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“It leaves a lot of ground to us”: Biden becomes populist with little resistance


The muted right-wing response to Biden’s orders underscores the remarkable ideological shift taking place in Washington, DC. A republican party that was once closely associated with the American corporation can be found less and less in the Donald Trump era. In fact, following Biden’s orders, officials around Trump even said the policy was wise.

“Both [Biden and Trump] have elements in their constituencies who want this, and they are on solid ground with the rest of America, “said a Trump adviser. “America has a love-hate relationship with these companies.”

But so far, much of the GOP’s newfound economic populism has been translated into words rather than deeds. And that gives the Democrats room to pursue an agenda that five years ago would likely have caused a massive setback.

“People will understand who is on their side and who is not,” said Cedric Richmond, a senior White House advisor and director of the Office of Public Engagement. “There will be Democrats who side with working families, not Republicans. For them, I think that’s a terrible mistake. “

The Biden Implementing Ordinance, issued earlier this month, comprised a total of 72 initiatives. Among the most momentous were his moves that called for greater scrutiny of technology acquisitions, increased competition for Canadian generic manufacturers and importers, enabled over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, standardized plans for health buyers trying to compare insurance options, and certain protection Workers in meat packaging from artificially low wages, so to speak.

It was another point in what economic watchers see as the increasingly populist White House agenda. Previously, Biden had promised to forego intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and appointed Amazon critic and anti-monopoly advocate Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission.

Some of Biden’s actions targeted issues already Republican support, including efforts to lower hearing aid prices, discourage agricultural consolidation, and curb so-called non-compete agreements that harm US workers, among others. Twenty-one Republicans supported Khan’s nomination.

The bipartisan appeal for anti-monopoly politics goes back even further. During the 2016 election, Trump promised to fight large mergers and take over huge companies that he said pose a “huge antitrust problem.” Following the loss of Trump, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) And Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) Have called for comprehensive cartel reform in Congress that sometimes reflects the efforts of the Democrats. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, one of the most influential voices on the right, hailed Khan’s election to lead the FTC.

“There is growing awareness that concentration in all areas of the company is really stifling the economy and harming people,” said David Segal, executive director of the digital rights group Demand Progress and co-chair of the Freedom from Facebook and Google coalitions. “In some cases it is an actual recognition of this and in others at least the political importance of the issue.”

Instead of tracking Biden to target big corporations, Republicans have focused on Covid-related policies and spending, immigration and inflation fears. Meanwhile, party activists and much of the conservative media ecosystem are prioritizing cultural war themes, from conspiracies to Dr. Seuss works to teaching critical racial theory in schools.

Celinda Lake, one of Biden’s leading pollsters in the election campaign, called it a departure from Trump, who repeatedly engaged in cultural warfare, but also fed populist economic threads. “You only seem to be doing one right now. And that’s surprising and leaves a lot of ground to us, ”said Lake.

The White House has welcomed the open space it has been given to embark on a populist path. In strategy talks with allied groups, government officials have indicated that surveys showed strong support for taxing the rich, while Lake said the survey data she reviewed has gained huge popularity across the ideological spectrum for breaking up big tech and companies like Amazon to have more taxes paid.

“In my opinion [Republicans] are concerned about getting on the wrong side of some of them, ”she said of the elected representatives of the GOP, who largely did not cheer but also did not criticize Biden’s actions.

Segal, a former Rhode Island state legislature, said the Biden administration reflected a more modern Democratic Party – one that was animated by liberal figures like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) And Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and is more willing to take on antitrust issues. Biden has called Amazon and Facebook on multiple points and told a television reporter on Friday that the social media giant is “killing people” by not monitoring its users as they trade in vaccine disinformation.

“Biden himself has moved. He brought with him some progressive and very concerned people willing to use public power to regulate industries for the good of society, ”Segal said. “And there are certain other people who might have been more corporatist a few decades ago and who seem to have changed their way of thinking about these issues, at least in some cases.”

James Sherk, director of the Center for American Freedom at the America First Policy Institute, a political nonprofit led by Trump White House officials, said there was consensus between right and left on antitrust issues. However, he argued that the agreement was limited.

“I think there is a growing awareness on the right that some of this concentrated corporate authority can be a problem, and it has been used to advance a political agenda that the people on the right strongly disagree with,” he said . “I think tech platforms that deplated Trump were a turning point for the people on the right.”

“However, the Democrats,” he added, “are very happy that technology platforms are playing ideological censorship and controlling the discourse and reducing so-called misinformation.”

Sherk predicted that conservatives, including his group, would instead focus on state-level change rather than trying to work with the Biden government. A recent example was a law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that fined social media companies for censoring political candidates and other users. A Florida federal judge issued an injunction against the law, citing First Amendment and Section 230 laws, which would have come into effect in early July.

Others in Trump’s circle admit that there is symmetry between the previous and current administrations on antimonopoly issues. And they fear that the overlap could actually create a coalition for the implementation of federal policy.

“It’s really amazing, we have something that Biden and Trump agree on, they want to pursue big tech companies,” said Stephen Moore, who was an economic advisor to Trump. “It’s a dangerous time because we have the Josh Hawleys of the world joining forces with the Elizabeth Warrens of the world, and it’s really troubling to me as a freelancer.”

While elected Republicans have been relatively calm about Biden’s orders aimed at corporate power, corporate groups have not. Neil Bradley of the US Chamber of Commerce claimed that the measure “smells like a ‘government knows best’ approach to managing the economy,” while Josh Bolten of the Business Roundtable added that it “tends to undermine US competitiveness rather than could improve ”.

But the chamber carries far less weight with Republicans than it has in the past, having backed several Democratic candidates in the last election and repeatedly breaking with Trump on issues such as tariffs and immigration. And unlike in the Obama years – when the Chamber’s opposition to legislative initiatives aroused deep concern in the administration – the Biden White House has shown no hesitation about its anti-monopoly platform.

Instead, White House officials have proactively argued that new business creation has slowed significantly over the past four decades or more due to the concentration of power among corporations. And in interviews, Biden’s economic advisers and liaison officers with American companies formulated the efforts required to increase competition.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of having a competent government that cares about the well-being of the people,” Ramamurti said. “And I think that has opened the door to other types of competent targeted action aimed at improving people’s lives.”

Richmond said he wasn’t surprised by the relatively subdued pushback from the right. The government is in frequent contact with major CEOs, business leaders and industry associations, and Biden himself has telegraphed where he was taken during the campaign and at the White House.

“Kitchen table themes are issues that win elections,” said Richmond. “We have a robust economy that is coming back. I think these are the things that people sit at the table and recognize. “

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