Progressives Won’t Wait for Biden to Set the Course

On October 8th, the Working Families Party released the People’s Charter, an advanced “Roadmap Out of Our Current State of Crisis,” endorsed by several leading progressive legislators and insurgent Congress candidates, including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other members of the “Squad,” as well as organizations such as the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project, the Service Employees International Union and MoveOn. Previously, the Green New Deal Network, an even broader coalition anchored by Indivisible, had the Flourish agenda Endorsed by 85 seated lawmakers and legions of trade unions, environmental, civil rights and civic action groups. These serve not only as political statements but also as political markers: if Biden wins as expected in the next month, progressives will not give him a pass but will try to push for bold reforms from the start.

The contrast to 2012 and the early days of the Obama administration is stark. Obama, who was brought into office in large part by citizen movement energy, was extremely popular with progressive activists. National organizations, the leaders of which were vying for positions in the administration, banded together to support his agenda. The Obama White House organized an external round table to coordinate grassroots support. Progressives stood by for the most part as Obama shook off his filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and watered down his agenda in an unsuccessful pursuit of support from mythical Republican Senate moderators. When Obama prematurely accepted the austerity measures and unemployment was still in double digits, the cries of progressive economists had little support.

Biden does not get this pass. He has signed the boldest progressive agenda of any Democratic candidate in recent history, but he has focused his campaign more on persecuting more moderate suburban voters and the ever-elusive disaffected Republicans than on mobilizing his own grassroots. His final argument Traits that go beyond the differences between red and blue states “to revive the spirit of bipartisanism in the country” promise to work across the aisle and promise that collaboration “is the choice I make as president will be back “. This can be written off as a routine voting stance, but it also reflects Biden’s history as a Senate centrist who prides himself on his ability to work with Republicans. And that’s a particularly bad sign for Republicans rediscover their horror of deficits and begin to scream about the need for austerity. While progressives – led by Bernie Sanders – have generally gone out of their way to eject Trump, most have serious doubts about Biden’s willingness to campaign for fundamental reform.

Progressives are in a far stronger position to fuel the debate than they were when the Obama administration began. There is broad consensus on elements of a bold reform agenda, much of which stems from the Sanders campaigns. Both the Thrive Agenda and the People’s Charter call for massive public investment to modernize our infrastructure, move to clean energy and create millions of jobs. Both would target public investment to low-income black and brown communities. Both cover general health care and basic employee provisions such as general child care, paid family and sick leave, and paid sick leave. Both stress the need to empower workers to organize and negotiate together. Both call for the strengthening of public institutions, from the postal service to public education. Both show bold responses to help the workers displaced by the pandemic.


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