Biden needs more progressives

President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris are certainly a historic ticket


Bariza Umar December 13, 2020
The writer is a graduate of Brandeis and Harvard Universities

Americans have squarely chosen a new administration, through popular vote and electoral college, even flipping some states over to the Democrats. The current administration has still not conceded defeat, and despite the latest Supreme Court dismissal of election-related cases, President Trump may not give up on his claims of the elections having “stolen” him of another term. There is, however, no doubt he will be leaving the White House on January 20. Yet the indulging of conspiracy theories and coverage of accusations of voter fraud is more than a sign of losers crying foul.

It’s a distraction on part of the centre and centre left, avoiding conversations about what the new administration needs to do, how, and with whom.

President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris are certainly a historic ticket. However, identity politics cannot, and should not, take the place of real reform. This election was not a wholesale endorsement of this ticket, which again represents the status quo, as much as it was a rebuttal of the current administration. If the Democratic Party does not recognise this and its implications, they will lose the next election.

There has been conversation in mainstream media of how progressives are the reason Biden didn’t show a more resounding victory. This is a fallacy. The four progressives elected in the last midterm elections, known as “the squad”, all won their re-elections. They have doubled their number in Congress and every candidate they supported won their campaigns. This was despite the DNC actively suppressing progressive candidates in some places believing, as they did with Bernie Sanders, that the centre is more electable and less dangerous to their own special interests. For instance, backing Amy McGrath so wholeheartedly, and expensively, in Kentucky, rather than the more charismatic and progressive Charles Booker, is indicative of the latent racism and elitism within the Democratic Party, as well as flawed conceptions of what the “other side” wants. This must be recognised for what it is and exorcised.

The composition of the team Biden has picked is disappointing. The US will, for the first time, have a black woman as VP, but Harris is also California’s former attorney-general who has done her part in the incarceration and criminalisation of black and brown people. Biden’s choice of an Indian-American woman, Neera Tanden, to head the Office of Management and Budget is also historic. But Tanden, a Clinton loyalist, is known for her anti-union and anti-progressive views. Biden’s choice of Steve Ricchetti, a former lobbyist, as a senior White House official, has caused similar consternation amongst progressives.

Historic picks are good, but they need to be substantive as well, working with civil rights activists and progressives. Biden needs to balance the entrenchment of status quo nominees in his administration by offering significant positions to Sanders (perhaps labor secretary) and Elizabeth Warren.

Another black man was just killed by a law enforcement officer while carrying home sandwiches from Subway. The US is still participating in, or supporting, global wars and despotism that are exacerbating a refugee crisis, while limiting entrance to refugees they help create. Covid-19 and climate change are on the top of the list, as is reassessing the southern border. However, the new administration cannot just nod left, while dining with pharmaceutical and insurance companies, Wall Street and the defense industry. It has to seriously consider Medicare for all, debt forgiveness for ordinary citizens instead of the already rich, systemic racism, and endless wars. Americans made it clear they no longer want the status quo in 2016. They are now hoping the Democrats can deliver on that.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2020.

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