As the incoming administration begins to take shape, progressive politicians and activists kicked off this week affirming their desire to see President-elect Joe Biden govern with consideration for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Citing key Democratic victories spurred by progressive activists and liberal-leaning voting blocs in potential swing states like Arizona and Georgia, over the last few days a number of progressive leaders across the country have said Biden must lead with an eye toward the people largely responsible for helping him win the White House.
On Monday, for example, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on previous remarks she made in an interview advising the Biden administration against former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, an establishment Democrat who as mayor withheld video of the police shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald, as a potential Cabinet pick.
“We must govern with integrity and accountability,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday. “Laquan McDonald’s life mattered.”
In a New York Times interview published over the weekend, she said adding someone like Emanuel to a Biden administration would be “a hostile approach to the grass-roots and the progressive wing of the party.”
The call to “govern with integrity” was repeated by Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) in a tweet on Monday and is fast becoming a progressive slogan online.
Beginning on election night, as forecasters developed a clearer picture of Biden’s likely victory, Democrats’ marginal retention of the House and the still-uncertain power balance in the Senate, politicos online and on television have floated their theories about who bears responsibility for the party’s wins and perceived failures. That discussion has fueled subsequent talks about who holds power in the intra-party jostle among centrist and progressive Democrats.
In comments leaked from a conference call for House Democrats last week, multiple centrist candidates, including some who lost races this election cycle, blamed progressives for discussing issues they claim didn’t play well in their districts.
“We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) reportedly said. “We lost good members because of that.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives later attributed some losses to a slew of campaigning missteps.
Biden rode waves of Latino, Black and Indigenous support in states like Arizona and Georgia, where high voter turnout put him ahead of President Donald Trump as of Monday evening. Since Biden was named the presumptive winner in the presidential election, activist groups who helped Democrats win these states have been undeterred by calls for them to temper their expectations.
In Arizona, for example, LUCHA, a grassroots organization focusing on social, economic and racial justice, has been credited for driving successful get-out-the-vote efforts that helped turn the state blue.
“Voters decided and they showed up for immigrant youth and their families. They showed up for people with pre-existing conditions. They showed up for our planet and climate change. And they showed up for workers’ and women’s rights,” the organization’s co-directors said in a statement Saturday, adding that they are “ready to continue to push for bold, innovative and unapologetic agendas that center the needs of our communities.”
The president of the National Congress of American Indians, the “oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization,” recently said in a co-written piece that the organization expects the Biden administration to pursue a bold agenda involving truth and reconciliation for the country’s 574 tribal nations.
And around the country, Black progressive organizations including Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight and others continue to stress the incomparable value Black voters bring to the Democratic Party, and the need for the party to respond with policies that tangibly improve Black lives.
For his part, Biden, who stressed moderation at times throughout his presidential campaign, celebrated the diversity of his coalition during his victory speech over the weekend. Biden thanked Americans of various identities ― “gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American.”
“And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest, the African American community stood up for me,” Biden said.
“You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours,” he added.