Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. Eager to implement his agenda, Biden signed a number of executive orders after he was sworn into office, beginning the process of undoing some of former President Donald Trump’s legacy.
Jessica Anderson, director of Heritage Action for America, joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to share her reactions to Biden’s inaugural address, and her insights on what policies we can expect to see implemented by a Biden administration.
Plus, we welcome our colleague Helena Richardson, director of The Heritage Foundation’s intern program, to the show to discuss an exciting new way for high school and college students to get involved in public policy.
And as always, we’ll be crowning our “Problematic Woman of the Week.”
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: We are so excited to welcome back to the show Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America.
Jessica served in the Trump administration for a time as the associate director of intergovernmental affairs and strategic initiatives for the Office of Management and Budget, and she frequently appears on a number of major networks, including Fox News.
Jessica, welcome back to the show.
Jessica Anderson: Hey, everyone. Thanks for having me.
Allen: So, let’s begin by just talking about your reactions to what happened yesterday. Former Vice President Joe Biden became President Joe Biden. So, what were your thoughts on Biden’s inaugural address and the events of yesterday?
Anderson: Wow! Well, what a day it was. Lot of emotions going throughout the day, for sure, just both on a personal level of living here in the District in Washington, D.C., and then just on a professional level of recognizing so much is changing.
And I’m reminded that there really are no permanent victories, just as there are no permanent failures, in this town. Everything comes and goes every four years, and that couldn’t be more stark or more true when you look at the contrast between former President Trump’s legislative agenda and the legislative governing agenda that’s now being put forward from Biden.
And so, while it was a day of pomp and circumstance, and America flag-waving and calls for unity and hope, I think underneath a lot of this really good and nice-sounding rhetoric was the reality of a very destructive legislative policy agenda.
And I’m very eager for us to get back into the fight and start recognizing that Biden’s priorities need to be about creating jobs, not taking them away; to be about reopening the economy, not shutting it down; to be about removing regulations so that we’ve got more health care and the vaccine to more people that want it.
And so, I think, as Day Two begins, this is really the task at hand. But the day itself was fine. It was nice to see some snowflakes, and it was certainly nice that it’s now in our rearview mirror, and we can get to work.
Lauren Evans: Yeah, no, Jess, I love that. Always moving forward, one thing I love about Heritage Action.
This inauguration looked a lot different than inaugurations in the past. I know you went to the inauguration in 2016 of President Trump and there were lots of people, but due to COVID and security concerns, there was 20,000 National Guard troops. And it’s so funny to me, the citizens of D.C., what with all these National Guards, one of my favorite new trends is on TikTok. Women of D.C. are just scrolling. It’s just National Guardsman after National Guardsman.
Anderson: It’s like Fleet Week, right? It’s like Fleet Week for the 20-somethings in D.C. Look, I take the humor in it. I think it’s important that we find some humor to talk about these days, otherwise we’re just going to go crazy.
But the reality is that we had an inauguration with the backdrop of the National Guard that flanked the road that the president and the vice president would normally walk with a cheering crowd.
That was wildly absent, and in place of it was our nation’s military. And first and foremost, we thank the troops. They’re there because it’s their job to be there. My husband is former military. It was our job to be in places like that. I get it.
But the reality is that it’s really reflective of a little bit of the cloud that is over this entire inauguration process just because of how things have gone down and what this transition of power has looked like. But we’re here. We’re where we are.
It’s Day Two. President Trump has left the White House for arguably the final time, and I think as conservatives, we’re in a place today where we realize that it would be a complete mistake to forget the issues that brought Trump to Washington in 2016 in the first place.
I mean, he came because millions of Americans across the country were unhappy with the state of the economy, unhappy with political correctness, illegal immigration, America’s role in the world and the international stage, and these concerns aren’t going away.
For Biden to be successful, he has to address these issues, and I think that we are all going to be looking very closely at what he does on each of these main points as we get into the business of the legislative agenda ahead.
Allen: Well, I think we are all watching now President Biden and asking that question of, “OK, what are his legislative priorities, his policy priorities, really going to be?” And I wonder if he maybe gave us a little bit of a clue into that during his address on Wednesday.
I want to play just one minute of his speech for you. Let’s take a listen.
President Joe Biden: Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. Once-in-a-century virus that silently stocks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now the rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.
Allen: So, Jessica, your reaction? What do you think that these remarks can tell us about Biden’s priorities? He referenced things like fighting the pandemic, but then also the issue of racial justice and really pushing back on that, and things like climate change.
