Biden is Embracing FDR’s Radicalism — With a Crucial Difference

As he channels the World War II-era president in setting his agenda during the first 100 days, Biden is relying on Kamala Harris as his partner.

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President Joe Biden And Vice President Kamala Harris walk from the Rose Garden of the White House to the Oval Office Friday, March 12, 2021, following their remarks celebrating the passage of the American Rescue Plan. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Indrani Basu


April 22, 2021


7 min

On an August evening last year, Joseph Biden, then 77, took the stage in the mostly empty Chase Center in his home state of Delaware to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for the office of the President of the United States. “Nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear,” he said in the live speech, broadcast as part of the Democratic National Convention. “Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, FDR insisted that he would recover and prevail, and he believed America could as well.” 

“And he did,” said Biden, tapping the podium decisively. “And we can as well.”

By invoking Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd U.S. president, Biden was setting the tone for his own presidency. Today, the pandemic has killed over half a million Americans and sent the economy to its worst performance in 74 years. The first 100 days of an American presidency have been under scrutiny ever since FDR set the bar by passing an unprecedented amount of legislation soon after assuming office during the Great Depression. Biden has embraced that specter in his urgency to pass legislation in his first few weeks, signing 40 executive orders and more than 60 executive actions. And like FDR, Biden made the passage of his single-biggest piece of legislation — the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, dubbed the American Rescue plan — more important than his oft-repeated promise of working with those across the political aisle.

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