Biden Pushes Popular Agenda, GOP Backs Blind Opposition
President Joe Biden has been in office for less than 3 months but, in the short time since his inauguration, he’s hit the ground running. Acting on what he promised to do on the campaign trail, he’s wasting no time confronting the issues facing Americans. He’s ramped up the country’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout, doubling the initial goal of 100 million shots in arms in the first 100 days, achieved a major legislative victory by securing the passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, taken action against gun violence, and unveiled a package to improve infrastructure across America.
In that same period, on the other side of the aisle, the Republican Party has found itself in a difficult position, floating rudderless in the political wilderness. No figure has managed to fill the leadership void left by the unceremonious departure of the previous occupant of the White House. In fact, worse, the GOP has found itself more focused on its own internal war between the conservative individuals, who wish to drag the party back to its traditional roots and return to the Reagan era of Republicanism, and MAGA activists, who believe the party’s problems can be solved by fully embracing a world of conspiracy theories and disinformation. The only thing that appears to unite the party now are complaints of cancel culture and an undemocratic desire to suppress Black voters.
Whilst normally, in the wake of an election defeat, a party takes time to assess what went wrong, accept its failings, and adjust to prepare for the upcoming midterm elections and impending presidential contest, Republicans have refused to do that. Rather, we have seen GOP officials choose to continue re-litigating the previous president’s talking points, even trying to push the absurd and unfounded claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Rather than change their ways, the party is pursuing hundreds of voter suppression bills around the country to rig the rules in their favor. Those who do want to move forward get lost in the noise of the QAnon congressional intake.
This absence of a figurehead, coupled with an abject failure to agree around a common vision and set of goals, has forced the Republican Party to turn back the clock to a playbook popularized by Mitch McConnell during President Barack Obama’s time in office: Obstructionism. While the GOP might not be able to agree on what the future of their party looks like, they are firmly united on doing all they can to hinder and delay President Biden’s agenda.
The problem with the Republican approach to the 46th president’s legislative priorities is that Biden’s policies are incredibly popular with voters. Whether it’s climate change, fighting gun violence, fixing infrastructure, or providing much-needed financial relief during the Covid-19 pandemic, polls show that the public is giving a resounding thumbs up to the Democratic Party’s actions. You only need to look at President Biden’s approval ratings, where he kicked off his administration with greater support than his predecessor managed to secure at any point during the previous four years. To make matters worse for the GOP, “Biden Republicans” are becoming a new political phenomenon.
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Just like the increasing frustration among the public that came from the GOP’s constant attacks on the Affordable Care Act and refusal to provide a viable alternative, Americans are sick and tired of stagnation in politics and obstructionist tendencies. Issues can’t be indefinitely kicked into the long grass. If you’re the parent of a child killed by gun violence, or a community suffering from health problems due to the impact of climate change, or a DACA recipient who fears for their status despite simply trying to make an honest living in America, you have no time for a party that intentionally wants to slow down progress.
You might wonder, given the Democratic Party is in power and controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, why it matters what the Republican Party does given President Biden’s agenda is supported by the public. The reality is that, unlike the GOP, which appears happy to continue to divide America along party lines, President Biden recognizes that approach is not healthy for a country that needs to heal after what it had to endure from 2016-2020.
Bipartisanship is a word that has been too often thrown around by individuals who are trying to score political points, rather than actually achieving something. But, with President Biden, America actually has a leader who embodies that word. He came to prominence throughout his career in Congress due to his tendency to reach across the aisle, throwing away the easy option of bedding down in partisan positions, and forming strong relationships with his opposite numbers in the Republican Party to actually get things done. However, despite attempts to build bridges since President Biden took office, Republicans seem more interested in engaging in absurd and baffling culture wars and partisan point-scoring than working on policies, even when it benefits their own constituents.
Take the stimulus bill, where the Democratic administration made a point of adapting the bill to include the needs and requests of Republicans in an attempt to create a truly bipartisan piece of legislation that reflects how a pandemic is neither a left-wing nor a right-wing issue. Did this result in the bill gliding through the House and the Senate with overwhelming support from both parties? No. It only passed due to the hard work of the Democratic Party and Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, with not an ounce of Republican backing. The GOP stomped on the bipartisan behavior of Democrats, voted against the package, and then had the audacity to try and claim credit for measures that help their constituents.
Once it was clear that Republicans couldn’t stop the stimulus bill, they turned to the culture war approach, whipping up a frenzy on Fox News and OAN by bizarrely claiming it wasn’t about helping Americans, but was a socialist cash grab. This line, accusing Democrats of being socialist or communist, is becoming one of the GOP’s favored attack lines, despite it showing they have no understanding of those ideologies: Karl Marx’s vision for society did not end with giving taxpayers a proportion of their own money back as a one-time stimulus payment.
The same is occurring with the infrastructure package that’s now in front of Congress. As with protecting Americans from a deadly virus, this is neither a Democratic nor a Republican issue. In fact, bolstering infrastructure across America will almost certainly provide more help to individuals living in rural areas, who are likely to be GOP-leaning, than those in large cities who often support Democrats.
Not letting the facts get in the way of their culture war, the GOP’s Tennessee Senator, Marsha Blackburn, pulled out three sections of the infrastructure package, claiming that money is actually being used on climate change studies, for green transportation initiatives, and toward elder care. Clearly, Senator Blackburn believes that creating substantial infrastructure and ensuring senior citizens have access to safe transport aren’t important issues. This desire to engage in confrontational politics, that only aims to halt progress, might be the preferred approach for hard-line Republicans, but it is despised by Americans who just want a fair and functioning government.
With President Biden launching an effort to tackle gun violence in the past week, we’ve already seen the GOP renounce any efforts to find a bipartisan solution, instead pushing a ridiculous and outdated argument by claiming that any sensible gun control measure is an attempt to ‘take away people’s guns.’
Time and time again the GOP is showing that it doesn’t have an agenda, or an idea, or any policies that will actually address existing issues in the country. It seems it only has partisan and destructive talking points. That’s why we saw so few legislative or political victories during the previous administration. There was no political agenda, just a mission to whip up anger and division in a manner that dangerously split the country. Nothing has changed in what’s supposed to be a new era of GOP politics.
If the Republican Party continues to refuse to move forward and fails to lay out a real agenda that Americans can rally around, it will further its decline into a political group that isn’t taken seriously by a majority of the country but just becomes an ineffective hub for people on the far-right of the political spectrum.
It’s not a coincidence that a report recently found more Americans now identify as Democrats than Republicans by a margin that hasn’t been seen in a decade. A party can’t simply oppose the existing administration and seek to block its legislative agenda. It has to provide a credible alternative. By continuing down this road, the GOP will lose its place on the political stage, and will simply become known as the Grand Obstructionist Party.