This week, the Supreme Court released its much anticipated decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Civil Rights Commission, narrowly ruling for the plaintiffs and spurring both sides in the debate over LGBTQ rights to claim larger victories than justified by the decision. While LGBTQ rights were clearly being tested, beliefs about discrimination in America lurk just below the surface of responses to the decision — and those beliefs vary markedly among partisans.
As the party primaries got predictably nasty in the final week of campaigning before the March 6 election, Democratic early voting surged all week, a real phenomena that launched a thousand fundraising emails and at least a few flights of fancy, especially from those who can’t resist trying to turn a good thing into a fantastic thing. Donald Trump and Robert Mueller continued to make headlines, likely deepening the partisan divides in perceptions of their respective endeavors. Continue on for data on public opinion related to the torrent of political events this week, much of it freshly gathered in the latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll.
Political courage took a back seat to political calculation as the renegade memo on the investigation of Carter Page was made public, completing the eclipse of the President’s State of the Union and, at least for the moment, the increasingly corrosive immigration debate. While the fiddling continues in a smoldering Washington, D.C., the Comptroller delivered bad news of a more mundane variety to the Senate Finance Committee this week, while financial bad news of a different sort added to the woes of a (somewhat) surprisingly beleaguered George P. Bush in his increasingly contentious primary battle to remain Land Commissioner. Beto had better financial news than either Glenn or George P. (That sentence shows why the first name thing works better for O’Rourke). National media attention to a report on white supremacist groups focusing recruiting efforts on college campuses featured their fairly piddling efforts on Texas campuses, through our data suggests that White Supremacy pretty clearly doesn’t have a data analytics department.
Texas politics continued to be roiled by the ongoing national reckoning with sexual misconduct and gender attitudes in the culture this week, from a hearing in the Texas Senate on harassment policy to a couple of men calling it quits, including yet another Congressman, Blake Farenthold. In the policy realm, good stories on the history of the border wall produced by a team of Texas Tribune and ProPublica, and on climate change and Harvey in the Houston Chronicle, remind us all that we can continue to talk about enduring policy issues, though they also point to polarized public attitudes that make any moves on those issues difficult. All this, and, of course, Alabama
The national media storm over sexual harassment hit Texas this week, which the legislative leadership attempted to act on even as in other corners, some of the same old internecine fights in the GOP played out in the House and on the terrain of the upcoming 2018 primary elections. Congressman Gene Green’s announcement that he wouldn’t seek reelection added another wrinkle in Houston politics, this one among Democrats who are either jumping in to fight for his seat or waiting to see which #txlege competitors create new openings as a result of others' efforts to move up. Meanwhile, events in Congress provided lots of reasons why so many people don’t want to work there anymore, and some are even policy related, like the effort to combine repealing the ACA insurance mandate with the Tax Reform bill.
When it comes to legal cases in general, and legal rights in particular, it's important to note that public opinion can often act as a poor guide to a just outcome, and in many cases, may have no relevance on particular legal proceedings. With that caveat aside, public opinion is useful in determining how elected officials, including the Attorney General, might react to court decisions, and further, whether the state chooses to push ahead in the legal process in the face of adverse decisions.
Donald Trump has almost single-handedly – well, single mouth-edly – driven media coverage beyond the standard talk of convention bounces on to speculation about just how weird his campaign can get – and, yet again, whether the current state of crisis in his candidacy can be overcome. Trump’s most recent paroxysm of impulse and insult started with his response to the Democratic National Convention speech by Kazir Khan, with his wife at his side, about his son’s death while serving in the military in Iraq -- the beginning of a very rough week for the Trump campaign and the party that nominated him.
The week started with a public memorial service for the police officers killed and injured in Dallas, which included President Obama visiting the state and former President and Texas Governor George W. Bush making a rare public speaking appearance. The news media channeled troubled thoughts about the deep structural politics of last week’s events as the usual partisan politics were largely muted early in the week. There were, of course, exceptions, including a prominent one who holds statewide office here.
The Obama administration has jumped into the fight over how LGBT rights should be applied to bathrooms in public schools, which will no doubt enter the discussion at the State GOP convention and be a matter for the Lt. Governor to engage in a high profile way. In other less attention-grabbing news, Iran is testing missiles and the courts won't force the Texas Legislature to revamp the manner in which Texas schools are funded.
Established patterns in attitudes among Republican voters working in concert with the sense of immediate crisis in the aftermath of Paris are surely fueling the surprising vehemence of the illiberal rhetoric and ideas about that are so at odds with the civil libertarian culture of the country. But the vehemence of this approach and its centrality to the current political debate are the results of political choices, especially those of the candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination.