Where Things Stand: Biden Uses GOP’s Greatest Fear Against Them

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol House Chamber on March 1, 2022 in Washington, DC. During his first Stat... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol House Chamber on March 1, 2022 in Washington, DC. During his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden was expected to speak on his administration’s efforts to lead a global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, work to curb inflation, and bring the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The tactic doesn’t always work, but this was a clever one.

Attacking the transgender community has been a renewed area of Republican focus in recent months. Republican governors and state legislatures across the U.S. have passed bills and ordered executive actions that target transgender youth and adults — one of many minority-rule grievance issues the party has seized upon in recent months to disguise their lackluster (nonexistent?) policy platform heading into the Midterms.

Texas’ abhorrent policy meant to criminally penalize the parents of transgender youth in the state is the latest manifestation of this trend, and it has justifiably sparked uproar. After his own Republican-led legislature failed to pass a bill that criminalized certain types of gender affirming therapy for minors, Gov. Greg Abbott took matters into his own hands. Last month he ordered Texas’ Department of Family Protective Services to begin investigating parents of trans children and teens who might be suspected of allowing their child to undergo basic gender affirming medical care.

The move was met with swift and fierce backlash. And one of the first parents in the state to be “investigated” — for no clear reason other than she works for DFPS and happens to have a transgender teen — filed a lawsuit this week, aiming to challenge the legitimacy of Abbot’s directive and his characterization of gender therapies as a form of child abuse. Just this afternoon, a Texas judge temporarily blocked the state from investigating the family. The judge also signaled she may issue a more sweeping ruling on Abbott’s order in coming days.

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While Democrats across the political spectrum are enraged by the Texas issue for obvious reasons — it discriminates against trans youth, it could put trans kids in harms way, it could discourage parents from supporting their trans children — there’s another layer of hypocrisy to this wave of new state laws and directives targeting access to medical care for one demographic. It’s government overreach, the GOP’s largest boogeyman and supposed greatest fear.

President Biden put it plainly yesterday.

“This is government overreach at its worst,” Biden said in a statement. “Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the Governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points. These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”

And at least one Republican would agree with him.

Last year, Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson was met with much right-wing fury when he made a similar argument in vetoing a bill passed by his Republican-majority state legislature. The bill — which eventually did pass after GOPers overturned Hutchinson’s veto — sought to ban doctors and health care providers from giving people under the age of 18 gender transition treatment and therapy, which could include hormones and surgery.

But in explaining his veto before he was overruled, Hutchinson made the same argument — the bill was “over broad” and too “extreme” because it came in between parents and doctors making proper (and private) medical decisions for minors. He argued the bill would create “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”

A.k.a: government overreach.

“I’m a person of faith,” Hutchinson explained to an absolutely Perplexed and Pissed Tucker Carlson at the time. “But at the same time, I’m a person of limited role of government. I sign pro-life bills. … I signed many bills that would be looked at as a very conservative, but this is one that crosses the line. There’s no need for it, and it doesn’t justify itself.”

While Biden’s words may not carry much weight with Abbott or others of this particularly aggressive Republican strain, it was a line of argument that should resonate more broadly with parents. It’s not always bad to say the quiet part out loud.

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