Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Historical Insanity

Joe Biden is closer to FDR than You Think

The similarities between Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (D-Delaware) and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Sr. (D-New York) are greater than most people think.

Joe Biden has many similarities to the real Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). Unfortunately, observers are not comparing Biden to the real Roosevelt. Instead, they are comparing Biden to the fantasy FDR American leftists worship.

The similarities between the true Franklin Roosevelt and Joe Biden are striking. However, most modern observers will not understand those similarities.

Joe Biden Resembles the Real FDR

Joe Biden is a moderately pro-business Democrat with a reputation for sometimes leaning left.

Strangely, before he was President, Franklin Roosevelt was a moderately pro-business Democrat who occasionally leaned left. Modern observers forget that FDR’s reputation as a radical and a leftist comes from his presidency.

In his first presidential run in 1932, FDR ran as a moderate on a “return to normalcy ticket.”  Notably, the biggest issue for Democrats in 1932 was ending the failed Republican social experiment known as Prohibition.

Prohibition was a Constitutional ban on alcohol. FDR’s main issue in 1932 was repealing the 18th Amendment that enacted prohibition. In 1932, Americans viewed Prohibition as a failed social experiment that created more problems than it created.

The 1932 view of Prohibition resembled the modern attitudes towards the War on Drugs and law enforcement. Today, many Americans view the war on drugs as an expensive failure and a violation of the constitution, American values, human freedoms, and their freedoms.

Likewise, popular attitudes towards the police, imprisonment, and law enforcement in general are becoming critical and skeptical in 2020. For example, the popular hashtag: “defund the police.” In 1932, FDR rode such attitudes to the White House, Biden could do the same today.

Biden and FDR on Race

A strange similarity between Biden and FDR is their attitudes towards race. Franklin D. Roosevelt was an open racist who had no respect for people of color or their rights.

Roosevelt was president for over 12 years, yet he did not try to expand civil rights or publicly oppose racism. Disgustingly, FDR took no action against lynching; the public murder of African Americans by white mobs, to appease Southern Democrats.

During World War II, FDR ordered federal authorities to respect the rights of white German and Italian Americans. In contrast, Roosevelt ordered the military to round up all nonwhite Japanese Americans in some areas of the country and imprison them in what he called “concentration camps.”

Tellingly, FDR did not examine intelligence reports that showed Japanese Americans were no greater threat to national security than German or Italian Americans. Even Roosevelt’s openly racist FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover felt the “internment” of Japanese Americans was unjustified.*

In a similarity to FDR, Biden embraced racist policies in the past. For instance, U.S. Senator Joseph Biden was an outspoken proponent of mass incarceration and the war on drugs throughout the 1980s and 1980s. In 1989, Biden claimed Republican President George H. W. Bush’s (R-Texas) crime and drug policies were not tough enough, Vox notes.

However, Biden supports some policies that help black people. In particular, Biden is a powerful advocate of African-American voting rights. Moreover, Biden served as black President Barack Obama (D-Illinois) Vice President and many observers think Biden could choose an African-American woman as his running mate.

On the other hand, cynics will say that political expediency motivates both FDR’s racism and Biden’s “tolerance.” To explain, FDR needed the votes of white racists, particularly in the South, and Biden needs the votes of African Americans. Hence, political needs shape the politicians’ racial attitudes.

FDR’s Return to Normalcy

Likewise, Americans in 1932 were sick of pro-business Republicans and their pandering to Wall Street. In particular, many ordinary people blamed President Herbert Hoover (R-California) for making the Great Depression worse.

To elaborate, Hoover refused to use federal resources to help Depression victims. FDR, on the other hand, favored direct federal relief (cash payments and job programs) for Depression victims.

Notably, today Biden favors massive federal aid to victims of the Coronavirus Depression. For example, Biden told failed presidential candidate Andrew Yang (D-New York) that he wants the federal government to pay the salaries of Americans idled by coronavirus. Biden made the assertion on his Here’s the Deal podcast.

In a similarity to Hoover, President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) and Republican leaders refuse to consider such massive aid to Coronavirus Depression victims. Thus, Trump could repeat a mistake fatal to Hoover in 1932.

