OPINION: Progressives can’t be complacent under a Biden administration

Progressives may have voted for him, but they should not be lenient once President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January. GAGE SKIDMORE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

With 79.5 million votes secured — the largest popular vote any presidential candidate has won in U.S. history — President-elect Joe Biden is projected to take the Oval Office in January.

Many social media activists on TikTok and Instagram started to push for a Biden presidency after he won the Democratic primaries, like the “Settle for Biden” campaign that had gained 287,000 followers on Instagram as of Nov. 29.

The Settle for Biden campaign was a group of former Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren supporters who decided Biden was their only chance of winning the presidency, unless they wanted to endure four more years with President Donald Trump. 

“Biden isn’t flawless but Trump is far, far worse,” the home screen of the Settle for Biden website said. 

Progressive voters are a large portion of the Democratic Party, with 32% self-describing as liberal in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. Biden has not been able to appease these voters, who have expressed their dismay at his nomination by delegates at the Democratic National Convention. 

During a CNN interview in October, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken progressive, noted that young liberals are voting for Biden out of necessity.

“I think young people are actually quite disciplined and quite realistic and pragmatic in their vote, and they want to vote for who they are going to lobby,” she said. 

She endorsed the Biden campaign after his nomination in August. Once he is in office, though, progressives need to push hard for the issues that matter most to them. 

Since Biden is transitioning into a presidency in a new America that Trump created, progressives need to pressure Biden to reverse any damage done. However, Biden has not proved to be assertive enough to actively support progressive politics to turn the country toward better days than what we’ve seen the past four years, and his progressive voters need to change that. 

The original candidate many progressives supported was Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist who won his home state of Vermont in the 2020 primary elections, according to Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, along with California, Nevada, Colorado, North Dakota and New Hampshire. Sanders gained 57% of the Democratic votes from people aged 18-44 in the primaries, according to an Associated Press Voter Survey.

In January, Pew Research Center found that 61% of those who supported Sanders self-identified as liberal. His platform of supporting democratic socialist ideas, like free health care and education, caught the attention of those who support such initiatives. 

There are aspects of progressivism within Biden’s platform, like his hopes to end economic inequality between races and gender wage gaps, according to his campaign website, furthering the push for equality that many liberals fight for. He also wants to go a much different route with health care, the environment and education than the Trump administration did.

But Biden’s environmental plans aren’t up to par with what progressives feel is needed to slow the effects of climate change. The Trump administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement on Nov. 4, opposing the initiatives of many progressive voters. Biden’s environmental plans would put the U.S. back on track with United Nations goals to lower emissions significantly by 2030 but they are not strict enough on fracking and not pitted enough against industries that pollute and influence climate change.

His plans for health care and education are also not strict enough in their current forms to gain the respect of progressives. 

His campaign has been highly reliant on the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, a health care plan developed under the Obama-Biden administration, and unity for America over achieving radical change for those who are the least fortunate in our country. Progressives are looking for a candidate who is more willing to set their foot down and push for serious reform.

Biden’s Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has also pushed for Medicare for All, a single-payer health care program that progressives think won’t be helpful enough for those who cannot afford private health care and won’t cover basic necessities like dental procedures, eyeglasses and hearing aids.

Biden’s plan for two years of free college is also not satisfactory to his progressive constituents.  Instead, they promote Sanders’ plan for tuition-free education and a debt-free experience, according to a March 2019 Vox interview with self-identified progressives. 

The two-year free college initiative hopes to make higher education more accessible, but students would still have to pay for their other two years to finish their bachelor’s degrees. 

Philadelphia Black Lives Matter advocates, like environmental activist Dyresha Harris, and Organizing Director of Working Families Party Pennsylvania Nicolas O’Rourke, have said the current protests for police reform and justice for those killed by police are only the beginning, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Hoping for police reform and better care for the impoverished, progressive activists do not anticipate an end to their current fight within Biden’s presidency.

Progressives can appreciate the victory of Biden, who has hopes for minimizing systemic racism and sexism within America. But Biden needs to work hard to appeal to those who helped usher him into the Oval Office as well as gain their votes in 2024 if he hopes to be re-elected. 

The end of protests, petitions and social media activism is nowhere in sight. Progressives should work to convince Biden to contribute to their causes and champion issues they care about.