1.8.19 Questions to Ask About the 116th Congress

Questions to Ask About the 116th Congress

Kelsey Dallas, writing for the Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News, looks at three questions related to religion that observers should keep in mind as they follow the new Congress. Throughout her piece, Dallas refers back to PRRI data showing that Americans are still skeptical about nonreligious candidates, and that a significant number of Americans still see the United States as a Christian nation. “Only 27 percent of U.S. adults believe electing more nonreligious people would make things in the country better,” Dallas writes. She later points to a recent Pew Institute study that shows that 99 percent of Republican members of Congress identify as Christian, compared 78.3 percent of Democrats. This disparity could have political implications, as PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones explains in a recent interview with The Washington Post about the significance of Trump’s calls for a border wall. “For white evangelicals who see the sun setting on white Christian dominance in the country, the wall is a powerful metaphor,” he said.
Will Executive Privilege Block Mueller Info?

A new report from Bloomberg News quotes Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on whether the White House will try to invoke executive privilege to block findings from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign. “We will look at it and see if the president thinks there is a valid claim and if there is, do we want to make it,” Giuliani says. “We reserve the right. We don’t know if we have to, but we haven’t waived it.” In the piece, reporters Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece speculate that a Supreme Court battle may have to unfold before the public – and Congress – are able to see Mueller’s final report. According to a 2018 PRRI survey, 39 percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Mueller, compared to 45 percent who say they have an unfavorable opinion and 14 percent who have not heard of Mueller. Across partisan lines, the differences are starker: Nearly six in ten (59 percent) Democrats — compared to only 17 percent of Republicans — say their opinion of Mueller is positive overall.
Have Views of Trump’s Presidency Shifted? 

Linda Feldmann wrote a story in the Christian Science Monitor about Trump’s presidency, arguing for a distinction between rhetoric and policy. “There’s another way to look at this presidency,” she writes. “Trump has, controversially or not, gotten a lot done using the legitimate levers of power, either by going through Congress or through executive action. He has changed the tax code, eliminated key elements of the Affordable Care Act, pulled the United States out of major international agreements (Paris climate accord, Iran nuclear deal), reformed others (US-Mexico-Canada trade), gone hard after China’s trade practices, and announced a pullout of all US troops from Syria and a drawdown from Afghanistan.” Feldmann also addresses questions of immigration and race that have been activated by Trump, drawing on some comments from PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones, who argues that the country was a tinderbox of sorts. “I don’t believe Trump invented the conditions; racial tensions and anti-immigrant feeling were latent, and he brought them to the foreground,” he says. 
The New York Times: “How the Border Wall Is Boxing Trump In”

The New York Times ran an article on the topic of the border wall, exploring how the idea came about while Trump was exploring a run for presidency in 2014, and explaining the politics surrounding it. Some conservative and anti-immigration activists are concerned that the president’s fixation on the wall could be undermining other aspects of the Republican immigration agenda. “To many conservative activists who have pressed for decades for sharp reductions in both illegal and legal immigration — and some of the Republican lawmakers who are allied with them — a physical barrier on the border with Mexico is barely relevant, little more than a footnote to a long list of policy changes they believe are needed to fix a broken system,” write reporters Julie Hirschfield Davis and Peter Baker. According to a 2018 PRRI poll, nearly six in ten (58 percent) Americans oppose building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. There are sharp partisan divisions: Eight in ten (80 percent) Republicans favor building a wall along the border, including nearly half (45 percent) who strongly favor such a policy. By contrast, eight in ten (80 percent) Democrats oppose building a wall along the border, including more than six in ten (61 percent) who are strongly opposed.