Biden’s Fast Start Echoes F.D.R.’s. Now Comes the Hard Part.

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Biden's Fast Start Echoes F.D.R.'s. Now Comes the Hard Part.


Yet it is not the overwhelming approval that many new presidents had, a reflection of far more divided times. From Dwight D. Eisenhower to George Bush, every newly elected president was in the 60s or 70s for his first six months, according to figures compiled by the polling website FiveThirtyEight. Bill Clinton, however, averaged just 50.5 percent and George W. Bush just 53.9 percent. Mr. Obama had more lift at 60.2 percent, but Mr. Trump averaged 41.4 percent, the lowest of any president in the history of polling.

The question is how long Mr. Biden can hang onto Americans who backed him out of opposition to Mr. Trump, not out of agreement with his ideology, particularly so-called Never Trump Republicans, many of whom still prefer conservative policy prescriptions.

“I’m sure at some point Biden will do something I disagree with, but for now their focus on Covid is important and appropriate,” said Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican operative who helped found the Lincoln Project that worked to defeat Mr. Trump. “He’s running into the hard edge of a Trump-controlled party and I suspect the honeymoon was over for the G.O.P. before it started.”

To get ready to tackle the enormous challenges he was inheriting, Mr. Biden and his team studied books on Roosevelt like Jean Edward Smith’s “FDR” and Jonathan Alter’s “The Defining Moment” as well as other classics like Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “A Thousand Days” on John F. Kennedy’s abbreviated presidency. Mr. Biden has also consulted regularly with the historian Jon Meacham, who helped write his Inaugural Address.

Roosevelt came to office in 1933 after three years of economic calamity and responded with a burst of legislation that transformed America and the government’s role in society even if it did not fully end the Great Depression. Mr. Biden’s executive actions are less permanent because they can be reversed by future presidents. But they emulate Roosevelt’s desire for determined energy.

“Biden’s executive orders are going to be more enduring than Obama’s and more along the lines of a lot of what Roosevelt did early on,” Mr. Alter said in an interview. If the administration can vaccinate more than 100 million people for the coronavirus in its first 100 days, Mr. Biden will have mobilized a response to the pandemic even faster than Roosevelt’s early New Deal programs responded to the Depression.

“Biden’s mobilization will eclipse that and if he is seen as having gotten control of the virus by the end of his first 100 days, it will set him up for all sorts of other accomplishments,” said Mr. Alter.



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