As we celebrate and savor President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump, we must also be cognizant that, despite record voter turnout, the 2020 election did not bode as well for Democrats as it could have.
Two years ago, a “blue wave” ushered in a Democratic House majority and seats at the state and local levels that defied odds.
And while it seems Democrats will maintain that majority, it could turn out to be the thinnest in two decades.
Democrats did not flip a single statehouse and lost some seats in Congress.
The embarrassing returns (other than giving Trump his walking papers) should be a wake-up call for Democrats to heed their progressive base.
Some are warning Biden not to make the same mistake Barack Obama did for eight years— capitulating to industry fat cats and intransigent Republicans whose sole objective was to make him a one-term president.
Joe Biden is the same man who stated five months ago, if elected, “nothing would fundamentally change.”
Despite releasing the most progressive climate and economic plan of any Democratic nominee in modern American history, and proposing a cabinet- or senior adviser–level “Climate Chief” position, Biden still refuses to ban fracking, triggering climate activists to aggressively push back against his pick to head the White House Office of Public Engagement for his ties to fossil fuel industry donors.
He is vague on how he would respond to a Medicare-for-All bill should one pass both houses of Congress and land on his desk for a signature.
For all the ways progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have succeeded in moving Joe Biden further left, we are kidding ourselves if we think he’s going to stay there if not met with relentless pressure.
We are also kidding ourselves if we believe disguising ourselves as Republicans dressed in Democrats’ clothing is going to produce anything other than a Republican rout in 2022 and a President Tom Cotton or Donald Trump redux two years later.
The American people are sick of Democrats afraid to take bold stances on the issues that matter most.
They see climate change‘s ravages and yearn for an infrastructure that will protect them it.
They want the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.
They want to ensure the minimum wage is a living wage.
They support free tuition at public colleges and universities.
They want–no, they need–a student debt jubilee.
They want to protect Social Security.
They want to bring our jobs back from corporate avarice responsible for shipping them to low-wage countries.
They hate having to pay more than any other other developed nation for prescription drugs.
This is why so many genuine progressives who threw their hats into the political ring after Sen. Bernie Sanders’ inspirational 2016 bid for the White House have unseated entrenched establishment Democrats.
Some of those progressives, like “The Squad”–New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley–mopped the floor with their opponents again this year.
It’s why former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman trounced 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel.
It’s why activist Cori Bush will become Missouri’s first Black congresswoman.
As the 2018 mid-term elections indicated, Democrats win when they go bold.
They lose when they shrink every time a so-called “liberal” news pundit asks the question Republicans are never asked–“How do we pay for it?“
“Not Trump” is not enough if we wish to transform the system that brought us an incompetent proto-fascist like Trump.
That requires broad New Deal-type programs intended to return the Democratic establishment to what it was prior to the 1980s’ “Reagan revolution” that decimated the middle class, shuttered manufacturing jobs, and convinced entire swaths of the American electorate to vote against their own interests believing “government is the problem.”
Do Democrats really think Republicans are going to surrender their intransigence now, and how much more to the right are Democrats willing to move when they don’t?
Although Joe Biden has a neo-liberal past to reckon with, he has no choice but to respond to the times, which means he can–and must–become “the most progressive president since FDR,” as Bernie Sanders insisted he has the potential to be.
The question is, will he?
Will we keep the screws to him to make sure he does?
Image credit: PINKE