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 Democratic Presidential Nominating contest is over; Donald Trump is less offensive to people when he reads what he's going to say; Rick Perry won't be Trump's running mate but he still wants to be in his administration; and Ken Paxton tries his best to do Gov. Abbott a solid over Trump University, but only makes him look more suspicious by association.
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.
A new national poll shined the light once again on the electoral role of non-college educated white folks, even as the spotlight turned to the appearance of a very educated Texas Justice on Donald Trump's short list of US Supreme Court nominees. The U.S. Census Bureau released data confirming what everyone in Texas already pretty much knew -- that the suburbs are growing fast and the Texas 'burbs among them are growing fastest. It's run off week in Texas, and the Governor -- himself not prone to such indignities -- is promoting his new book and getting some press for the effort, which he pretty much doesn't need but will take anyway.
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.
While there was plenty going in Texas politics this week, it’s all secondary to Donald Trump taking the wheel of the national Republican Party while the kids fight in the back seat. Ted Cruz had a bigger taste of the presidential race than almost anyone expected, and is likely to come back to Texas, on balance, an enhanced political figure in his party. He’ll look even better if the Trump candidacy is a disaster for the GOP, though it would have to be some kind of meltdown for Trump to make Hillary Clinton a real contender in Texas. Not all Republicans will be on board, though the Governor and Lt. Governor ripped the Band Aid off quickly and endorsed Trump. Others Republicans have chosen to pick at those scabs.
It was another big week of agenda setting maneuvers in the world of Texas legislative politics, while in the 2016 presidential race, the Cruz campaign continued trying to salvage hope while trailing badly in both votes and delegates. Featuring Speaker Straus, Lt. Govenor Patrick, Ross Ramsey, Erica Grieder, and the Allman Brothers Band.
A little less than fourscore years ago, Texas contributed one of the clearest progenitors to Donald Trump's presidential candidacy in the person of W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, who was elected governor of the state in 1938, was reelected in 1940, then elected to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a special election in 1941. (In the Senate victory, he became the only person ever to defeat Lyndon Johnson in an election.) O'Daniel was a businessman who became a public figure via radio, which he used to advertise flour, first for Burrus Mills and later for his own company, Hillbilly Flour. Part of his pitch was the use of the Light Crust Dough Boys, the western music band that included Bob Wills and contributed to the creation of Texas Swing, and later the Hillbilly Boys.