Abraham Lincoln once observed that "it is best not to swap horses while crossing the river." This month, as the 105th session of Congress convenes and President Clinton gears up for his second term, Americans are applying Lincoln's timeless advice to crossing the much ballyhooed "bridge to the twenty-first century."

In spite of election season rhetoric about the dawning new millennium, the political horizon looks remarkable unchanged from 1994: a divided government, with a Republican Congress and a Democratic President. Political analysts say, however, underneath the familiar status quo, significant transitions in American politics are in play. And for religious political activists, both conservative and liberal, steering American culture to the Right or the Left on social issues will remain a competitive and contentious process.

The Religious Right, having built a well-organized national network, is moving to concentrate its influence over federal legislation as well as to strengthen it stance within the Republican party.

"These are people who are no longer completely outside the political process, but I don't think they are completely in, either," says John C. Green, director of the Ray Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

On the other hand, the Religious Left, with its long-standing ties to mainline Christian liberals, aspires to a Christian Coalition—like force of grassroots activists, while it attempts to hold the line against conservative initiatives.

ALL BARK, NO BITE? The November election reaffirmed existing trends among voters.

According to exit poll data, the majority of conservative evangelicals continued a Republican voting pattern that began in the late 1970s. A Wirthlin Worldwide ...

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