A report card for progressive Democrats six months into President Biden’s first term would merit an overall “B.” The Democratic left has done a pretty good job of meeting their primary responsibility, which is to press the case for progressive policy options as much as possible, without forming a circular firing squad leading up to the midterm elections. So far, so good.
They don’t deserve an “A,” because of the tepid response to the GOP campaign to brand Democrats as supporting unpopular policies like “defunding the police,” “open borders” and unbridled socialism. Some of this is the fault of easily-distracted media. But there is considerable room for improvement in the way left Dems push back against such ridiculous stereotypes. A little more message discipline and repetition wouldn’t hurt.
Progressive Democrats are not supposed to provide uncritical support of their party’s leader on all occasions But they need to be there for the big battles, the way they showed up for Georgia’s U.S. senate candidates in the January run-offs. True that Georgia flipped in large part because of the blueing of the suburbs and Trump’s mismanagement of his party’s campaign. But it was the fire lit by energetic Black activism and progressives that helped persuade Georgia’s voters. A repeat perfomance for Warnock is needed in 2022, if Dems are going to secure a working senate majority.
Progressive Democrats should run and win where they can in 2022. But when they lose primaries, support the Democratic nominee wholeheartedly. Unity for all Democratic candidates in November, 2022 is required for winning a functional Democratic majority that can actually govern. Without unity, we don’t really have a viable political party.
Above all, left Dems should think and plan long-term. Three leading progressive Democratic goals, Medicare for All, filibuster reform and increasing the size of the Supreme Court belong on Biden’s 2nd term wish list (unless he wins enough senate seats next year), even though he has expressed skepticism about these reforms. But one of Biden’s political virtues is that he is open to change – when the circumstances are right. Securing these reforms depends on holding the House majority and a net pick-up of a couple of U.S. senate seats next year. These are not extravagant goals, despite historical patterns, particularly if Biden’s approval ratings stay high.
President Biden is certainly doing his part. His strategy of competent management of the Covid pandemic, a major economic stimulus, plus steady progress in winning incremental reforms to improve the lives of struggling Americans is paying off. As he hits the campaign trail for 2022 Democratic candidates this week, progressive Democrats should see it as part of their cause.