced the former in our national debate. The gay marriage amendment seems to have become the Willie Horton of this election.
Then too, maybe Bush’s popularity among African-American voters has risen because he publicly denounced the 1857 decision of Dred Scott v. Sandford, in which decision Justice Taney proclaimed that black people had no rights that whites were bound to respect. Perhaps that good news–some of us had been wondering–swayed hearts and minds in the black community: Bush opposes slavery! We are a forgiving people. Better late than never. Surely it would be much too cynical to listen to those who have said that Bush’s reference to Dred Scott was a mere sop to the antiabortion wing of his constituency–that it was a coded reference to the putative right of fetal personhood to which he was referring. Surely he would just openly state his disagreement with Roe v. Wade–he’s already eliminated access to abortion for women posted overseas in the military, even if they want to pay for it themselves. Surely he would simply state his intention to appoint a Supreme Court that would overturn a woman’s right to choose rather than exploiting one of the unhappiest moments in our racial and juridical history. Surely.
But, alas, since the Administration is notorious for its perpetual obliqueness, the rumor mill is ablaze with hypotheses about what rights would look like for anyone, born or unborn, under a second Bush Administration. My favorite wakeup-without-coffee is the speculation that Clarence Thomas would be the next Chief Justice, when Rehnquist steps down. Bush has said that Thomas and Antonin Scalia would be the model for any appointments he might make. Scalia, the one who believes that capital punishment is OK, because as a believing Christian, there’s always the afterlife. Thomas, on the other hand, has said very little at all since ascending to the bench, and has written relatively few opinions. The ones he has penned, often as a far-right dissenter, rank him as the most conservative Justice of the last hundred years, but that will probably mean less in the coming political machinations than that he has been taciturn and meanspirited, traits that Bush seems to admire and reward.