Opinion | A Dollop of F.D.R. and a Dash of Reagan Equal a Biden Boom

The president needs to maximize his multitrillion-dollar plans.

Credit…Courtland Wells for The New York Times

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By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

After our presidential election I wrote that what had just happened felt to me as if Lady Liberty had been crossing Fifth Avenue when out of nowhere a crazy guy driving a bus ran a red light. Thankfully, “Lady Liberty leapt out of the way barely in time, and she’s now sitting on the curb, her heart pounding, just glad to be alive.” But she knows just how narrowly she escaped.

I hoped that once Joe Biden took charge my anxiety over how close we came to losing our democracy would soon fade. It hasn’t.

Just listen to Donald Trump or Senator Ron Johnson or Fox News whitewashing the ransacking of the Capitol as a Republican white boys’ picnic that just got a little rowdy. Just listen to Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell trying to escape a lawsuit by arguing that no serious person would have believed her claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines had helped to perpetrate a stolen election. Just watch Georgia’s legislature pass a measure supposedly designed to prevent the very fraud that Powell now says never happened by creating obstacles for Black voters — even making it a crime for anyone to serve water to someone waiting hours in a voting line.

Yes, that crazy bus driver is still out there and Lady Liberty is still in danger of being run over.

Instead of the G.O.P. sitting down after the election and resolving, “Let’s complete a bridge to the votes of a diverse 21st-century America — where a G.O.P. message of immigration reform, plus pro-business, pro-law-and-order, pro-smaller-government ideas could win” — it’s decided to burn down any pieces of that bridge and compete only for a white-dominated 20th-century America.

As Michael Gerson, the former George W. Bush speechwriter and now columnist for The Washington Post, put it the other day: “One of the United States’ venerable, powerful political parties has been overtaken by people who make resentment against outsiders the central element of their appeal. … Elected Republicans who are not bigots are generally cowards in the face of bigotry. And that is a shocking, horrible thing.”

Which is why this Trump G.O.P. must never be allowed to occupy the White House again. It also cannot be trusted to cede power. It barely did so in January, and it shows no signs of regretting its behavior. Which is why, if we want to preserve our democracy, we still have the fight of our lives on our hands.

The key to winning that fight is for Joe Biden to succeed well enough and long enough for this antidemocratic Trump version of the G.O.P. to flame out and be replaced by a new, principled, center-right Republican Party, ready to compete for 21st -century America. (We need a healthy conservative party to keep some of the excesses of liberal Democrats in check, like cancel culture.)

And the key to that is for Biden to deliver real stuff that enables all Americans to realize their full potential. And the key to that is to make sure that the $1.9 trillion stimulus and his coming $3 trillion green/infrastructure proposal actually deliver as promised. And the key to that is for Biden to not only channel his inner F.D.R. but also a little Ronald Reagan and some rip-roaring capitalism.

Democrats are all agog that Biden was able to pass more stimulus dollars than Barack Obama. What will make a sustainable difference, though, is whether the Biden stimulus doesn’t just rescue the poor but also propels the private sector to start new companies and create more good jobs that improve productivity and sustainably boost living standards, so that we’re not just redividing the pie, but rather growing the pie.

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