President Biden is giving every indication he’ll seek a second term in the White House. He’s not yet officially announced for re-election, but the centrist stands he’s recently taken on crime and oil drilling indicate he’s preparing to run again as a moderate Democrat, as he did to such great effect in 2020.
Recently President Biden announced he would sign rather than veto legislation passed by Congress to overturn changes in the District of Columbia’s criminal code. The Washington, DC, City Council had voted unanimously to reduce maximum penalties for various crimes, including burglary, carjacking, and robbery. When DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the bill, the City Council repassed it over her veto by a vote of 12 to 1, sending it to Congress for final approval (The Constitution gives the federal government the final say on all laws governing the capital). The House of Representatives voted 250-173 to reject the City Council’s changes and the Senate voted for rejection 84-14.
Biden’s move is widely, and no doubt accurately, seen as attempting to show more support for law and order. He has usually voiced support for greater autonomy and eventual statehood for DC, but to support a reduction in DC’s criminal penalties while crime is rising would signal a “soft on crime” approach which no doubt the GOP could effectively exploit. By taking a harder line on crime, Biden will be able to help blunt whatever attacks the Republicans will otherwise try to make on the Democrats’ record on crime in the upcoming presidential election. He’ll be able to win more votes from those fed up with rising crime and who believe progressive Democratic policies are adding to the problem.
Biden may also be able to blunt the attacks the Republicans will inevitably make on his energy policies. At the beginning of his term Biden blocked the Keystone Pipeline, and he has supported the development of clean and renewable energy sources—wind and solar power, for example—over the continued use of fossil fuels. Republicans have blamed him for refusing to continue to develop America’s fossil fuels and have ridiculed his attempts to encourage more oil drilling in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia instead. But numerous news outlets are reporting that he will soon give the go-ahead to the so-called Willow Project—the drilling for oil by ConocoPhillips on Alaska’s North Shore above the Arctic Circle—which will diminish our reliance on foreign oil and enhance American energy independence.
Biden may take some political risk in pursuing tougher crime measures and promoting more oil drilling. His actions may rile progressive Democrats and provoke a challenge to his renomination from the Democratic left. Progressive Democrats support the DC criminal justice revisions Biden has rejected, and they oppose more drilling for oil as well. Biden’s stances may yet enable the progressives’ “Don’t Run Joe” movement to field a candidate to challenge him in next year’s primaries.
On the other hand, a primary challenge from the left may enable Biden to burnish one of his strongest assets—his claim to being a moderate Democrat—which he used so effectively in 2020. The more hysterical his leftist opponents (if any) seem in the Democratic primaries, the better he’ll look in the fall general election campaign. After all, most general election voters tend to be moderately liberal or moderately conservative and reject general election candidates they consider to be either left-wing or right-wing extremists.
Believers in law and order and American energy independence may wonder about whether Biden actually believes in the policies he’s now supporting, or if he’s just promoting them to improve his chances for re-election. But the benefits that will accrue to America from the adoption of these policies will be the same, whatever his motivations may be.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.