1.31.19 Former Governors – Bring on the Independents

A new op-ed at CNN by former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, and Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator and governor of Nebraska, argues that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz deserves a fair shot at the White House. Schultz is exploring a presidential run as an independent, a move that many believe would split undecided voters and independents and guarantee a victory for President Donald Trump. In their op-ed, Kerrey and Whitman use PRRI data to point out that independent voters now make up more of the electorate than voters who identify with one of the two major political parties. They write, “According to the Public Religion Research Institute, by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent, voters say that neither party represents their views anymore. (In 1990, a majority said the parties did.) As Chuck Todd put it on “Meet the Press” in 2015: ‘The largest party in the United States is no longer a party at all.’” Though the op-ed isn’t an endorsement of Schultz, Whitman and Kerrey argue that independents need a fairer shake during the primaries and should have a place to debate among their Republican and Democratic contenders.

Kaepernick Still Silent

With the Super Bowl just days away, an article in The Undefeated examines the complicated public persona of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick hasn’t played for an NFL team since the 2016 season, when he began to kneel during the pregame national anthem. During all this time, he has remained almost entirely silent. In the article, which recaps the Kaepernick saga, Michael A. Fletcher writes, “He does no interviews and has made just a handful of speeches over the past two years. He has millions of social media followers, but his activity on those platforms is limited mainly to reposting the thoughts of his supporters. His closest friends rarely give interviews, and even when they do, they won’t discuss Kaepernick’s plans.” According to PRRI data, 50 percent of Americans believe that athletes should be required to stand for the playing of the national anthem before sporting events, while roughly as many (47 percent) disagree. In 2018, Americans were largely aware that athletes began kneeling during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest police violence against African Americans: Sixty-five percent of the public identified this as the original motivation for the protests.

Optimism vs. Fear in 2020

Nancy LeTourneau, writing in Washington Monthly, examines the very real differences between Republicans and Democrats leading up to the 2020 presidential election. Republicans, Letourneau argues, are weaving a narrative based on fear and stoking personal anxieties. Meanwhile, Democrats, she contends, are telling a more positive story about the future of the nation. LeTourneau quotes a passage from a 2017 op-ed in The Atlantic by PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones, who wrote: “Trump’s campaign—with its sweeping promise to ‘make American great again’—triumphed by converting self-described ‘values voters’ into what I’ve called ‘nostalgia voters.’ Trump’s promise to restore a mythical past golden age—where factory jobs paid the bills and white Protestant churches were the dominant cultural hubs—powerfully tapped evangelical anxieties about an uncertain future.” According to LeTourneau, whichever Democratic candidate can manage to tell “a compelling story of optimism in America” will have a sure shot at the party’s nomination in 2020.

U.S. Immigration Authorities Detail So-Called Return-to-Mexico Guidance for Migrants

The Trump administration has announced a new immigration policy that would require asylum seekers to await their court proceedings in Mexico. A CNN article notes, “President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the nation’s immigration system, particularly the practice of releasing immigrants into the US until their immigration court hearings.” Under the new policy, border agents will send immigrants with persecution claims for further interviews with asylum officers. “If migrants don’t meet the threshold, they’ll be expected to stay in Mexico until their immigration court proceedings,” writes CNN.  The policy will be rolled out soon at the entry port of Tijuana. Immigration attorneys have already begun speaking out against the policy, claiming it will be extremely difficult to offer legal guidance from another country. A 2018 PRRI survey on immigration found that Americans are largely opposed to passing a law that would prevent refugees from coming to the U.S. Only about one in three (31 percent) Americans say they favor such a policy, while roughly six in ten (59 percent) are opposed.

A new PRRI analysis examines the opinions of 4,000 Texans and how they feel about several issues that are vital to the LGBT community. PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones writes that there is “strong majority support across a broad range of subgroups for laws that would protect lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. Notably, there is bipartisan and cross-religious support among Texans for LGBT nondiscrimination laws, as well as majority support across five major Texas metropolitan areas.” The study shows that nearly six in ten (57 percent) Texans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs. Most Texas subgroups, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants and Republicans, oppose those refusals. Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants in Texas support religiously-based service refusals, compared to 35 percent of all Texans and 33 percent of Americans overall.