We don’t know what the Biden years will ultimately look like, but one thing is pretty obvious, at least to me: It won’t be a new New Deal, nor will this be the beginning of a new Progressive Era.
First, a bit of history. The New Deal, particularly in the beginning, was very popular— and so were the Democrats. In 1930, Herbert Hoover was so unpopular that Democrats picked up 52 seats in the House and eight in the Senate. Two years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt won in a landslide, carrying 42 states and 57.4 percent of the popular vote. That year, Republicans lost a staggering 101 House seats and 11 Senate seats. And in 1934, for the first time since the Civil War, the president’s party gained seats in the midterms, adding nine more House seats and nine more Senate seats, giving the Democrats a filibuster-proof supermajority.
In 2020, Joe Biden won by a comfortable margin in the popular vote, but his margin in the Electoral College was the same as Donald Trump’s in 2016—and somewhat narrower in that a mere 43,000 votes in three states carried the day for him.
Meanwhile, despite widespread predictions of major Democratic gains, the GOP flipped 15 Democratic seats in the House, while Democrats took only three previously Republican ones. No incumbent Republican lost. The Democrats won back the Senate, but only after Trump cost Republicans two winnable races in the Georgia runoff. The Senate is now tied, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving control to the Democrats.