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Barbara Coombs Lee's picture

This election season is extracting an enormous toll from candidates and citizens alike.

Pressure is always intense in a Presidential year, but this year is different.  Airwaves and Internet hammer away with news of poll after poll, minute campaign details and endless tit for tat. The presidential race, Senate and House races — even local campaigns — all occupy space in national media. Twenty e-mails appear in my inbox by noon each day, all URGENT and all pleading for funds.

The money flow is mind boggling. According to, state races alone have raised almost $1.2 Billion. reports that each presidential campaign has raised and spent almost a billion dollars.  And of course, this doesn’t include the biggest spenders of all, the super PACs.

The world watches in wonder and dismay, and my sense is most Americans just want it to be over.  It’s understandable that people might block out the noise and ignore politics altogether in an attempt to restore balance and sanity to their lives. For those ready to run screaming from the computer or TV, sit out the election and withhold their vote, I have two words:

Supreme Court

Politicians come and go, but ultimately the strength of our democracy and the breadth of our freedom depend on these nine lawyers.  Questions of end-of-life choice provide a good measure of the power of these individuals to either invade — or respect — the autonomy and dignity we enjoy as Americans.

  • In 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Nancy Cruzan should be relieved of her feeding tube if clear evidence was that she would not want it. It could have ruled otherwise.
  • In 1997 The U.S. Supreme Court let a Ninth Circuit ruling stand, essentially telling litigants from National Right to Life they had no standing to block Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. (Lee v. Oregon)  Right to Life lawyer James Bopp failed to persuade the Court that Oregon’s law represented a risk or injury to his client.  Yet the Court could have been persuaded otherwise, and our law could have been enjoined forever.
  • Four times in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the Schiavo case. Refusing to grant certiorari, the Court left intact Florida rulings that Terri Schiavo’s husband acted according to her wish not to be maintained in an unconscious state. But it could have ruled otherwise, and stepped in as Congress did to meddle in an intensely private decision.
  • In 2006, with Justices Roberts, Scalia and Thomas dissenting, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s right as a sovereign state to regulate doctors and determine the boundaries of legitimate medical practice. Six Justices Blocked U.S. Attorneys General Ashcroft And Gonzales in their quest to stop Oregon’s Death with Dignity law. It could have been otherwise, and the federal government could easily have usurped state authority over medical use of controlled drugs.  This would have given the party in federal power the ability to intrude in every State’s medical practice standards.

If you are disgusted at the sorry condition of our political contests and tempted to let this Election Day pass without registering a vote, please don’t.  Think on your sacred freedoms and know how fragile they are. Vote as though your future depends on it. It does.

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