Anderson: First off, there’s nothing wrong with having an aggressive agenda for the first 100 days of any presidency. We have seen that historically the last 200 years. It is a part of when power changes. So, there’s nothing wrong with having a big, bold agenda.
What I have a problem with, though, and what I think is concerning to conservatives and freedom-loving Americans across the country, is that Biden’s agenda is wrapped around failed policies of the Obama administration.
I mean, other than COVID-19, everything that he is describing are things that we know how the story ends. We know what the results are. These measures are misguided. They’re destructive at times and at places, and at a point in our country’s history, in a moment for each of us where we should be looking for opportunities to give Americans more jobs, to open up and to support our economy, our families, our American institutions, this is a far-left progressive agenda that he’s putting forward.
I mean, look at climate change and the fact that he has signaled that he wants the United States to enter back into the Paris climate accords. I mean, this is about shutting down American jobs with really no climate impact. Same with the Keystone Pipeline. These are thousands of jobs of engineers, of construction workers, all at risk, all lost amidst the backdrop of a pandemic.
And you look at COVID-19, and these ideas of a mask challenge or a mask mandate. And I have to wonder, has he read the science about masks, and has he read the science about the best way that we can have a targeted scientific approach? I mean, I’d love to get him some Heritage product so he can get smart on this. I mean, he’s missing so much of what good could be happening right now.
So, it’s unfortunate, I think. I think those elements of his speech were divisive and destructive instead of trying to pull people together, and I think it’s a preview of what’s likely the next four years, but again, as I said at the beginning, nothing is permanent in Washington, and that’s going to be true with Biden’s governing agenda.
And as conservatives, we’re going to have to fight hard to rebuild the conservative movement where it’s needed and to get off the mat and block and tackle some of these destructive policies.
Evans: Well, Jess, I’m so glad you brought up the Paris climate accord, and we’re recording this Wednesday afternoon after the inauguration, and this isn’t Month One priority. This is Day One priority. He is planning on signing executive orders to really undo some of these policies of the Trump administration.
Can you let us know some other examples of that?
Anderson: Yes, and he’s been pretty clear. Biden’s chief of staff had a memo out over the weekend that outlined exactly what they’re going to do and where they plan to use executive orders. So, we mentioned the Paris climate agreement. Also, he’s looking at rescinding the Keystone Pipeline permit. This will be a huge job-killer. It’ll make us more dependent on foreign energy.
It basically walks back all the good that the Trump administration did on our energy independence. It looks like there’s going to be massive, massive changes to our border security, both from an illegal immigration standpoint—last I saw, it looks like he’s trying to give citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants that are here in this country—to everything from halting the construction of the border wall.
There’s comments out today about an executive order funding sanctuary cities, which we all know is a hotbed for an unconstitutional way to harbor illegal immigrants on the backs of our cities.
And so, it’s a long list. There’s rumors about the Iran deal and whether or not we would re-enter that. Obviously, there’s a lot of flaws in the Iran deal when you look at the two main tenets of it, that it does not allow United Nations inspectors to inspect the Iran nuclear facilities, nor does it handle ballistic missiles.
So, I’m not really sure how you could have a deal with Iran that’s meant to limit nuclear power when you don’t tackle ballistic missiles, which is one of the main ways you can destroy and have nuclear wars.
So these are, again, failed, misguided policies of the past. They do not have an eye toward unity. They certainly don’t have an eye about going forward. And I think it’s a mistake for him to lead by that.
And on the tactic that he’s using, I think the tactic itself, that this is essentially an executive order dump, if you will, or an executive order kind of binge, this is why he has to do this, because executive orders skirt the legislative process. They go around Congress. They go around the American people, and it’s easy to legislate by pen because you don’t have to do the hard work of debate and the legislative process with members [of Congress].
So, I think it’s revealing that he’s choosing to do so many executive orders instead of putting these through the legislative process, which, by the way, the Democrat Party is in control of.
Let’s not forget: It’s a Democrat-controlled House and Senate right now. So, time will tell, but I think at the end of the day, what we’re looking at here is very destructive policies on Day One, and the first 100 days that conservatives should be alerted to and do everything in our power to stand against them.
Allen: Well, I know Jessica, for me personally, I’ve been thinking a lot about just what does the future hold for the economy. Several of my family members are small business owners, and I’m, frankly, just a little bit worried about, OK, what are the actions that the Biden administration will take to actually cause harm to the economy and move backward on that progress that Trump made?
