Unusual Bedfellows: Congressional Progressives Give Biden Important Backup In Hour Of Want


Left-wing members of Congress are hardly afraid to interrupt publicly with Joe Biden. They have been the one Democrats to vote in opposition to the president’s bipartisan infrastructure invoice in November 2021, insisting on a concurrent vote for an even bigger social and local weather coverage invoice. They’ve been outspoken of their calls for for Biden to withhold further help to Israel till it ends its struggle in Gaza. They usually have been among the many first voices blasting Biden for adopting a extra centrist, enforcement-focused method to the surge in migrants arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border.

However since Biden’s calamitous June 27 debate efficiency, Congress’ most outstanding progressives have largely stayed within the background of the combat to get Biden, a mainstream Democrat, to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race. In reality, Congress’ two most influential progressive members, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have reiterated their help for Biden.

It’s a stance that has annoyed some ideological allies, whereas eliciting reward from others for the strategic self-discipline it displays.

“I’m actually somewhat pleasantly surprised that progressives aren’t trying to score quick media victories” by crusading for Biden’s exit, mentioned Bhaskar Sunkara, the president of The Nation, a progressive journal.

These lawmakers’ help for, or neutrality towards, Biden staying within the race is particularly notable due to how constantly the progressive left has pushed his administration in latest months to vary how it’s dealing with Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Whereas lawmakers themselves have usually been measured, a good portion of their constituencies have been sharply important of Biden on the problem, and it has been an albatross round his neck in making his case to sure Democratic blocs in 2024.

A number of individuals conversant in the pondering of probably the most progressive members of Congress describe a number of tactical issues influencing these lawmakers’ selections — amongst them a scarcity of certainty on the easiest way to defeat former President Donald Trump on the polls, an acceptance of Biden’s defiance within the face of calls to withdraw, and a perception that progressive appeals for his exit could be ineffective.

“The moment [Vice President Kamala] Harris is the nominee and the media and right wing all turn their fire on her, are we actually in a better spot?” mentioned a senior aide to a progressive Home Democrat who, like others HuffPost spoke with for this story, requested anonymity for skilled causes. “It’s hard to know.”

There are additionally extra self-interested considerations at play for these lawmakers: fears of the left taking the blame for a future Biden defeat — or that of a substitute nominee — ought to they communicate up, and loyalty to a president who has largely been companion for progressives on home coverage.

“From a progressive perspective, other than Gaza, the president has governed really well,” the senior aide mentioned.

After which there’s sheer pragmatism.

Progressive lawmakers’ reticence to come back out in opposition to Biden displays an appreciation of the grave stakes of a Trump victory for “vulnerable communities, on working-class people, people of color and women,” in line with a high staffer for a second progressive Home member. Since Biden has made clear that he’s not leaving, contributing to a dialog round his departure has grow to be a “distraction” from the work wanted to get him elected, the staffer mentioned.

“These progressives are organizers, so they know how to organize under all conditions.”

– A high staffer for a progressive Home member

“These progressives are organizers, so they know how to organize under all conditions,” the highest workers member mentioned of stalwart left-wing lawmakers.

“This is not as if Ocasio-Cortez, [Washington Rep. Pramila] Jayapal, Sanders — whatever name you want to pick — gets to put forward their cherry-picked nominee. We all know that’s not the political reality that we are living in. However, they’re organizers, right? And so they’re going to be focused on harm reduction, they’re going to be focused on best possible outcomes, and they’re going to be focused on trying to build an administration that is responsive and that is accountable.”

The handful of progressive lawmakers who’ve spoken to the media about Biden in latest days vary of their reactions to the turmoil round his marketing campaign.

Some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have joined calls for Biden to withdraw from the presidential race. That listing contains Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) — a former CPC co-chair from an earlier era of left-wing insurgents — and extra mainstream progressives like Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’re higher recognized for his or her senior positions on varied Home committees than their ideological bona fides.

Different progressives have been someplace within the center, calling on Biden to enhance whereas stopping wanting demanding his withdrawal. Rep. Summer time Lee (D-Pa.), a member of the left-wing “Squad,” mentioned on satellite tv for pc radio broadcast final week that it was as much as Biden to “show us” he has what it takes to win, and acknowledged that she would help Harris as Democrats’ presidential candidate within the occasion that Biden drops out.

However what has understandably gotten a lot of the eye is the clutch of outstanding left-wing lawmakers standing by his aspect and maybe contributing to an setting the place different Home Democrats have gotten chilly toes about popping out in opposition to him. Sanders has dismissed considerations about Biden’s age, arguing on Sunday in opposition to treating the presidential race like a “Grammy Award contest for best singer,” and as an alternative emphasizing the coverage variations between Biden and Trump. Ocasio-Cortez successfully handled Biden’s nomination as a fait accompli Monday, telling reporters: “The matter is closed. … Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race, and I support him.”

