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Progressives say Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump, who has refused to accept the result of the election, is not enough to address the record surge in COVID-19 cases, soaring inequality, the growing threat of climate change, and an epidemic of police violence.
Biden is expected to roll out a slew of executive actions to undo many of the Trump administration’s policies on day one of his presidency, taking steps to get the coronavirus pandemic under control, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, and reverse some of Trump’s most draconian immigration policies. There are growing calls from progressive Democrats for President-elect Biden, who is reportedly considering Republicans and corporate insiders for key cabinet positions, to reject corporate lobbyists.
While Democrats have taken the White House, they so far have failed to secure a majority in the Senate. A Republican-controlled Senate can prevent Biden from following through on progressive policies and block appointments, which would likely result in disaster for Democrats making a case for reelection in the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election. Republicans currently maintain a narrow Senate majority, with races in North Carolina and Alaska uncalled, and both of Georgia’s Senate seats headed to a runoff election after no candidate secured 50% of the vote.
Biden maintains he wants to work with Republicans, even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor on Nov. 9 to back Trump’s baseless claim that voter fraud cost him the election.
Meanwhile, Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who broke with Trump and recognized Biden’s victory, told CNN he believes he can work together with the president-elect to thwart a progressive agenda: “I want to make sure that we conservatives keep on fighting to make sure we don’t have a Green New Deal, we don’t get rid of gas, coal, and oil, that we don’t have Medicare For All, and don’t raise taxes.”
Democrats can secure a Senate majority if Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock can defeat incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia—and if Democrat Al Gross wins his race in Alaska, where only 58% of ballots have been counted. If Democrats can pick up two of those three seats and the Senate is deadlocked 50-50, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can cast decisive tie-breaking votes.
Further raising the stakes is the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which could strike down any progressive legislation. A majority of justices indicated they supported upholding key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as protections for preexisting conditions, during a Nov. 10 hearing. However, the court could still overturn Roe v. Wade based on other upcoming arguments. If Democrats secure a Senate majority, progressives say they should “pack the court” and create a new liberal majority.
Meanwhile, progressive Democrats are being attacked by their colleagues who blame them for election losses. Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA analyst, criticized some of her fellow Democrats for supporting policies such as defunding the police, according to multiple news reports. And on Meet the Press, House majority whip Rep. Jim Clyburn blamed Jaime Harrison’s loss to Sen. Lindsay Graham’s red-baiting attacks on the ‘Defund the Police’ slogan, a key demand of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But progressives like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired back, noting on CNN that “every swing seat member who co-sponsored Medicare for All won reelection.”
Meanwhile, all 93 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal also won reelection, Earther reported.
Trump won Florida, where five Democratic congressmen lost reelection bids, but a majority of voters passed a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.
Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for the Justice Democrats, a group that backed progressive primary challengers who unseated incumbents, like Ocasio-Cortez did, noted on Twitter that “Defund The Police peaked in June. Harrison peaked in October only for [Senator Dianne] Feinstein to commit the unforced error of hugging Lindsey Graham a few days later,” alluding to Democrats’ disastrous performance in the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, which resulted in a majority of registered Democrats supporting Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court, according to polls.
In the New York Times, Ocasio-Cortez criticized Democrats’ claims that issues such as Defund the Police, Black Lives Matter, and Medicare For All created problems, saying the party must understand that “their base is not the enemy.”
Protests against the police killing of George Floyd correlated with a doubling of registered voters under the age of 25 in Georgia, according to one analysis, where Biden is poised to become the first Democrat elected in more than 20 years.
Ocasio-Cortez is among the voices urging Biden to not offer a cabinet position to former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been accused of covering up the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police.
Progressives know they have their work cut out for them with Biden, who has said he would veto Medicare for All if it crossed his desk, supports giving police more funding, and won’t ban fracking.
Facing a likely Republican Senate majority for at least the next two years, addressing the immense challenges facing the nation will require mobilizations on an unprecedented scale, progressives say.
“Activists need to devise strategies for shaping the policymaking process in the interim, as bleak as things seem—to plan not only for the next two to four years, but the next two to four months,” New Republic staff writer Osita Nwanevu argues. “It should be obvious by now that direct action, on a scale and at a pitch this country hasn’t seen in half a century, will be absolutely critical.”