In the last month, America under George W. Bush has taken a decided shift to the right on issues such as defense of marriage and abstinence, schools segregated by sex and support for the Pledge of Allegiance, spurred by a state of war that calls into question any dissent, analysts said.
Social conservatives got a boost from the Supreme Court this week, which ruled that voucher programs diverting public money to private, religious schools did not violate the US constitution.
While some denounced the ruling as a dangerous erosion of the separation of church and state, conservatives exulted in what they termed a historic victory on par with the 1954 order to end racial desegregation of public schools.
Hours earlier, conservatives marshaled forces to oppose a California federal court ruling that found the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited by primary school students, violated the wall between church and state with its mention of “one nation under God.”
Atop the conservative heap is Bush, who from the remote Rocky Mountain resort of Kananaskis, Canada, where he met the leaders of the world’s top industrialized nations, denounced the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling as “ridiculous,” incredulous that the judges would doubt the divine nature of the United States.
The court quickly suspended its decision pending a review.
The Bush administration has progressively sought to integrate its ideology across the realm of social values, linking it to budget items to the point that analysts such as Jamin Raskin, a legal expert at Washington’s American University suggest “we have not had a president this right-wing in memory.
“He is more right-wing than his father, more right wing than Ronald Reagan,” the icon of social conservatism, Raskin said.
A bill approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives that has languished in the Democratically-controlled Senate would spend 300 million dollars annually on the president’s campaign to promote marriage, particularly in low-income communities. Schools promoting abstinence over other forms of sexual education would receive 135 million dollars under the president’s budget guidelines.
And in early May, Education Secretary Rod Paige took the 30-year-old co-educational system to task, wondering publicly whether it would not be better for girls and boys to be enrolled in single-sex schools, pointing to the excellent results obtained in experimental classrooms as evidence of success.
Even the interpretation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms, which has stood since 1939, has been up for reconsideration by the Bush administration.
So far, the amendment has been interpreted as allowing a state to arm militias, but under Bush, the Justice Department (ministry) argued that the amendment grants each individual the right to carry firearms.
But the nation’s overt fear of being branded un-patriotic in times of war has curtailed challenges to the rightward shift.
“This is still a very divided country, but in a time of war, people are getting less tolerant of dissenting opinions,” said Alan Lichtman, a political expert at American University.
“So, people are afraid. They think it’s not the right time,” he said.