It’s not yet clear what Republicans are planning to do with control of the House of Representatives. So far, they’ve looked to pass a set of restrictive anti-abortion bills that—in what will become a familiar refrain over the next two years—will go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate, let alone the White House. House Republicans have also passed legislation slashing funding to the IRS. These early indicators suggest that we’re in for a litany of ill-fated bills paired with ostentatious investigations of the Bidens and other real and imagined enemies. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is looking to draw sharp contrasts: The story it hopes to tell over the next few years will be one of economic growth and the effort to improve or modernize domestic life in the United States.
That’s according to White House senior adviser Anita Dunn, anyway. One of President Biden’s closest aides, Dunn sat down with The New Republic for a live interview on Wednesday, making the case that the accomplishments wrought by the Biden White House in its first few years in power will be felt by Americans in the months to come.
“A lot of the things that got passed haven’t even taken effect yet,” Dunn said. “But they’re going to, and as we go through the next two years communities across the country are going to feel the effect of those roads getting widened, of those bridges getting fixed, of that high-speed internet that they didn’t have before, of those small businesses—in the last few weeks we had a record number of small businesses started in the country—of manufacturing jobs getting created, of making it in America and buying in America and the extraordinary effect that has, not just in terms of big cities and coasts but the heartland as well.”
It’s a message somewhat similar to the one that Democrats at the federal and local level put forth during the 2022 midterm elections, as Republicans struggled to prop up highly flawed candidates and argue that Democrats in elected office were the real reason crime rates were rising.
But for Biden in particular, this is the sweet spot—the focus the president has dreamed about having; the framing that he is really “Amtrak Joe” from Scranton.
“The message that you’re going to hear from the president of the United States is about the importance of building this economy from the bottom up and the middle out, of being on the side of people who work hard for a living, and that working hard should be rewarded in this country. That we are rebuilding the global coalition to make the world a safer and steadier place and that the president’s wisdom and experience and his leadership have made these things possible,” Dunn continued.
At the same time, this White House is also eager to look back on Biden’s first term in office as a truly transformative period in American history, Dunn explained.
“At the end of the next two years we’ve seen the continued transformation of the American economy to one where we’re once again building things in America, where we are seeing clean energy being not just competitive but also creating the kinds of jobs that I think many of us thought a true clean energy economy could produce,” Dunn said when asked how this administration hoped, in 2024, to look back on the last two years. “If we see wages continue to be higher, if we see workers continue to be empowered in this economy, if we see the world continuing to unite against autocracy and to stand up to democracy—those would be real things that will have been accomplished.”
But that rosy story of unity and economic growth is on a collision course with the endless investigations congressional Republicans want to trumpet from the rooftops. House Republicans haven’t been shy about their desires to stand up an endless array of showy congressional hearings about the batches of classified documents that Biden had after leaving the Obama administration. By the time Biden is running for reelection in earnest—as he’s strongly indicated he plans to do—the contrast will be between Republicans pegging Democrats as corrupt as Democrats argue that the last four years saw unprecedented improvement in the lives of your average Joe.
It will come as no surprise that Dunn is confident about the president’s chances, so much so that she suggests that Biden is relishing the fights to come: “I think he is not averse to making a little history here, and we are all grateful to be a part of that.”