If History Rhymes: The Poem Of Warren Biden

Don’t freak out. Just give me a minute or two.

How it happened no one really knows. Somewhere along the line Mark Twain scooped up the credit as writer and speaker of one of the best quotes ever uttered about the past and history.

History may not repeat—Twain is supposed to have said—but it sure does rhyme.

Great stuff. And so very true when you think about the passage of time on a scale large and small.

It got me to thinking about the pandemic, the election, and the years after both. I’ve done a lot of work on the pandemic of 1918 and 2020. A particular point has sharpened in my focus. Again, keep in mind the Twain quote. Keep in mind the poetry of time.

Warren Harding and Joe Biden. It might be that they embody the reality of history as poetry. It might be that the experience of the one echoes, illuminates, and finds a pattern with the experience of the other. In fact, some of the parallels are striking. They rhyme.

In the 1920 election the presidential nominee who emerged as a clear front-runner over the autumn was:

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was a politician whose national experience was from the Senate;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was known as affable, approachable, a neighborly guy in the Senate;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he wasn’t known from his Senate days as a person of ideas, or ideology, or of remarkable intellectual achievement;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was seen as a positive choice for Black Americans, who understood him as a champion of Black rights and looked forward to his actions as such;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was believed to be a national leader who would reverse the racist attitudes encouraged by the current occupant of the White House;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was openly critical ;of the preceding President as someone who had taken America in the wrong direction, had violated fundamental norms of American life;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was openly assertive about his intention to restore the normal, or as phrased then, normalcy;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was in a nation frustrated by controversial foreign wars;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was in a nation exhausted by a life-altering pandemic;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was campaigning alongside a vice-presidential nominee who was selected during a season of urban unrest and social chaos, a person who was seen as someone who could deal successfully with issues resulting from that public trauma, and a person with a known public safety record;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he had a tendency to be seen as frail and not altogether showing full physical vigor;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, a broad cross-section of the American public saw him as “what the country needs right now”;

>>as a nominee and expected victor, he was seen as someone who could reunite a divided nation.

Now, I’d like to caution those of you who are intensely politically active right now, whether as pro-Trump or pro-Biden. The historical view of Warren Harding is almost entirely negative; he’s regarded as among the worst American Presidents. I’m not referring to that Harding or that image and perception of Harding. In the moment of 1920 and the early 1920s, that’s not the dominant view and certainly not the only view. I’m invoking the Harding of 1920 and the early 1920s in its own context, from its own real time. I’m also laying that invocation alongside the same thing of Biden as we stand in late summer 2020. Here, then, is the rhyming of Warren Harding and Joe Biden, the striking parallels of the two leading competitors in the two presidential campaigns joined rather than separated by a century of time.

Warren Biden. It even rhymes.

I believe we are on a stretch of time that will have many aspects in common with a century ago. The rhymes will be audible. You and I will talk more about them in the months to come. Thanks for reading. All the best, Dan


  1. Judith Cebula says

    Excellent reflection, Dan. So interesting to see patterns.

  2. Great Work.

  3. Wow, Dan…you just dissolved what little I had of confidence in Mr. Biden. Now just hoping a difference from Harding’s severe lack of understanding and unwillingness by his own admission of leading wisely on the issues of his day. Let alone his multiple sexual affairs. Hopeful Joe is above that. Too, a secondary difference: “Silent Cal” Coolidge was arguably one of the most fiscal conservative VPs (and later as POTUS) that we may have ever had in U.S. presidential history….Sen. Kamala not even close to rhyming here.

    Still good research, thank you.

    • Dr. Dan Miller says

      Harris rhymes quite well if you step back. Which of the points that listed doesn’t qualify as rhyming, meaning, which is not true? Your assertion is exactly that, an assertion. Making it doesn’t qualify as proving it. Remember, rhymes come in multiple forms for poetic purposes–bog and dog, wistful and blissful. Rhymes aren’t mirrors. Thanks for responding.

      • Thanks, Dan for taking the time to respond. I agree with you as I reread your “Poem of Warren Biden” prior to 1921ish. Rhyming is certainly more true. My only contention of the VPs was of fiscal differences. But the two rhyme enough.

        On a different note, have thought often of your prediction of the second surge of this Fall….wow! Thanks for continuing to make History Live.


        Kirk Ito

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