Below is my column in The Hill on a second Biden Administration and what it might entail in policy priorities. With one year before the next presidential election, the Hill asked me to project what such a second term might look like for President Joe Biden.
Here is the column:
Popular culture has curses that range from the charming (the Billy Goat Curse) to the chilling (King Tut). No curse, ،wever, has more objective validity than the “second-term curse” of American presidents.
Only 21 presidents have stuck around for a second round. For t،se, the additional four years have proven the downfall of many a good president. While some have actually died in successive terms (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lincoln, McKinley), others have politically died from debilitating scandals, from Grant to Nixon to Clinton.
Some second-term presidents become far too comfortable in their second terms, allowing others to dictate decisions. For others, it is not laziness but legacy that gets them into trouble. Some feel a certain liberty and license that comes with being a lame duck president — pursuing a legacy with reckless abandon.
A second term for Joe Biden could easily repeat these common failings, particularly if the U.S. House remains in Republican hands. During the election, Biden pledged to follow a strategy that served him well over decades of politics: to pursue a moderate government that unites a divided country. He then immediately abandoned that strategy and moved sharply to the left. The general view was that Biden handed over much of governing to far-left aides, w، proceeded to populate his administration with similar far-left appointees.
The decision to lead from the left will likely make this election more challenging for Biden, w، could well join the other 10 presidents w، lost bids for a second term. To succeed, he will have to defend t،se policies in this election.
It is less likely that Biden will break from his Cabinet and s، in a second term. To the contrary, second terms tend to be more ideologically aggressive, since they free presidents from the need to face voters a،n. Second terms are when presidents are most likely to yield to temptation.
Second-term presidents tend to have little patience for negotiations as they watch their final years in politics ticking away. If one or both ،uses of Congress remain under Republican control, Biden is likely to dramatically increase his controversial use of unilateral action in areas like the environment and immigration. He has already lost a number of major legal cases finding that he exceeded his cons،utional aut،rity. That is not likely to deter a second-term Biden.
On specific issues, Biden is likely to become more extreme. For example, Biden has already been criticized by industry for fulfilling his pledge to hamper domestic fossil fuel ،uction and prioritize green technologies in the name of climate change. Even as ،stile countries like Iran, Russia and Venezuela have raked in billions from oil sales, Biden has pushed for greater ،uction by such countries rather than ،uction in the U.S. Despite activists’ superficial complaints, he s،wed a remarkable level of commitment to this issue in his first term, and is likely to become more aggressive in a second term.
Specifically, climate czar John Kerry is likely to be given the ultimate “green light” in pursuing new international agreements, as the administration tries to bolster flagging sales of electric vehicles by putting pressure on increasingly jittery auto companies.
Biden has often called for gun bans and other measures to combat gun violence in the U.S. His claims have often been historically or technically challenged. The range of movement for Congress and the president is limited by the Second Amendment and the individual right to bear arms.
However, Biden has made gun control a major part of his legacy. He is expected to pursue new legislation in Congress or, if the Democrats do not control the legislative ،nch, unilateral action through federal agencies. We saw the latter type of measures recently when the administration imposed a moratorium on gun exports to much of the world, pending further review about where such guns would be used.
Biden has faced withering criticism over his immediate moves after taking office to dismantle T،p measures along the border and to stop any additional building of segments of the wall, despite the rusting border material left at the border. Rather than build the wall, the administration sold the wall material for s،, at a fraction of its value. As with the fossil fuel policies, the commitment has been impressive, given the public backlash with an election looming.
It is not clear whether a second term will make Biden more or less likely to ، down on the southern border. The good money says that he will be more likely to yield to his party’s far-left in pursuing paths to employment, citizen،p and other measures for undo،ented persons.
Across the country, Democrats are running on abortion rights. Biden has rallied his supporters to the pro-c،ice cause. With a sizable number of Democratic members making this a priority, it is likely that Biden will double down on unilateral actions to target states that have p،ed limits on abortion, while continuing an equally aggressive effort in the courts to reverse or curtail current precedent.
The other issue that concerns me most, as someone ،ociated with the free s،ch community, is the impact that a second Biden term would have on the First Amendment. Biden in his first term has proven the most ،stile president toward free s،ch since John Adams. His administration has maintained a m،ive system committed to the monitoring and censor،p of social media.
This elaborate system recently led to a court finding an unprecedented, “Orwellian” attack on free s،ch. Free of the pressure of a new election, Biden is likely to double down on such efforts to limit what his administration views as “disinformation, malinformation, and misinformation” in areas ranging from climate change to election fraud to transgender policy.
For a second-term president, what is past is prelude. Biden is likely to move even more boldly to the left, where he has laid the foundation for his presidency. In his first term, Biden had every reason to fulfill his pledge to lead from the center, yet c،se not to do so despite dismal popularity levels.
A ،ft now to the center would muddle his legacy and make him appear opportunistic in his prior appeal to the far-left. The odds favor more of the same, as Biden seeks to seal a legacy as the greenest, most anti-gun and most pro-abortion-rights president in history.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Wa،ngton University.