Interestingly, Biden is copying FDR’s 1932 return to normalcy strategy by promising to end what many Americans see are crazy Republican policies. For example, the endless war overseas and the mindless devotion to libertarian economic policies.

The Battle Over Normalcy

To explain, the 1932 presidential election was a battle over how to return America to normalcy. Likewise, the 2020 presidential contest is becoming another battle over normalcy.  

Hoover believed America could restore normalcy by following the Republican policies that had worked so well during the 1920s. Similarly, Trump believes America can return to normalcy by returning to the 2017 norm of low taxes, low interest rates, cheap credit, and a little China bashing to appease the mob.

In contrast, FDR believed massive federal spending, large entitlements, and more government regulation was the best path to normalcy. Today, Biden thinks more government spending can restore normalcy.

However, perhaps FDR did not believe normalcy was possible. To explain, in office Roosevelt proposed radical measures that went far beyond normalcy. Social Security and federally enforced unionization, for example.

Yet normalcy was what voters wanted, so FDR ran on the normalcy ticket. Today, Biden talks about normalcy to some audiences but drops hints of far more radical actions in his podcast and elsewhere.

Biden vs. FDR

Hence, Joseph R. Biden Jr. And Franklin D. Roosevelt Sr. are similar politicians. Conversely, there are vast differences between the two men.

Roosevelt came from a wealthy, upper-class background, and could trace his ancestry to some of America’s oldest and snobbiest families. For instance, FDR attended Groton and Harvard and spent much of his youth in Europe. Additionally, FDR lived in a palatial estate, Hyde Park, in the Hudson River Valley.

In comparison, Biden grew up in a working-class Irish environment in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Delaware and Syracuse University. Today Biden’s lifestyle is squarely middle class; the former Vice President famously took an Amtrak train home to Delaware after completing his second term.

Moreover, FDR was a political dilettante before his presidency. Before 1932 FDR’s experience in elected office comprised two terms as governor of New York, a few years as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and a short stint in New York’s state legislature.

FDR vs. Biden vs. Trump

In contrast, Biden spent 37 years in the United States Senate and served two terms as Vice President.

Thus, Biden is a professional politician while FDR; in a similarity to Donald J. Trump (R-Florida), was a dilettante with good political instincts. Notably, FDR dodged the World War I draft by sitting behind a desk at the Navy Department.

Just as Trump spent the Vietnam War playing tennis and making real estate deals in New York City. Another similarity is that the real FDR like Trump was a militarist and war monger who avoided military service.

FDR was a passionate supporter and admirer of the US Navy and an advocate of US entry into World War II who refused to serve in World I. Today, Trump the Vietnam era draft dodger claims to be a friend of the military. However, Biden, FDR, and Trump share one attribute: great political instincts.

Notably, FDR stayed out of the 1928 presidential election when Democrats suffered a humiliating loss. In detail, Herbert Hoover (R-California) won 444 Electoral College votes to Alfred E. Smith’s (D-New York) 87 Electoral College votes.

Yet Roosevelt jumped into the race in 1932, when everything favored Democrats. In 1932, FDR won 472 Electoral college votes to Hoover’s 59.

FDR and Joe Biden Improbable Agents of Change

Similarly, Biden did not run in 2016, when Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) lost a close election to Trump. Likewise, Trump refused to challenge the popular U.S. President Barack Obama (D-Illinois) in 2012 but ran against Clinton in 2016; despite a widespread belief Hillary was unbeatable.

Instead, Biden threw his hat into the ring in 2020. Notably, Biden won an upset victory in the Democratic Primary. In addition, the Reuters/Ipsos poll estimates Biden had a 13-point lead over Trump in mid-June 2020.

Thus, FDR and Biden have one thing in common: great political instincts. Roosevelt understood there was no market for regime change in prosperous 1928 America and no support for Hoover’s status quo in depressed 1932 America. Biden grasped that Americas wanted change in 2016 and understands their desire fie change again in 2020.

Joseph R. Biden and Franklin Delano Roosevelt could share another commonality. FDR became an improbable agent of change during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Similarly, Biden could become an improbable change candidate during the chaos of the 2020s.

-See Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps by Michi Nishiura Weglyn for a bothersome expose of FDR’s true attitudes towards nonwhite people.

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