Election 2024

Liberals in Biden Panic Mode Should Learn To Love Limits on Executive Power

The Supreme Court's recent rulings limiting the powers of the administrative state are a blessing for liberals who might not control the White House for much longer.


It's been a tough couple of days for America's liberals.

On Thursday, they had to watch President Joe Biden give a historically bad debate performance that confirmed for most people watching that he lacks the stamina to be president for another four years.

The liberal commentariat is now officially in panic mode, with effectively no one defending the president's performance, and many former stalwart Biden supporters explicitly urging him to drop out of the race so that someone, anyone, capable of defeating former President Donald Trump can take the helm.

Then today, the U.S. Supreme Court jointly decided two cases, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce, that ended the long-standing doctrine of Chevron deference—the judicial rule that required courts to largely defer to executive agencies' own judgment on the legality of their regulations.

The always hysterical Mark Joseph Stern, Slate's legal writer, declared the decision a "major blow to the 'administrative state'" and one that "constitutes a major transfer of power from the executive branch to the judiciary."

Stern leveled a similar assessment of the Supreme Court's decision in SEC v. Jarkesy, in which the court ruled that people being prosecuted by administrative agencies for civil violations were entitled to a jury trial.

He's hardly alone in despairing. The liberal legal commentariat is positively apoplectic at the new limits that the federal bureaucracy will now have to put up with.

Individually, these separate freakouts might make sense; Democrats don't want a Democrat to lose a presidential election. Liberal big-government supporters don't want additional restrictions on the power of federal regulators to set sweeping national policy.

Taken together, there's a frustrating incoherence to these twin panics. Liberals are incensed that an executive branch soon to be controlled by Donald Trump will have less ability to unilaterally set policy.

Given the fears of what a second Donald Trump administration will mean for liberal political priorities, one would think that the Supreme Court's rulings limiting executive power should be viewed as a good thing amongst America's liberals.

Surely, they should think it a good thing that Trump's executive agencies will face more scrutiny from the courts when enacting regulations not obviously authorized in statutes passed by Congress. Likewise, Trump haters should seemingly think it a good thing that people charged by independent agencies whose personnel Trump will appoint get the benefit of jury trials.

This should have been the liberal takeaway from the first Trump administration, but it largely wasn't.

Instead, Democrats went all in on the idea that Trump was an illegitimate president. All they needed to do was organize harder, vote harder, and be more radical until they finally again controlled the White House.

In office, Biden has been willing to stretch his executive power even further by forgiving student loans, prolonging eviction moratoriums, and mandating vaccines for private-sector workers, all without so much as a vote in Congress.

With the reality sinking in that Biden might not be president for much longer, this is looking like a bad strategy.

Libertarians have an easy time accepting limits on executive power. We're never in charge of the federal government, and we don't want it to do much anyway. The rest of the ideological spectrum should embrace the wisdom of this attitude as well, even if they desire a much more active federal government.

Policy wins resulting from unilateral executive action can be just as easily undone by executive action. The more power the president has, the more concerning it becomes when the president is someone you consider to be dangerous, or even unhinged.

All the more reason to limit the powers of the president, even if that means working through Congress and the states to get one's favored policies enacted.

The cases coming out of the Supreme Court will put hard limits on liberals' ability to implement their policy vision through executive agencies. They will also put hard limits on Donald Trump doing the same.

Anyone who wants Biden to win, and watched last night's debate, should see the silver lining there.