If Republicans win control of one or both congressional chambers this week, they will likely begin a project that could reshape the nation’s political and legal landscape: imposing on blue states the rollback of civil rights and liberties that has rapidly advanced through red states since 2021.
Over the past two years, the 23 states where Republicans hold unified control of the governorship and state legislature have approved the most aggressive wave of socially conservative legislation in modern times. In highly polarizing battles across the country, GOP-controlled states have passed laws imposing new restrictions on voting, banning or limiting access to abortion, retrenching LGBTQ rights, removing licensing and training requirements for concealed carry of firearms, and censoring how public-school teachers (and in some cases university professors and even private employers) can talk about race, gender, and sexual orientation.
With much less attention, Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate have introduced legislation to write each of these red-state initiatives into federal law. The practical effect of these proposals would be to require blue states to live under the restrictive social policies that have burned through red states since President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. “I think the days of fealty [to states’ rights] are nearing an end, and we are going to see the national Republicans in Congress adopting maximalist policy approaches,” Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, a group that advocates for stricter gun control, told me.
None of the proposals to nationalize the red-state social agenda could become law any time soon. Even if Republicans were to win both congressional chambers, they would not have the votes to overcome the inevitable Biden vetoes. Nor would Republicans, even if they controlled both chambers, have any incentive to consider repealing the Senate filibuster to pass this agenda until they know they have a president who would sign the resulting bills into law—something they can’t achieve before the 2024 election.
But if Republicans triumph this week, the next two years could nonetheless become a crucial period in formulating a strategy to nationalize the red-state social-policy revolution. Particularly if Republicans win the House, they seem certain to explore which of these ideas can attract enough support in their caucus to clear the chamber. And the 2024 Republican presidential candidates are also likely to test GOP primary voters’ appetite for writing conservative social priorities into national law. Embracing such initiatives “may prove irresistible for a lot of folks trying to capture” the party’s socially conservative wing, Patrick Brown, a fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, told me. [Continue reading…]