As President Joe Biden acts with urgency, his vision of the powers of the Oval Office is rapidly taking shape, inspired by Democratic predecessors who dramatically expanded the government’s reach to confront generational crises.
In a recent meeting with historians and in private conversations with advisers, Biden considered the examples set by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson in his plans to use the levers of executive authority to create opportunity and break down barriers.
Unlike Roosevelt and Johnson, who enjoyed formidable Democratic majorities in Congress, Biden has had to operate without margin for error in fiercely partisan Washington.
Born shortly after Roosevelt’s New Deal and running for his first election in the shadow of Johnson’s Great Society, Biden has always believed in government as an instrument for good. Now, with the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic collapse it caused, that philosophy is being put to the test and Biden’s place in history is at stake.
He has opted for momentous rather than gradual actions, willing to put aside visions of a bipartisan Washington in favor of tangible results that could find resonance with Republican voters, though not their elected officials.
“The president spoke out clearly about the crisis of democracy and is aware of the factors and forces that could undermine the American experiment if we are not careful to protect it,” said historian Michael Eric Dyson, who attended the recent session. “There was no doubt that the president was concerned about how we treat our fellow citizens and it is very clear that the moral trajectory of the United States has made a difference in domestic and foreign policies.”
In his first two months in office, Biden has signed a $ 1.9 trillion financial aid bill and, in the last week, proposed a $ 2.3 trillion tax and infrastructure plan and a legislative package. two-part program aimed at radically reforming the American economy.