Biden is LBJ for 2021

Every JFK needs a Johnson - Biden’s first 100 days have been epic in scope and ambition

Prologue: this writer confesses to being a Biden fan since 2007, this tweet from 2008 is digital proof:

If Barack Obama was how DL Hughley put it, “what we aspire to be, Trump is who we are”, Joe Biden is truly America at its best: setting ambitious goals and making them happen, the hard way. His massive COVID relief bill, coupled with a sweeping infrastructure investment bill, could shift America’s political and economic landscape in ways unseen since the 1960s. Joe Biden, the veteran legislator, could be LBJ 2.0 and deliver lasting and profound change.

His rousing address to Congress on April 28 and his rally in Georgia on April 29 saw Biden practice retail politics at its best. Biden’s storytelling is focused on rallying the middle class by doing what too few leaders have done so far: explain in simple, repeatable terms that protecting our planet means “millions of new, good paying jobs”.

Cornel West appeared on CNN on April 29 and had some choice words, saying Biden:

reminds me very much of LBJ, who started as a White supremacist from Jim Crow Texas and ended up one of the major forces for good against White supremacy. That’s why you never give up on people. You never know which way they’re heading. You never know what kind of change they can put forward, and if Biden continues in this way he’s going to be very much like LBJ and will be a much stronger force for good against White supremacy on the ground than Barack Obama was.”

Joe Biden’s superpowers after the 2017-2021 Trumpian interlude are his ability to deliver thanks to his political longevity, his legislative experience and his attention to detail.

Biden’s ambitious 100 days are getting high marks because, as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said, he could be the first President since George HW Bush that the Other Side cannot demonize. Revenge politics has been cancer in American public life since the Bork hearings 30 years ago. The GOP went nuts and dragged the party into ultimately losing culture wars, as the supposedly brillant Karl Rove gambit on gay marriage has proven. It’s quite clear the “own the libs” Republican strategy will consume them and turn their party into Whigs. Biden could be the President that breaks the cycle and appeases the culture wars and unites America again.

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Biden is almost magical in his ability to make progressivism boring (Robert Reich speaking to Anand Giridharadas)

President Johnson was truly the Master of the Senate: throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as majority leader and later Vice President and President, he managed to corral his fractured Democratic majority made up of Southern Dixiecrats and Northern liberals to vote for his Great Society programs such as civil rights in 1964, Medicare in 1965. This expansion of the governmental footprint into Americans’ lives hasn’t been matched in scope since. Defeated in 1980 Democrats bought into Reagan’s “revolution”, which culminated in the 1990s with Bill Clinton’s “the era of Big Government is over” speech, a thorough ideological abdication.

The media narrative on Biden in 2020 missed the mark by a mile: it was a tired mix of the fallout of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, his disastrous 1988 presidential campaign and a refrain to the tune of “Joe is old politics and won’t rise to the moment”. This is proven wrong every day, as Biden adheres to the age old axiom of politics: the art of the possible. America’s political chattering classes routinely discount the power behind mastering the boring nature of exercising power. 

Obama gave VP Biden supposedly “boring” assignments that were anything but, case in point as Biden was instrumental in making the Great Recession’s TARP scandal-free. 

Every JFK needs an LBJ

JFK’s youth and bold vision famously woke up America in 1960 but it’s Johnson who delivered on the details.

40 some years later Obama’s supreme oratory powers re-energized the Democratic base and it’s Biden who will be the President to deliver on that vision in concrete and every day terms for all Americans.

Cornel West again, on April 29:

Now, Barack Obama had the symbols. He’s brilliant, he’s Black, he’s poised, and so forth. Didn’t have the courage. Didn’t have the willingness to fight that Biden does when it comes to this issue, when it comes to a variety of issues. So who would know? Who would think that Joseph Biden from Scranton, Pennsylvania could become such a force for good for progressives?

Speechmaking is overrated, legislating is a true art form and Biden’s 40 years in the Senate are what will make government great again. Biden has it in him to be this generation’s LBJ and be a reasonable statesman, able to fight back against the GOP’s tired rhetoric.  

“Something progressives admire about Biden is that he is a talented “reasonablizer” of their ideas. [..]

As [Clinton Labor Secretary] Reich told [Anand Giridharadas], “Biden is almost magical in his ability to make progressivism boring.

Speechmaking is overrated, legislating is a true art form and Biden’s 40 years in the Senate are what will make government great again. Biden has it in him to be this generation’s LBJ and be a reasonable statesman, able to fight back against the GOP’s tired rhetoric.  

America’s middle classes have been thoroughly brainwashed into thinking that public involvement must translate to corruption and bridges to nowhere. As a longtime US resident it was always a marvel to think that most Americans’ direct dealings with government were limited to the Social Security Administration (where registering in 1996 NYC was a veritable time machine), and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Government needs to reclaim its place as an arbiter and positive regulator, central to the middle class’s economic well being.  Biden’s political instincts on the needed regulation of Big Tech could create the conditions for a rare bipartisan win for both sides. 

Senator Josh Hawley’s play acting as modern trustbuster should be used by Biden as the ideal foil to get bipartisan regulation legislation moving in Congress.

“Not since LBJ’s era have we simultaneously had a Democratic Congress, a non-celebrity-type machine-Democratic president, and a boisterous left-of-center movement making concrete policy demands,” [Sirota] said. “That particular confluence can create the ideal conditions for significant and fast progressive change.”

“With one of the biggest and fastest vaccination campaigns in the world and the signing of a $1.9 trillion dollar Covid relief package, the president has made a good start at that. His larger aim is to change the country by changing the terms of the debate.

Just as Mr. Roosevelt understood that the laissez-faire philosophy of the 1920s wasn’t working anymore to build the nation, Mr. Biden sees that Reagan-era market capitalism cannot alone rebuild it.”

Trump will be populist Republicanism’s failed trial balloon for relevance. The current GOP’s ideological pretzel twisting would be comical if its consequences were not more serious. Case in point faux populist venture capitalist/author JD Vance running for an Ohio senate seat in 2022 to replace outgoing Senator Portman, railing against Big Tech, all with the financial backing of Peter Thiel and other venture capitalists !  

Biden’s no nonsense boringness will reposition America to the center of the political landscape, its natural anchor point. The American middle class craves simple solutions from its leaders to its myriad issues, economic and political. Biden’s ability to rationalize seemingly uber-progressive policies for the “silent majority” will prove to be his lasting political legacy.