Here are the main events in Politics that occurred over the past week:
1. NJ Congressional Members Lead Push for Legislative Changes After the Charlottesville Incident
Last weeks Charlottesville incident has encouraged renewed efforts at the Congressional level to address the legacy of white supremacy and to improve the Civil Rights situation within the US. One such effort is spearheaded by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who announced on August 16 that he will introduce legislation ordering the remove all Confederate statues from the Capitol building. Arguing that the “Capitol’s statuary hall should be a place of honor for Patriots — those who have served, sacrificed, or made tremendous contributions to our nation,” Booker feels that it is inappropriate to honor individuals who pursued actions contrary to American values and that memorializing Confederate leaders is a disgrace to the memory of the individuals who lost their lives during the Civil War and in fighting for equal rights for all Americans regardless of race. Despite the overwhelming public support for Senator Booker’s legislative proposal, the bill has little chance to pass due to strong opposition by President Donald Trump and the Congressional Republican leadership.
In addition to Senator Booker’s legislative proposal, Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ’s 7th Congressional District) announced that he supports a new version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Supreme Court invalidated key sections of the Act in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder, with the majority reasoning that the Justice Department could no longer review and block changes to the voting procedures in several Southern states with a history of discrimination because the statistics and data on which the Voting Rights Act was premised were no longer up to date. The new version of the law would make all states and jurisdictions eligible for coverage formula based on voting violations in the last 15 years and would create more transparency in the event of any changes to polling times, dates, locations and protocols. Even though the updated Voting Rights Act is supported by members of both political parties, the Republican-controlled Congress is opposed to such legislation, arguing that voting policies are to be left to the states and that any federal efforts are in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. As such, prospects for any changes in federal voting law remain low.
2. Trump Approval Rating Falls to Record-Low Level
Over this past week, President Donald Trump’s overall approval rating fell to a new low in response to his poor response to the Charlottesville incident and continued allegations regarding his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In recent polling by Gallup, President Trump’s approval rating has fallen to only 34%, the lowest ever recorded for a President who has been in office for less than one year. The polling also shows that Trump’s support amongst Republicans has fallen to only 79% and that a majority of Republicans believe that Trump has fallen short on the national stage and that he needs to correct his policies and rhetoric in order to get back on course. Moreover, President Trump’s approval in three key states that helped him win the Presidential Election (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan) has fallen to less than 40%. This news reveals that the Trump Administration is deeply unpopular with the vast majority of the American people and perhaps is an early sign pointing towards a strong victory by the Democratic Party in next years midterm election and ultimately, a victory in the 2020 Presidential Election.
3. President Donald Trump Fires Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
On August 18, President Donald Trump fired Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, during a shakeup of his cabinet and top advisors. Bannon was originally hired by Trump last June shortly after the Republican primaries and was a driving force behind the “nationalist” ideology promoted by President Trump both on the campaign trail and in office. The tensions between President Trump and Bannon began last week when Bannon was quoted in an interview contradicting Trump on North Korea and asserting that he was able to make personnel changes at the State Department. These actions angered the President and made Bannon’s ouster inevitable.
Bannon’s exit means that one of the White House’s most controversial staffers would longer be at the center of the Trump Administration and may signal that President Trump is willing to modify his policies. Additionally, it is rumored that Bannon was fired based on the suggestion of Chief of Staff John Kelly who took over as chief of staff looking to instill order in a chaotic White House beset by internal divisions, staff infighting, and numerous controversies.