Will we see a repeal of the tax cuts? What do you think we can expect from Biden regarding his economic policy?
Anderson: Well, that’s a good question. It’s definitely something that is top of mind. The first thing on his list, though, is this $1.9 trillion COVID economic recovery package, as he has called it.
If you look closely at it, though, you see that this is really a wish list of the progressive policy goals that the left has had, what with their $350 billion worth of state bailouts, the $15 minimum wage, bills on voting rights that are tapped in that would hollow out state election integrity laws. I mean, this is basically his list, all kind of packaged nicely underneath this $1.9 trillion.
But it’s interesting because it’s really going to be a game of numbers. You’ve got his proposal of $1.9 trillion. We have already spent $3.5 trillion, and this is all in comparison to the $900 billion that was spent during the financial recovery period.
So, when you just look at how much the country is spending on COVID relief, it eclipses over the $900 billion that was spent for the federal government’s bail out of the financial industry, which at the time we thought was the worst of the worst.
So, it is a new level of spending. It is a new level of spending without thought to debt or thought to targeted relief, and it’s unfortunate, because this is going to be a pattern I think we’re going to see from him.
I mean, we were talking the other day about this $15 minimum wage with some friends of mine, like when the economy is at its best, and it’s a free market-based economy, and it’s working to produce jobs, and to keep jobs and to reach the labor market, people are making minimum wages of $15 because it rises to that.
You don’t need to have this strenuous top-down approach when it comes to economics.
So, to repeal much of the tax cuts, it will have to go through Congress. Does he present a plan like that soon? Probably. But first on his docket is this $1.9 trillion, trying to get it passed under this guise of economic recovery, but we know that these are misguided policies, more spending, and not even all of it is related to COVID.
Evans: Well, speaking of Congress, not only did the presidential office switch parties today, the Senate switched parties, with the swearing-in of the new senators from Georgia. What is the best- and the worst-case scenario, now that both houses of the legislature are Democrat-controlled?
Anderson: Well, it’s a 50/50 in the Senate, with [Vice President] Kamala Harris breaking the tie. And then you have a very slim majority in the Democrat-controlled House, where you have Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi now continuing to reign. And you have her in a position to exhort an insane amount of power over the committees and the processes of bills moving.
So, I think at the end of the day, conservatives are going to have to rely on some legislative procedures, whether that’s trying to block things at the committee level or motions to recommit when they get to the floor, but leveraging and using every single procedural and legislative tool basically in the toolbox to stop the agenda where they can is important.
But then, the second strategic thing that I think we’re going to end up spending a lot of time talking about is where are moderates? When you look at pre-tea party, you had Blue Dog Democrats that were kind of in the space that [Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.] is today. I mean, we don’t call them that anymore, but Blue Dogs were a thing 10-plus years ago.
And so the question becomes, do the moderates, the problem-solving caucus in the House; the Joe Manchins, [Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.] in the Senate, what do they do? And are they in tune with their own constituents and their own base? And do they stand up to it?
I mean, Joe Manchin was the one that stood up to the Democrat Party and said, “We are not a party that goes after the police. The Defund the Police movement, that’s not us, guys. Hello, reminder.”
So, there is an element here, I think, that we should be very mindful of when you look at the moderate wave, and what do they do and how do they pull the legislative agenda to the middle?
That said, I think Biden is going to have a hard time keeping all of those different factions within the Democrat Party and the liberal agenda in place, because he has moderates on one side, and then he has the [far-left] “Squad” on the other, and he’s going to try to keep it all together and intact and have a governing agenda.
And I think that Biden led a very intentional campaign, talking to American voters that he would be a middle-of-the-road president. But if we look at Day One and Day Two activities, he really is embracing the worst ideas of the left, and we’re going to have to see, does he go more extreme than the Obama years?
Does he try to bring the party back to the middle? And we just don’t know that yet.
Allen: Well, and, of course, he’s spoken so much about unity. We saw that during his address on Wednesday, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope that those words do become actions and that, like you say, he does really seek a little bit more of that middle-of-the-road approach, but we’re just going to have to wait and see.
Jessica, I want to ask, just to lighten it up a little bit. I want to ask you about …
Allen: … the fashion that we saw on Inauguration Day. There were so many ladies on that stage, all looking lovely. What were your thoughts on what we saw, and also just how the media [have] treated some of these left-of-the-aisle women versus what we’ve seen from women’s magazines and their treatment of conservative women?
