FDR Is The Easy Comparison For President Biden
As the White House and Republicans in Congress trade negotiations about the infrastructure bill, the FDR comparisons are natural. But I think that Eisenhower is actually a more apt comparison, especially if we consider why Eisenhower and Biden are so focused on infrastructure. In addition to my monthly columns at Governing, I also write monthly columns for The Hill. Here’s a bit of a taste of this month’s column:
Starting with a bit of background on the two presidents:
Much of Biden’s popularity during the campaign season and his first few months in office derives from his blue-collar persona. Even when he’s proposing the biggest government investment in social programs since the Great Depression, he isn’t threatening. He’s just Joe from Scranton.
Eisenhower was the same. In June 1945, Eisenhower visited his hometown in Kansas and proclaimed, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.” This statement would have been unremarkable, except that he had just won World War II and defeated the Nazis. Both Biden and Eisenhower’s electoral success came from their appeal to independent and swing voters from the other party, largely because they struck voters as a safe choice.
They share many other political similarities as well, which I discuss in the longer article, but here’s the biggest parallel:
But Eisenhower and Biden’s shared focus on infrastructure as national defense is by far the most important and telling similarity. In 1919, Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower participated in the first Army transcontinental motor convoy to test the mobility of the military during wartime. The journey covered 3,251 miles and took 62 days. The experienced convinced Eisenhower that the nation’s military-preparedness required a well-maintained, direct highway system. In 1955, he was in a position to do something about it. He declared in his State of the Union address that “A modern, efficient highway system is essential to meet the needs of our growing population, our expanding economy, and our national security.” Even the name of the legislation, the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, emphasized the defensive nature of the infrastructure plan, which Congress passed the following year.
You can read the full article, including their eerily similar justifications for why infrastructure is a national security issue, on The Hill: