Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program: Texas Public Opinion and the Politics of the Border Security–Government Shutdown Imbroglio
If politics in the state capital seem to have taken an oddly agreeable turn in the interim between the November elections and the commencement of the 86th Texas Legislative Session in January 2019, the resurgence of the politics of border security in negotiations between the White House and Congressional Democrats over a continuing resolution to fund the federal government remind us that the nativist sentiment among the Republican base is never far from the surface. Whether they reappear in state politics too, after an interlude of good feelings about the need to address public school financing and forego more divisive policy issues, will depend on the choices of the major players in the legislative process – and, to a difficult to predict degree, upon national atmospherics shaped largely by the White House.
For today, though, the intense views on border security and immigration that have been the most reliable features of GOP attitudes both nationally and in Texas are at center stage as Donald Trump plays chicken with the Democratic congressional leadership over his demands for $5 billion in funding for his border wall (presumably the share the Mexican government has not yet paid for).
A week before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump has thrown kerosene on the immigration and border security fires already demonstrably raging within the Republican Pary by loudly promoting two measures aimed squarely at GOP voters focused on immigration and border security. First, the president has called up 5,200 active duty military personnel to converge on the Texas border in anticipation of a caravan of migrants from Honduras. Second, in an Axios / HBO interview to air this weekend, it was revealed that the president is considering repealing birthright citizenship as guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through executive order.
Given the array of attitudes toward immigration and citizenship among the voters who dominate both the selection of GOP statewide candidates as well as the selection of winners in the general election, these elected officials' remain eternally vigilant in their efforts to remain on the right side of the electorate – and each other – on all things related to immigration. The result is that they continue to channel the nativist impulses that course through their base, for better or for worse when it comes to major policy consequences of the Trump Administration's proposed changes to the U.S. Census.
Texas, however unique in its own eyes, remains on the American political map, and its nation’s-first primary election expressed some national dynamics — and may provide some lessons, as national attention shifts to primaries elsewhere in the country.
On the Texas side of politics, this week felt like a flashback to last Spring, as the anti-sanctuary city law, the bathroom bill, and the general tone of the 85th Legislature all got rehearings. It’s hard not to feel yet again that there are much bigger goings-on nationally, as students not on spring break staged a national walk-out to protest inaction on gun policy, the Democrats won a squeaker in a Pennsylvania special election, and we discovered what many presupposed, that Special Counsel Mueller has some questions about the Trump business empire and its connections to Russians. Read on for Texas public opinion data linked to some of the big stories from the week in politics.
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.
Day-to-day breaking news on the various aspects of investigations of Russian tampering in the 2016 election and (increasingly) how the Trump White House has responded to the investigation dominated the national political news this week, with the early week looking bad for the FBI but the end of the week looking decidedly worse for the president. The big story from the previous week, the negotiations over immigration policy and the government shutdown, hovered ever so lightly over Dan Patrick’s first border-security and illegal immigration focused campaign video, in which the Lt. Governor signaled very strongly that he’s still behind the president. Yet within hours of the release of the governor’s video, the president was signaling his willingness to trade a path to citizenship for DACA recipients for border wall funding – which provided Senator Cruz the chance to raise his head above the hedge to shout his dissent. In two developments that remain secure from the ever-expanding storm of national politics, the special school finance commission met for the first time this week, and the first batch of legally grown marijuana in Texas made news. Continue on for Texas data on yet another week in politics that veered very unevenly between mystery and quirky humor.
Without undertaking judgments about the various attempts to frame the shutdown with assignations of blame, we’ve rounded up a set of polling results from (mostly) recent University of Texas / Texas Tribune Polls to illuminate how the political rhetoric surrounding the 2018 shutdown of the federal government is landing among the Texas electorate.
Matters of intense partisan contention at the state and federal level – LGBTQ rights, voting rights, the President’s travel ban, and abortion – are getting attention from the judicial branch this week. Our polling in Texas has yielded a lot of data on the issue at hand that might be useful in thinking about how they made it onto the public agenda in the first place, how specific politics and laws that are now being contested in the courts came to be, and how actions taken by the courts will be interpreted by the broader public here in Texas
The UT/Texas Tribune Poll asked about two of the key provisions of SB4 that have been subjects of the litigation under discussion today – the so-called "show me your papers provision" that preserve law enforcement officers' option to ask for proof of citizenship during a legal detainment, and the requirement that local authorities' cooperate and comply with federal immigration law, including detainer requests by Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE).