WWhen Joe Biden, a 78-year-old moderate white man, was sworn in as president of the United States, it was felt that it was only a matter of time before progressives were flustered and the headlines of “Democrats in Disarray” were dusted off.
But two months later, the party remains unusually united. Biden is being hailed as an unlikely radical, drawing comparisons to transformative presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, his very reputation as a staunch centrist that allows him to advance faster and faster.
How long can the Democratic honeymoon last?
A key arbiter of this grace period is the influential figure of Nina Turner, a longtime advocate for Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist defeated by Biden in last year’s party primaries. She thinks the signs are encouraging, so far.
“He’s doing well, but we’re going to keep pushing, we’re going to keep pushing,” says Turner, 53, who is currently campaigning for congressional elections in Ohio. “We don’t have everything we need, but this is a good start. The people are the North Star, not the politicians, and their needs are great. There are 33 million people who need a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour. So, a good start, but we have a lot of kilometers to go ”.
Turner, a former Ohio state senator, was a national surrogate for Sanders ‘2016 presidential campaign, led his spinoff grassroots organization Our Revolution, and served as the national co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 campaign. Her own shot at national office in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District came after Marcia Fudge resigned to become a housing secretary under Biden.
Turner was endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and the Progressive Congressional Caucus, including Jamie Raskin from Maryland. If he succeeds in the Democratic primaries in August and in the special elections in November, he would consolidate his position as leader of the party’s left.
Ohio voted twice for Barack Obama, but then twice for Donald Trump, as Republicans made gains among blue-collar voters. Turner reflects: “When I ran for secretary of state in 2014, what I heard in rural areas of the state was that Democrats need to show that they are not just two corporate parties that people are choosing from, that the Democratic party really does. get.
“We have to go back to the roots of FDR and the roots of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm; that kind of service speaks to the people of the great state of Ohio, whether urban, suburban, or rural. I know he does it because he was in the path of President Obama, especially in 2012. “
Biden’s comprehensive $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package, which includes direct cash payments to millions of Americans and measures to reduce child poverty by nearly half, was seen as a victory for working families. But it was not an outright victory: Sanders’ amendment to include raising the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour was rejected by Republicans and moderate Democrats.
Turner says: “The Covid Aid Bill is certainly a good start. That $ 1.9 trillion is a big problem; I think it is 10% of GDP. It is strong and the reason we are there is because the progressives were pushing. Now we need to get that minimum wage of $ 15 an hour over the finish line because it is the floor and not the ceiling.
“We have to address the systemic problems that existed before the pandemic with systemic solutions and I believe the Democratic Party can do that. And I’m going to Congress to help them along the way. “
However, Biden’s bold advance will soon stall on Capitol Hill. Minority Senate Republicans can use a procedural mechanism called filibuster to block their legislative agenda on gun control, healthcare, voting rights, and more. Many on the left view filibuster as a relic of the Jim Crow era and are calling for its abolition so that Democrats can pass bills by simple majority.
But Democratic senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continue to support him. “They are on the wrong side of history,” says Turner. “Senator Joe Manchin needs a backbone. People deserve to have a strong debate in both houses and not be forbidden by people who want to play with people’s lives.
“While they collect their salary from the taxpayers’ penny, people like Manchin and Sinema have the sheer, unadulterated nerve to stand in the way of people getting the resources they need. There is a moral contradiction there that must be addressed. “
Manchin of pro-Trump West Virginia has defended filibuster by articulating hopes of reviving bipartisanship. Biden promised to unify the nation, but found Republicans adamant in their opposition to the coronavirus relief bill. Turner cautions the president against overstretching to accommodate Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“President Obama came in like the diplomat that he is – ‘I want bipartisanship’ – and tried to negotiate with these Republicans. Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” They’ve already shown us Democrats who they are and we must believe them, so I don’t want President Biden to fall into that trap.
“It was tried and tested under President Obama: Republicans under Senator McConnell are just not going to do the right thing, and therefore Democrats will have to take the reins for these two years that we have and use the power of the people on behalf. from town.
“That is why the people gave us the presidency. That is why they answered the call in Georgia and why they allowed the Democrats to maintain control of the House. Now we’ll have to show people something or we could have a rude awakening in 2022. “
Turner, an assistant professor of history and podcast host, argues that opinion polls show that a majority of Americans agree with progressives on issues ranging from the Green New Deal to canceling student debt, from the increase from the minimum wage to the reform of the legal system, especially on racial grounds. Justice.
“What we’re seeing coming from President Biden, while it may not be all that progressives want, progressives throw luck. The American people may not call themselves progressive, but when we dig deep to talk to them about the issues, they are right where we are.
“What we are talking about is not radical. The people who are out of touch are people like Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Mitch McConnell because last time I checked, there are poor people in Kentucky and poor people in West Virginia, just as there are poor people in Ohio who need your help. . elected leaders to bring them relief. That’s all we ask. “
In the New York Times, Ezra Klein noted that the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package looks a lot like the proposals Sanders has fought for his entire career. “Bernie Sanders did not win the 2020 election,” he wrote. “But he could have won his aftermath.”
Does Turner think that, after all these years, Sanders has vindicated himself?
“Sometimes visionaries are ahead of their time, and whether popular or not, he has remained consistent and now people have caught up with his vision,” she says. “The progressive movement, but the United States, by extension, is right where Senator Bernard Sanders is on these issues. We’re going to keep pushing. “
An intrigue of the next four years is whether Biden will back down and whether Sanders will criticize him. Turner adds: “You can both recognize someone who says that President Biden is on the right track and at the same time continue to push. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, I would not say that progressives necessarily keep their powder dry; They say we are off to a good start, but we have to improve this. “