Anderson: Well, finally, a topic we can all agree on here, right? I mean, it’s wild.
Honestly, the women’s magazine world from the last four years has basically ignored Melania Trump, arguably one of the most fashionable first ladies that we have had since Jackie Kennedy. I mean, the girl just looks good.
And so you have that, and then you now have Vogue and other women’s magazines eager to put Vice President Harris on their covers for her fashion choices, and that’s the first thing out the gate.
I mean, it’s like they just decided, again, to cover politics. We know that’s not true. They willfully ignored [Melania Trump]. And it’s a sad moment, I think, when you see women’s magazines only highlight one type of woman.
They were silent during [Supreme Court] Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s trials, talking about her and how you could be a working mom today. They’ve really lost all credibility, I think, to talk about women’s issues, because they ignore all other women in the country that don’t think like them.
So, I think that’s one. Two, it was interesting to see kind of the split-screen today, where you had all of the kind of CNN talking heads talking about how just radiant everyone looked and their choice of designers and politics by fashion and all of that.
It’s like all of this now has come back and is in vogue, but it really just shows to me the hypocrisy of the entire industry, and I’m not sure that we can think of them as credible.
And furthermore, I’m not even sure that the far left even agrees with it, because they were complaining about Vice President Harris’ Vogue coverage because she was in her sneakers and a suit and didn’t look as glamorous as they thought she should.
So, you really can’t ever please the liberal left when it comes to these things. So, my motto: “Why even try?”
Evans: Well, you wrote probably my favorite article that I’ve read in 2021 so far, and I don’t think I’ve even told you yet. It inspired me so much that I am working on a Heritage video for it, and it’s “The Year of Conservative Woman.” And the first line reads, “2020, the Year of the Woman, for real this time.”
Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?
Anderson: Yes, and you’re so sweet. That’s been such a passion project of mine, if you will, because I think what’s happened is as we’ve allowed women’s magazines and mainstream media to define what it means to be a woman, we’ve given away so much of the terms.
We’ve given so much of what it means to be a female conservative, and so I wrote this piece with an eye towards that, of everything we learned with Justice Barrett, of that you could be a working mom and ascend to the highest legal spot and legal role in the land. And you could do it with your lovely children behind you and your husband standing as a partner beside you, and you didn’t have to be mean about it, right?
You didn’t have to be cold. You could be smart.
I mean, that moment when Judge Barrett, at the time, held up her blank notebook when they were asking, “What are the notes?” I mean, that was just a moment where you’re like, “Wow, this girl’s got it together.”
And so, what I really want us to recognize is that the beginnings of the feminist movement are not the feminism that you see today. We are so far from where things began. If anything, we need a reformation of returning back, and so, I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from Justice Barrett.
I think there’s a lot that we can learn from other women that are conservative leaders in Washington and on the national stage, and we should look to them. And we should look to them in the same way that we look to liberal women and recognize that there are role models that look differently and that conservative women have stepped up to the plate.
Look at the huge gains in the House. I mean, these are good things to have women making political and policy decisions, because women have just as much ability to be in the room as men do.
I mean, this is what this is about and having the choice. You don’t have to choose one or the other. You don’t have to choose having a family or having a career. You can simply choose to have both if you want, or have neither, if you want.
Evans: I love it so much, and I love, too, in your article, you talk about how the founders of feminism in the United States really look to the Founders of our country. They wrote that all men and women are created equal.
But I do have to admit, I did make one little edit when I was taking your article and getting all excited. I made it “2021 Is the Year of the Woman.” I’m claiming this year, too.
Anderson: Let’s claim it. Let’s just take it back, I mean, right? The Susan B. Anthony kind of movement and what she means for legal rights and equal treatment under the law, I mean, this is where we are today, and I think that to just allow the left to own the women’s movement is a mistake, because there’s so many of us conservative women that are trying to make a difference.
And it’s not about these false choices. It’s really about having new role models that can lead and prove that you can have an empowering career and a family, and you don’t have to be radicalized, right? You don’t have to be radicalized to be empowered.
Allen: Yeah, so good. Jessica, thank you. For all of our listeners, if you like what Jessica is saying, be sure to follow her on Twitter, @JessAnderson2.
You can also visit the Heritage Action for America website at heritageaction.com. There’s tons of awesome resources and information on there about how you can get involved politically in your own community, right in your own towns, so be sure to check that out.
But Jessica, we are just so thankful for your time today. Thanks so much for joining us.
Anderson: Thank you so much for having me.
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