Keyword: Gun Control
Public Attitudes and Post-Orlando Politics: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics, June 17, 2016
The week in politics has been dominated by the sad but also politically complicated aftermath of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. We’ve gathered polling data relevant to the unusually complex tangle of issues that intersect the terrible events in Orlando. Which of these you think matters most (or at all) likely depends on partisanship and political ideology – a facet of contemporary politics in the United States that made dramatically, often painfully, clear in the public discourse that has followed the Orlando murders. As both public figures and the general public seek ways to think about the Orlando killers, attitudes about a complex range of issues -- terrorism, civil rights, gun violence, immigration, Barack Obama’s presidency -- offer a range of contexts in which to frame the events in Orlando that were, at the same time, unambiguously terrible.
The state’s political leadership moved this week to publicly acknowledge what reporters at some of the major dailies have been saying for weeks now: the use of emergency leave as severance pay by another name (mostly) is a thing, and not a good one. Depending on your perspective, Speaker Straus either sent up a trial balloon or invested a little political capital in an agenda setting move as the 85th Legislature looms a little closer on the horizon. Speaking of trial balloons, Hillary Clinton launched a big blue one in a reference to competing in Texas in a very good long read profile in New York Magazine, triggering a renewed discussion of her prospects in the land of Hill & Bill’s McGovernite youth as well renewed attention the headaches and heartburn Donald Trump’s approach to Hispanic outreach is causing in the GOP. Conservative opinion leader Bill Kristol’s search for a conservative alternative to Trump in the presidential has apparently led him to one David French. Sadly, there was another shooting on a college campus, which resonated, if probably only briefly, with the ongoing movement in Texas toward the August 1 implementation of campus carry policies on Texas campuses.
With Donald Trump seemingly headed toward big wins in both the South Carolina and Nevada primaries and Texas’ proportional representation primary less than two weeks away, the magnitude of Ted Cruz’s strength in Texas, and its geographic distribution, loom as major factors on Super Tuesday. Technically, Super Tuesday actually got underway in Texas on Monday, when early voting for the primary election started. Guns were back in the news this week as another private university took advantage of the campus-carry opt-out privilege accorded private institutions even as the University of Texas at Austin begrudgingly announced its policy, which reflected the legislature’s concerted effort to force public universities to allow guns in classrooms. The legislature continued its vision of protecting Constitutional guarantees Wednesday when the Senate State Affairs Committee held a hearing on their interim charge to protect sincerely held religious beliefs from the depredations of government. At several points in that hearing, the testimony flared into the kind of vituperative opposition to gay and lesbian rights that would have pleased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend near Marfa. The stakes of choosing Scalia’s successor on the high court couldn’t be higher, including among Republicans whose faith in the court was shaken by the court’s decisions affirming gay marriage and the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – decisions from which Justice Scalia dissented with characteristic color.
Texas voters may not be currently clamoring for ever fewer restrictions on gun rights, but the political leadership is determined to deliver them anyway.
The holidays were definitely over this week with the primary contests heating up and President Obama making a big push on gun safety and earning a swift, even preemptive responses from Republicans in Washington and Texas. Speaking of Washington Republicans in Texas, Marco Rubio made his first campaign visit to Texas this week in an effort to break into the top tier here. The DPS officer who pulled over and arrested Sandra Bland, who later died in custody in Waller County, is out of the job and in legal trouble, while federal law enforcement officials are taking a MUCH more measured approach to the constitutionalist occupation of a building on national park land in Colorado – perhaps following a little-noticed Texas precedent. As we were gathering material for this post, Greg Abbott called for a Constitutional Convention – U.S., not state, so if you’re a Texas legislator, it’s ok – and 9 new amendments broadly aimed at reasserting state authority vis-a-vis the federal government and putting new checks on the U.S. Supreme Court. He seems sort of fed up! To borrow a phrase.
The attitudes revealed in polling provide ready frames for political leaders on the left and right to use in crafting their responses to the sad and troubling events in Colorado Springs.
The era of “what, me worry?” when it comes to the effects of the oil boom came closer to the end this week with the comptroller’s downward revision of his revenue estimates, a revision based largely on the effects of the collapse in oil prices. The Lt. Governor followed with his serial interim charge announcements calling for “options to further reduce the tax burden on property owners.” On the national stage, the vacuum created by the recognition that being Speaker of the U.S. House is a one-way ticket out of electoral politics led some GOP members to launch trial balloons. Meanwhile, over in the Democratic Presidential nomination race, Hillary Clinton reminded Democratic voters that she’s the pro in the race with a mostly sharp, funny performance that also showed her shrewdness by effortlessly getting to Bernie Sanders’ left on guns. Speaking of guns, the media was buzzing – and in some cases seemingly altering their policy on language appropriate for family newspapers – with the announcement by some activists at UT-Austin of a protest against the new campus carry law that will involve the open carry of dildos.
Lt. Governor Patrick's interim charges represent a potpourri of issues ranging from the unsung operational stuff of government to the more provocative issues that rouse the GOP's voting base. University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polling suggests that the GOP primary electorate is much less interested in the details of issues like water and electricity than they are in issues like immigration, border security, and the vociferous protection and expansion of gun rights.
Much of the week was filled with continuing storylines that are illuminated below with polling data and other graphics – attacks on Planned Parenthood, Ted Cruz's campaign for the Republican Presidential Nomination, more of Hillary Clinton's vexed run for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and another entry into the race for the House seat currently held by Speaker Joe Straus. The end of the week turned much more sadly serious with another mass shooting at a community college.
With open carry legislation still working its way through the legislative process, here’s another brief look at data on gun attitudes from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, and a consideration of the logic applied to data (or the lack thereof) on gun ownership in the current debate.