Additionally on Monday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a fellow member of the Squad, described Biden because the nominee and warned individuals in opposition to “losing the plot.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) likewise described Biden as “our nominee” and an “excellent president.” And Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one other main progressive lawmaker, issued a joint assertion of help for Biden with fellow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who backed Sanders’ presidential bids and has ties to the influential Democratic donor community in Silicon Valley, joined “Pod Save America,” a liberal podcast co-hosted by alumni of the Barack Obama administration, to defend Biden as the most suitable choice to beat Trump.

“There is a deep authenticity. There’s a trust you have to establish with the American people. You have to convey why you’re doing it, what your vision is,” he advised a skeptical co-host on Tuesday’s episode. “And it’s unclear to me that any of those [alternatives to Biden] … untested, in four months would be able to do it.”

The highest progressive workers member additionally echoed the Biden marketing campaign’s options that lots of these taking the lead on pushing for his withdrawal are from the Democratic Occasion’s extra upscale and white constituencies, quite than the Black, Latino, or working-class elements of its base.

“Candidly, I think you see some young, white, moderate men doing this quick-to-raise-your-hand, ‘pick me instead, I’ll be your president, I’ll be your VP,’” the highest staffer mentioned, citing as examples Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine). “But those are not the folks that are going to be putting their nose to the grindstone for the next four months, trying to bring together the diverse coalition of union workers, Black Americans, young folks, Gen Z student debtors that we need to win.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is without doubt one of the few left-wing lawmakers to name for Biden to withdraw from the presidential race.

Caroline Brehman/Getty Photos

Whereas it’s true that no Black member of Congress has but known as for Biden to withdraw and the Congressional Black Caucus has been main the pushback in opposition to requires Biden to drop out, not all of his detractors are white or male.

Nor does this account for the ripple results: Lawmakers like Golden — considered one of 5 Home Democrats working in a district Trump carried in 2020 — are important to Democrats’ hopes for retaking the Home, and have to contemplate Biden’s declining ballot numbers in swing areas and the drag he might have on down-ballot candidates.

“I don’t think that those who are in safe, safe Democratic seats should be the ones closing this matter,” mentioned the chief of a progressive group lively in electoral politics.

The progressive group head expressed dismay with Ocasio-Cortez and different lawmakers treating Biden’s nomination as an immovable reality — and thus serving to Biden intimidate front-line Democrats, who’ve probably the most pores and skin within the sport, out of calling for his withdrawal.

“I’m OK with silence. Progressives don’t need to lead on this, but they should do no harm,” the group head mentioned. “It’s really an open matter until the convention, and that’s the bottom line.”

Progressive lawmakers’ unexpectedly heat relationship with Biden looms over the dialog about what their function must be vis-à-vis the trouble to drum him out.

Biden, a tough-on-crime rabble-rouser and trustworthy ally to the bank card trade throughout his lengthy Senate tenure, was removed from progressives’ first selection within the 2020 presidential major. However his historical past of help for organized labor and openness to shifting towards the middle of the Democratic Occasion consensus at any given second made him surprisingly keen to woo the left within the normal election, together with by inviting Sanders to serve on a policymaking panel to set priorities for his administration.

As president, Biden leveraged a 50-50 Senate to go a raft of progressive-influenced payments, particularly the $1.9 trillion financial aid package deal and the Inflation Discount Act, the nation’s first-ever local weather invoice. He gained progressive reward for appointing anti-monopolists to key regulatory positions, presiding over probably the most pro-union Labor Division in a long time, utilizing govt authority to cancel pupil debt, following by on the withdrawal from Afghanistan and, most just lately, defending the undocumented immigrant spouses of U.S. residents from deportation.

All through his presidency, Biden has stored strains of communication open to progressive lawmakers and activists, a key level of distinction with Obama. To wit, he celebrated Earth Day with Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), touting the creation of an American Local weather Corps that had been a requirement of local weather activists and their allies in Congress.

Sunkara, who additionally based Jacobin, a socialist journal, has misplaced confidence in Biden’s capacity to beat Trump and desires him to withdraw, however applauded progressive lawmakers for both saying nothing or standing by Biden.

“The alternative to Biden, the person they’re going to put in, if anything, might be worse for progressives in terms of their agenda than Biden himself,” Sunkara mentioned. “The correct stance for progressives is, like usual, exactly what Bernie is doing, just saying we need to be talking about working-class issues and policies, what Trump is going to be for working-class people, and what a Democratic administration should be trying to do for working-class people, and just reducing it to bread-and-butter issues, no matter what the topic is.”

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