President Obama has now officially become a second term president. So what can we hope for during the president’s second term? Well, American history indicates second term presidents have accomplished everything from welfare reform, to tax reform, to civil rights reform, to labor reform, to voter reform.
If you aren’t a pure political junkie, you might find the following non-inclusive list of accomplishments by second term president's encouraging.
Bill Clinton’s accomplishments in his second term as our 42nd president swept across the economic and social spectrum. His presidency saw the passage of welfare reform in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which ended aid to families with dependent children and reduced the number of welfare programs. Clinton supported the escalation of the War on Drugs prompting a swell in the prison population from 1.4 to 2 million. He even compromised with a Republican led Congress reversing prior tax policy lowering capital gains taxes.
Our 40th President Ronald Reagan had two major achievements in his second term. Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. The act granted amnesty to approximately 3 million illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to January 1, 1982. Reagan also signed the bi-partisan Tax Reform Act of 1986, passed with the Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress. The act simplified the tax code reducing it to four brackets while eliminating or reducing multiple tax breaks and shelters, high-income tax filers previously enjoyed.
On November 6, 1956, Dwight D Eisenhower our 34th president won his second term by 9 million votes. Both Houses of Congress remained in the hands of the Democratic Party. Yet on January 5, 1957, Eisenhower proposed the "Eisenhower Doctrine" regarding defense of the Middle East which was enacted by Congress as officially sanctioned March 5-7, 1957. On September 9, 1957, Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction. On April 2, 1958, Eisenhower recommended the formation of a civilian agency to direct space exploration.
Our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman’s most selfless act after winning the 1948 election was eliminating his own ability to run for a full second term. Truman signed into law the 22nd Amendment limiting the president to two terms. Among Truman’s other second term in office highlights were the Taft-Hartley Act and his economic platform the Truman Fair Deal.
Woodrow Wilson, the nation’s 28th president, ois remembered best for being an outstanding American scholar and statesman. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for leading America into World War I and became the creator and leading advocate of the League of Nations. Yet during his second term Wilson led the fight for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. Wilson also fought his own party to support national public works projects following the end of World War I.
Clearly, American history supports, second term presidents; with or without the support of their own parties’ control of Congress they can accomplish a great deal. President Obama will be challenged to deal with multiple issues facing the nation, with none more immediately pressing than enacting a fiscal compromise to avoid the pending financial cliff of expiring tax rates and sequestered spending cuts.
The president has now been freed from the political restraints of ever needing to run for office again. With that liberation, perhaps this lame duck can lead the nation in its recovery toward a brighter future.