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God's Politics

the latest news on the lame duck Congress, the new Congress, Iraq, religious voters, conservatism, the minimum wage, arms sales, and select features and op-eds

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Lame duck Congress. Congress returns for session’s last lag – “The lame-duck session mixes a dispirited Republican Party and a Democratic Party that knows it will soon have the upper hand in both chambers … At minimum, Congress must pass a temporary spending bill to keep the government running until the next Congress takes office. Getting much else accomplished could be difficult.” For Post-Election Congress, Extensive To-Do List Is Awaiting Action– “Despite devastating losses at the polls, Republicans control the post-election session that opens Monday as lawmakers return to try to finish 10 overdue spending bills and other legislation that stalled because of pre-election gamesmanship.”

Iraq. Democrats Push for Troop Cuts Within Months – “Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed on Sunday to use their new Congressional majority to press for troop reductions in Iraq within a matter of months,” Democrats, Engaging Bush, Vow Early Action Over Iraq – “Democrats sought to put their new political power to use in shaping the debate over Iraq, promising stepped-up Congressional oversight of the war and a resolution demanding a schedule for reducing the number of troops there.” A budding, bipartisan consensus on Iraq – “There are those on both sides of the aisle who favor giving the Iraqis firm deadlines for meeting a list of political goals, with the possibility of redeploying U.S. troops if the goals aren’t met.” Panel May Have Few Good Options to Offer – “After meeting with President Bush tomorrow, a panel of prestigious Americans will begin deliberations to chart a new course on Iraq, with the goal of stabilizing the country with a different U.S. strategy and possibly the withdrawal of troops.”

Congressional agenda. Labor Movement Dusts Off Agenda as Power Shifts in Congress– “After years of being sidelined by the Republican majority, the nation’s unions are now pushing Congress to act on a long list of issues: improving mine safety, putting a brake on outsourcing, making it easier to unionize workers and extending health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.” Liberal groups expect postelection results – “Some of the very activists who helped propel the Democrats to a majority in the House and Senate last week are claiming credit for the victories and demanding what they consider their due: a set of ambitious — and politically provocative — actions on gun control, abortion, national security and other issues that party leaders fear could alienate moderate voters.”

The new Congress. In new Senate, the middle rules – “The terms of the Democrats’ narrow victory make a politics of the center even more imperative. Most of the new Democrats in the Senate won by running as moderates or fiscal conservatives.” Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology– “in interviews with nearly half of them this week, the freshmen — 41 in the House and 9 in the Senate, including one independent — conveyed a keen sense of their own moment in history, and a distinct world view: they say they were given a rare opportunity by voters, many of them independents and Republicans, who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington.”

Religious voters. Democrats Win Bigger Share of Religious Vote – “the national exit polls told a dramatic story of changing views in the pews: Democrats recaptured the Catholic vote they had lost two years ago. They sliced the GOP’s advantage among weekly churchgoers to 12 percentage points, down from 18 points in 2004 congressional races and 22 points in the 2004 presidential contest. Democrats even siphoned off a portion of the Republican Party’s most loyal base, white evangelical Protestants.” Evangelical leader: GOP abandoned voters – “Conservative Christian leader James Dobson accused the Republican Party of abandoning values voters in the midterm elections – and paying the price by losing control of Congress.”

Conservatism. Rove Remains Steadfast in the Face of Criticism – “The theory is this: The building’s infrastructure was actually quite sound. It was bad luck and seasonal shifts in the winds that blew out the walls … But the foundation is fine:” For Conservatives, It’s Back to Basics – “The morning after the Republican drubbing in the midterm elections, Ken Mehlman, chairman of the party, headed to the weekly coalition meeting where limited government conservatives, Christian traditionalists and gun-rights groups gathered to plot strategy. He brought a message they were only too eager to hear. The election, he told the crowd … was not a repudiation of conservatism.” Midterm Election Leaves Political Landscape Blurry –“Rarely has an election result been delivered with such force and clarity, and still left so many unanswered questions in its wake, as that of the 2006 midterm campaign. What happened is unmistakable. What it may portend is far less obv
ious, making the 2008 election, which already has begun, potentially the most important in a generation or more in shaping the nation’s politics.”

Minimum wage. Employers upset with increase in legal wage – “The $3.59 Black Raspberry Cow Shake at Young’s Jersey Dairy in southwestern Ohio soon will cost a dime more. And two eggs and fixings at Granny Shaffer’s Family Restaurant in Joplin, Mo., will set diners back $6.60 instead of the $6 they now pay. The price increases are coming to cover the minimum-wage raises mandated by voters in Ohio and Missouri in Tuesday’s elections.” Living wage law may expand in L.A. – “The City Council is poised this week to grant the wish of the hotel workers, and for the first time apply the city’s living wage ordinance to private companies that have no business relationship with the local government.”

Arms sales. US is top purveyor on weapons sales list – “The United States last year provided nearly half of the weapons sold to militaries in the developing world, as major arms sales to the most unstable regions — many already engaged in conflict — grew to the highest level in eight years, new US government figures show.”

FEATURE Lost | The GOP, nationally and here at home, needs more than an electoral strategy to get itself out of the woods. It needs to rethink the meaning of conservatism. – “The electoral ascendancy the national Republican Party has enjoyed with fits and starts since 1968 may have finally come to an end last week. And yet the GOP’s reversal of fortune is not due to a resurgence of liberalism among the general public. Many of the newly elected congressional Democrats are from the centrist wing of the party and opinion polls continue to show that while most people call themselves moderates, self-described conservatives far outnumber liberals.” (James A. Peyser, chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education and former executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a nonpartisan public-policy think tank in Boston).

OP-EDs

Beliefs A Topic in the Air but One That Political Candidates Declined to Touch: Torture of Prisoners – “In a season of shameless attack ads, torture is still too shameful to be debated.” (Peter Steinfels)

Confessions of a values voter (I’m not who you think I am) – “Everywhere I look, I see progressives beginning to invoke values in ways that might startle religious conservatives, and in ways that probably helped Democrats win last week.” (Tom Krattenmaker specializes in religion in public life and is a member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors.)

Dems put the ‘big tent’ back together – “The Democrats moved to the center and to the left at the same time. In doing so, they became more like the hegemonic Democratic Party of old. And if, in 2008, it turns out that last week did in fact usher in an era of Democratic resurgence, it will be precisely because the party managed to sustain this left-center coalition and render the distinctions between the two groups less important.” (Michael Tomasky, editor at large of the American Prospect.)

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