Earlier this week, I gave an interview to a state reporter on the role of religion in this year’s election. When she asked what role it has played, I had to say “not much.” Mobilizing religious voters has generally required salient social issues. While its possible to imagine a religious left focused on economic issues (and some folks are attempting to build one), religious impact in our recent elections has been associated with social conservatives.
My guess is that, at the end of the day, McCain will do well among religious voters, but social issues have been largely absent from this election. The economy has crowded out most everything else.
Another thing that has been crowded out is the Supreme Court and federal courts. While nominees to the Court have never been a leading issue — lurking in the background and most important to the politically engaged, it’s my impression that we have heard more about it in the past.
In a recent piece for a policy magazine, I argued that the judicial appointment ought to be an important issue. Whether you believe, like Senator Obama, that we need nominees like Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, or, like Senator McCain, that we need those who remind us of Justices Scalia and Thomas, there are almost certainly going to be vacancies during the next administration. Although service on the Court seems to do wonders for a lawyer’s longevity, there will be six justices over 70 at the commencement of the 2009-2010 term.
Yet, when I went on Joy Cardin’s show on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning to discuss this issue, I was – in spite of my, you know, being a household name and everything – relegated to the ghetto of the 6 am hour. My wife said I did alright once I woke up.
My own view is that foreign policy and national security are the most important issues in a Presidential election and that we tend to overestimate the impact that any President can have on the economy. I don’t expect the federal courts to overshadow either of these issue areas, but I’d like to hear more about them than we have this year.