Tuesday, January 04, 2005

109th Congress

Just read an interesting article in the Washington Post about the problems posed to the 109th Congress. It's no surprise that the most bitter battles of the coming year will likely be those of judicial nominations and of Social Security.

Bush has re-nominated a number of formerly filibustered judicial nominees, signaling that his pledge to reach across the aisle was a lie at best (in my mind, anyway). This has raised questions as to whether Democrats would have the stones to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, and not just circuit and appeals courts nominees. We'll have to see, but I wouldn't be surprised, especially if the Supreme Court nominee(s) in question is/are stanch anti-abortionist(s).

In addition, Bush's new Social Security plan would come up, and surprise surprise, it involves cutting benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades! Proponents of the plan hope that the slack will be picked up by private investment accounts, but the AARP has launched a $5 million advertising campaign against Bush's plan. That's not a very strong endorsement, is it?

Last but not least, the GOP has reversed course on its controversial DeLay Rule, deciding (evidently) that it wasn't worth risking the appearance of complete moral bankruptcy just to allow a Texas representative to keep his leadership post in the House while being indicted for criminal charges. This is a strange move, since the DeLay Rule has been fought tooth and nail by the Democrats, and defended tooth and nail by the Republicans, ever since it was proposed.

So anyway, these'll be the big issues in the Congress, and at least the judicial one will hinge on what I think will become one of the central debates in our public discourse. I'm talking, of course, about religion. The freedom to practice religion, the separation of church and state, government involvement in religion, religion's involvement in government, etc. There are a lot of people out there who are trying to get abortion outlawed because it's an offense against God. There are a lot of people out there who are against gay marriage for the same reasons. These same people are up in arms about how hard it's been made to practice their religion because of the "myth" of church-state separation. They refer to America as a Christian nation.

Increasingly, on the other side, proponents of church-state separation, as they feel it is prescribed in the Constitution, are making their cases heard as well. Prayer in public schools is out, the pledge of allegiance has been called into question, and an Alabama Supreme Court justice has been tossed out on the street for failure to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments. Just as the worlds of entertainment and politics are merging, so too are the worlds of religion and politics. The coming debates are going to be at the very least tinged with hints of religion, and at most driven by religion.

I'll post more later.