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Once the party of small government and big business, the GOP has turned upside down

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — For decades, the Republican Party stood for limited government, free enterprise, free expression and local control.

But look what has changed inside the GOP and within the conservative movement since Donald Trump’s presidency:

  • Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have signed executive orders preventing private businesses from requiring Covid vaccination passports from customers.
  • Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently took issue with social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook banning Trump after he spread falsehoods and misinformation about the 2020 election.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has always championed political contributions as free speech, told corporate America to “stay out of politics.”
  • Arkansas’ GOP-dominated legislature — overriding the veto from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who called it “too extreme” — enacted a treatment ban for transgender youth.

And as we wrote yesterday, GOP-controlled legislatures in Georgia, Texas, Iowa and even Michigan have passed or drafted bills curtailing the authority of local election officials and elected secretaries of state.

Add it all up, and it’s activist state governments telling businesses what they can and can’t do; a conservative justice saying social-media companies can’t ban someone who violates their user agreements; the GOP Senate leader telling corporations to stay silent on politics (but keep writing their campaign checks); and GOP legislatures punishing local elections officials and secretaries of state.

This isn’t your father’s GOP. Or Ronald Reagan’s. Or George W. Bush’s. Or even Mitt Romney’s (“Corporations are people, too”).

Instead, it’s a party that’s now shaped in Trump’s image, even among those who didn’t start out as Trump supporters.

Activist (as well as authoritarian) tendencies.

Governing and ruling by grievance.

Telling businesses what they can and can’t do.

Embracing government to legislate their form of morality.

And stripping away authority from the officials who did their jobs in the 2020 election.

Biden’s got some work to do to sell his infrastructure bill

At the White House at 1:45 p.m. ET, President Biden delivers remarks on his $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

And he’s got some work to do to sell it.

In addition to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., saying that the corporate tax rate should be raised to 25 percent instead of Biden’s proposed 28 percent to pay for the increased spending, Politico has businesses and corporations pushing back.

“Executives at some of America’s largest companies complain much more bitterly in private about the White House approach, arguing that raising the top corporate rate to 28 percent from 21 percent — without restoring deductions eliminated in then-President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill — would damage hiring and the economy.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

218: The number of Democrats currently serving in the U.S. House after Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., passed away.

30,984,258: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 62,415 more than yesterday morning.)

562,195: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 960 more than yesterday morning.)

168,592,075: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

17.7 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

22: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

Recapping last night’s Virginia Governor's debate

NBC’s Deepa Shivaram breaks down the highlights from last night’s debate among the five Democrats running for Virginia governor.

“While the hour-long exchange was mostly cordial, [Lt. Gov. Justin] Fairfax used a question about the future of policing in the state and turned it into a broadside against [former Gov. Terry] McAuliffe.”

“Singling out McAuliffe’s calls for him to resign after he was accused of sexual assault in 2019, Fairfax said the former governor’s response was reminiscent of the way accused Black men like George Floyd and Emmitt Till have historically been treated.”

“‘The murder of George Floyd was horrific. But it recalls a history in Virginia and in our nation where African Americans, particularly African American men, are presumed to be guilty, are treated inhumanely, are given no due process… [McAuliffe] treated me like George Floyd. He treated me like Emmett Till, no due process, immediately assumed my guilt,’ Fairfax said.”

More from Shivaram: “[Democrats Jennifer Carroll] Foy and [Jennifer] McClellan both criticized McAuliffe for his record on gun control record, saying he didn’t do enough during his time as governor, particularly in regard to concealed carry permits.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Dr. Amy Acton won’t run for Senate in Ohio.

Here’s how the late Alcee Hastings’ congressional seat will be filled in a special election.

Matt Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon in the waning days of the Trump administration, the New York Times reports.

And the Washington Post looks at Gaetz’s vote as a Florida lawmaker against a revenge porn bill.

The Biden administration is launching a funeral aid program for Covid victims.

The candidate backed by Democrats in the nonpartisan Wisconsin state school superintendent race won yesterday’s election.

St. Louis will have its first female Black mayor.

Justice Breyer seems skeptical of proposals to expand the Supreme Court.

Jeff Bezos says he supports the Biden administration’s move to raise corporate taxes.