Published April 26, 2021
Many Democrats dream that President Biden can transform America as thoroughly as Franklin D. Roosevelt did. But Biden’s political standing as he approaches his administration’s 100-day mark has more in common with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than with the legendary FDR.
Roosevelt took office after winning a massive landslide at the depths of the Great Depression. Backed by a nearly 200-seat majority in the House and a 58-to-37 Senate majority, FDR pushed through law after law designed to pull the country out of the economic doldrums. Growth and confidence returned, and he and his party were rewarded with more historic victories in the 1934 and 1936 elections. In just four years, FDR had pulled America leftward and entrenched his party’s dominance for nearly 50 years.
Compare this with the tenures of Clinton and Obama. Both Democratic presidents won office with comfortable, but not landslide, wins. Their parties also controlled the House and Senate with comfortable, but not enormous, margins. Both men set to work reviving the economy, Clinton from a mild recession and Obama from the 2008 financial collapse. Both succeeded in pushing through significant stimulus measures by spring.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.