A ruling that the religiously based notion of intelligent design cannot be taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution in high school science classes is music to the ears of the reasonable. That the court's decision was preempted by a sweeping victory in school board elections for a slate of candidates opposed to intelligent design proponents was further indication that reason can, indeed, prevail.
The judge adjudicating the Dover, Pa. case did not preclude discussion in other classes. But in a blistering rebuttal of the defending school board's position and it's proponent's deceitful courtroom tactics, the judge restored reason to this highly contentious debate. Underscoring the fact that many of the newly elected school board members are avowed Christians, Judge John E. Hughes said the theory of evolution and the idea of a Creator are not mutually exclusive, and was adamant that intelligent design theory is not science.
Aside from the obvious implications for the debate over religion in the public forum, the Dover, Pa. case affirms the idea that America's majority opinion can be depended on to tend toward the ideological middle ground. It's also a warning to those who would push the extremes, at either end of the political spectrum, that once roused from its slumber, the typically silent majority is a force to be reckoned with.
So, while President George W. Bush and his media managers play cat and mouse with the right wing nuts (evangelical, fiscal or both), they court reaction that could ultimately oust them from power. Karl Rove and Co. have rightly calculated that their slim electoral advantage hinges on the turnout of folks in tune with the Dover defendants. Brilliant strategists that they are, they also recognize the high wire they walk in catering to them. In the swirl of debate prior to the Pennsylvania Intelligent Design case, Bush declared that the creationist-based concept should be taught in schools. He hasn't been heard from on the subject since the ruling.
Bush was not alone. Sen. Rick Santorum (R. Pennsylvania), a bastion of right wing, religiously based positions, vociferously weighed in on the side of the Dover defendants, much as he did over Terry Schaivo (the Florida right-to-die case) earlier in 2005, only to back off with his rhetorical tail firmly between his legs. Apparently Santorum does not subscribe to the adage, 'Once bitten, twice shy' for in the wake of Judge Jones's ruling he ran for the same cover he'd sought after getting burned in the ghoulish Schaivo debacle.
The outcomes in each of these hot-button debates serve to highlight the political truth that at the end of the political day, despite the occasional, often disconcerting wrinkle, the reasoned opinion of the vast majority of Americans shall prevail. When that voice speaks in unison and with sufficient amplitude, its designated mouthpieces, congresspersons and state legislators, have no choice but to hear it and respond accordingly.
No clearer could this have been made than by the recent back tracking done by the Commonwealth's lawmakers. Faced by overwhelming opposition to the pay raise they gave themselves under cover of night, state legislators caved to public pressure and rescinded their enormously unpopular decision. Similarly, responding to public disgust over the political pantomime attending property tax relief efforts, Pennsylvania lawmakers appear closer to a rational tax-based solution than ever before. How long before that prediction comes back to bite me in the rear end?
It would seem, since the onset of the silly political season ushered in after 9/11, some semblance of normalcy is returning to the policy-making scene. While Bush (still) mentions terrorism with almost every public utterance, opinion poll after opinion poll indicates that the issue uppermost on the president's mind is lowermost in the publics. Americans are far more interested in resolving such issues as education, health care, persistent poverty, citizen's constitutional guarantees, and equity for retirees.
At last the thorny old issues, the stuff of politics since New Deal days, have returned to their rightful place at the top of the nation's list of political priorities. With their rise we may also be seeing the divisive, religio-based issues like abortion, right-to-die, creationism, etc., which have played such a dominant role recently, restored to the domain of individual decision versus governmental imposition.
And with their fall in the public's political consciousness we may also be witnessing the demise of those who rode to power distracting voters from their real concerns. If so, Santorum and his ilk may be enjoying their last days at the pinnacle of power. Savoring the restoration of reason, some of us certainly hope so.