HCR: Is Biden assuming the mantle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American | April 13

HCR
Heather Cox Richardson

April 13, 2021

Today, the administration issued a proclamation on Black Maternal Health Week. It noted that Black American mothers die from pregnancy-related complications at two to three times the rates of White, Hispanic, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women, no matter what their income or education levels. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris declared their commitment to “building a health care system that delivers equity and dignity to Black, Indigenous, and other women and girls of color.”

There has been talk lately about President Biden assuming the mantle of Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who piloted the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. There is a lot to that. Biden is enthusiastically embracing the idea that the government has a role to play in regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure. That ideology has been on the ropes since voters elected President Ronald Reagan, who argued that the government pioneered by Roosevelt smothered business growth and stifled individualism by levying taxes for programs that Washington bureaucrats thought would benefit the nation.

Since he took office, Biden has used the government to help ordinary Americans. He began by ramping up coronavirus vaccines at an astonishing rate, and then got through Congress the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, designed to rebuild the economy after the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. Now he is turning to the American Jobs Plan, another massive package designed to remake American infrastructure as it creates high-paying jobs, just as FDR’s New Deal did.

Biden is clearly trying to undermine the Republican mantra that government is inefficient, and he is succeeding. His own chief of staff, Ron Klain, has made it a point to compare the two men.

But an article by Laura Barron-Lopez, Alex Thompson, and Theodoric Meyer in Politico begs to differ. Based on an interview with House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), the piece makes the argument that Biden is far more President Harry Truman than FDR. Unlike FDR, who constantly had to compromise with white southern Democrats to get his measures through Congress and thus had to back off on issues of racial justice, Truman worked to advance civil rights in the U.S. More like Truman than FDR, Biden has focused on addressing racial equity in his response to the various crises he has taken on in his first days in office.

To my mind, though, what jumps out about Biden and Harris is not their focus on either jobs or Black Americans, but rather their attention to the needs of children and mothers. Even before the pandemic, 21.4 million American women lived in poverty, as did nearly 11 million children, about 14.4% of kids under the age of 18.

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The Moment When Democrats Recovered Their Soul

Today on TAP: Joe Biden governs as if he were FDR

BY ROBERT KUTTNER

MARCH 31, 2021

Democrats got off track around 1967, when Lyndon Johnson, who was well on the way to becoming a second FDR, blew it all on Vietnam. He also sought to go FDR one better by getting serious about racial justice.

But that led to the infamous white backlash, as exploited by Nixon’s Southern strategy of coded racism. On both issues, Democrats splintered, and it’s been downhill ever since.

Under Carter, Clinton, and Obama, Democrats sought to recoup by becoming a Wall Street neoliberal party that was liberal-ish on social issues. That demolished any prospects of reviving a multiracial coalition based on common pocketbook interests. And so we got the Tea Parties and then Trump.

Now, something unexpected and miraculous is happening. Joe Biden, the most centrist of the 2020 Democratic field, is governing as if he were FDR.

The Democrats are Democrats again. On pocketbook help for struggling people. On public investment, big-time. On using public debt for public purposes. On taxing the rich. On backing the labor movement. Biden is taking risks to be a racial progressive. He is beginning to rein in corporate abuses. He has even defined infrastructure as not just bricks, mortar, and steel, but as caring infrastructure.

That model was there all along, waiting to be revived. But Biden’s three Democratic predecessors dismissed it and evaded it.

We can speculate on why Biden chose this path. Was it the pandemic? Was it Trump? Did the moment help him discover his inner progressive, which was hidden there all along?

The point is that he did it. And it is popular.

And Biden, unlike FDR and LBJ, is doing it with the slimmest of legislative majorities. But as Lincoln famously said, “Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”

And of course, public sentiment is not static. Success builds on success.

Now, we can depress ourselves with all the ways this could come off the rails.

The Democrats could lose their nerve on using budget reconciliation to pass all major economic legislation with a simple majority. Joe Manchin could continue to play the role of dog in the manger, and resist breaking the filibuster on other urgent legislation like voting rights. A Democratic senator could die, leaving Republicans to take back the Senate.

But remember, this wasn’t supposed to happen at all. Dems were not supposed to take back the Senate, and Biden was not supposed to be a progressive.

So for now, let us relish the moment and work to maximize it. I am not especially religious, but I am reminded of my favorite Jewish prayer, the Shehecheyanu, which gives thanks to the Almighty for allowing us to reach this day.

Source: The Moment When Democrats Recovered Their Soul

Why the hell the election was even close? Journalist Thomas Frank explains

Thomas Frank  is an American political analyst, historian, and journalist. He co-founded and edited The Baffler magazine. Frank is the author of the books What’s the Matter with Kansas? (2004) and Listen, Liberal (2016), among others. From 2008 to 2010 he wrote “The Tilting Yard”, a column in The Wall Street Journal.

A historian of culture and ideas, Frank analyzes trends in American electoral politics and propaganda, advertising, popular culture, mainstream journalism, and economics. His topics include the rhetoric and impact of culture wars in American political life and the relationship between politics and culture in the United States. (Wikipedia)