A Comparison Often Missed and a Look at Redefining Bipartisanship
Something of a Honeymoon
All things considered, President Biden is enjoying something of a honeymoon. Not from Congressional Republicans, of course. Moscow Mitch has already started his song of not supporting anything from the Administration. In some ways, that worked for him last time around. It’s not clear it will work so well this time.
Public support for Biden’s initiatives is stunningly high, pretty much across the board. He has majority support, even among Independents and Republican voters on pretty much everything so far. Count in the win column how he is doing on the pandemic fight, his economic recovery plans, infrastructure plans, tax policy, foreign policy initiatives, his personnel nominations, the executive orders he has carried out, and more.
It’s early yet, and there are surely going to be bigger negatives. Some initial challenges on the border have been painful, for example. But the ambiance of a government that is quietly competent, that states clearly what it seeks to do and why it opposes other courses is a refreshing change most of us are grateful to experience.
Sure, one of his dogs tends to bite someone every couple of weeks, but hey – we all have to make sacrifices. If Major needs some more time to adjust, we can get behind that, surely.
Overall, in terms of the first 100 days let’s have more of all this, please. Hey, as I write this, I am enjoying coffee in my new favorite mug:
Two Comparisons Cited Often – And One That Perhaps Should Be Added
So, in all this admiration a lot of people have been prone to compare Biden to Franklin Roosevelt. Fair enough – his vision has been deep and wide enough to merit that.
Besides, Biden let it be known before he ever took office that FDR was indeed a model for him. He thinks the times call for that kind of boldness. He seems to be building his agenda and his team accordingly.
Of late, some are also calling him a latter day LBJ, largely on the basis of his social action agenda and nominations. Again, fair enough. I expect both Joe and LBJ would be pleased by the comparison.
We will see how much gets accomplished. The start is impressive, and his heart is surely in the right place.But as I look through his infrastructure plans, I see a third presidential comparison that seems to fit, and its one I like a lot. I see much of Theodore Roosevelt in Joe Biden, in one especially important area.
Roosevelt, you may remember, first came to office from the Vice Presidency, when President McKinley managed to get himself assassinated. Roosevelt had established an early reputation in state and local politics as a fighter of corrupt power and one quite ready to take on powerful interests.
Republican leaders got him on the ticket as VP to get him out of the way, far from the reins of power. It did not work out according to their plan.
Teddy took on powerful interests with vigor. He hated corruption in government and excess power in the hands of the rich. During his time in office, he resurrected the Sherman Antitrust Act, sued over 40 major corporations, broke up major conglomerates, intervened in unfair labor practices.
He even managed to convince banks that investing in recalcitrant Wall Street firms was bad business, cutting into previously assured capital. Roosevelt spoke out for and acted to protect the little guy and small business.
He may have been the last Republican president I really liked. I see Biden sharing a lot of those same priorities and passions. It would be hard to imagine two more different personalities occupying the White House, but I see parallels here that bode well for America.
Redefining Partisanship – This Could Redefine American Politics
Biden is a creature of Washington politics. He has invested his entire adult life in that environment and partly as a result, he worships at the altar of bipartisanship. He believes in it, wants it, is willing to go the extra mile to foster it. For the most part, that is a good thing. But I, and a lot of others, worried that he might sacrifice too much to get it. It appears we underestimated the man.
He surely still wants it and is, often behind the scenes, reaching out to a wide range of Republicans, often, on several levels of government.
But he clearly has gotten the message that Mitch and company are not interested in bipartisanship, or in governance for that matter. Biden has figured out that almost everything he is proposing is wildly popular across the country, including among Republican voters and local politicians. So, he is bypassing the Republican senate, increasingly isolating them and pointing out to their constituents just how out of touch their senators are with the people.
Biden is building a popular coalition in a way we have not seen in a long time. It is obvious he understands what is at play and what tools are available.
It is a fascinating set of processes to watch. His articulate spokesmen are out in the country, telling the story. They are highlighting who is trying to help the country and who is not.
How Will This All Turn Out?
Damned if I know how all this will turn out. But I am cautiously optimistic. Two early benchmarks are the Voter Protection and Infrastructure initiatives. The first of these literally has the stake of our democracy as the prize. Fail here and not much else matters.
I am hopeful the votes will be there, and a procedure found to obviate the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. Schumer looks like a man with a plan to get there. If the voting bill is passed and the infrastructure initiative is largely passed, both will be because Biden figured out how to build a new coalition.
Later when we have more time, let’s talk about the interesting role of corporations and professional sports in all this, too. The Republican party is losing support here, too, and that has really interesting long-term consequences.
We live in interesting times, that’s for sure. Even without that Trump guy on Twitter! Now its “interesting times” in a hopeful vein. Nice.
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