(CNN)Democrats might control the White House and Congress, but Donald Trump-style conservatism is on a roll in Republican states and Washington, raising the stakes for Joe Biden in a summer critical to his goal of a transformational presidency.
GOP governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and Florida’s Ron DeSantis are flexing power to implement America First policies as Democrats struggle to maximize their 2020 national mandate to enact their own ambitious reforms.
Their aggressive moves on immigration, easing gun restrictions, targeting social media giants and adding restrictive voting laws seem tailored to please the ex-President and, more importantly, to tap into his support base as they prep reelection races that could merge seamlessly into 2024 White House runs.
Republican-led state legislatures, meanwhile, are drafting and passing a slew of election laws that discriminate against Democratic voters and threaten nonpartisan election certifications. Changes from Arizona to Texas and Michigan to Florida are all built on Trump’s lies that last year’s election was stolen.
While elected GOP officials are implementing Trump brand policies even without him in the Oval Office, the consequences of his presidency are being felt as the new conservative Supreme Court majority shows its colors.
The top bench, remade by Trump, again reprieved Obamacare. But it gave the first glimpses of a new era of right-wing jurisprudence by further gutting the Voting Rights Act last week. The decision suggested that Democratic efforts to challenge restrictive GOP voting laws will struggle in court. And it underscored the inability of the majority party in Washington to counter the measures with broad voting rights legislation halted by Senate Republicans with a filibuster blockade. The court’s aggressive tone is leaving progressives even more desperate for 82-year-old liberal justice Stephen Breyer to retire while Senate Democrats have a chance to confirm a replacement.
Across the street, Senate Republicans still in thrall to the former President have managed to again block Democratic efforts to subject him to accountability, killing a bipartisan, independent commission to look into the Capitol insurrection. Democrats have since decided to create their own select committee to investigate the deadly riot, though some of Trump’s closest allies in the House are openly vying for a seat on the panel to embolden the ex-President’s defense and derail the probe.
Trump is meanwhile cementing his hold on the Republican Party by conducting auditions for the 2022 midterm primaries, as candidates line up to pay the price of admission: perpetuating his democracy-staining lies about voter fraud.
A challenge for Biden
The strength of America First policies in the red half of the United States underscores the nation’s gaping political divide since it comes at a time when Biden is more popular than Trump ever was nationally. With an approval rating around 50%, the President has so far appeared to retain the grip on the political middle ground that helped him defeat Trump last November.
He used July Fourth celebrations to hail a national rebound after the pandemic, even if a new Delta viral variant and skepticism of vaccines among conservatives made it impossible to declare full independence from Covid-19.
“Over the past year, we’ve lived through some of our darkest days,” Biden said at a White House party Sunday.
“Now I truly believe … we’re about to see our brightest future,” he added.
The success of GOP policymaking outside Washington is piling even more pressure on the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats to make the most of what might be a narrow window of power before the midterm elections next year to pass one of the most ambitious party programs in decades.
Biden is seeking quick action on his bipartisan infrastructure deal with Republicans — a promise kept to voters who bought into his vow to bridge partisan divides.
But the deal is fragile, since many Senate Republicans are balking at the complex choreography that will see it moved alongside a huge Democratic spending bill worth up to $6 trillion needed to buy progressive votes.
The second bill would include many measures defined by the White House as “human infrastructure,” including home health care for sick and elderly Americ
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