Leftists criticize Biden as not being “progressive enough” amidst his massive approval from more centrist Democrats, marking further divide within the Democratic Party.
“Unity,” as emphasized by President Joe Biden, has been a significant issue amongst the Democratic Party in recent years. It seems that since Trump began his presidency, leftists began brainstorming who to replace him with, and, as a result, what ideals to impose upon the country.
If the over 25 presidential candidates that entered the 2020 Democratic primary elections were any indicator, the party seems split in ideals, mainly due to division between more progressive and conservative party members. During the July 30 2019 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, moderate candidates referred to more progressive candidates’ ideals of “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal as “fairytale” or “wish list” economics.
Younger progressives especially favored Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, whose loss in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries struck a large blow to many Democrats. Biden certainly poses a stark contrast to Sanders, with less vocal support for more progressive policies and criticisms from leftists for being too “centrist.”
In his first week of office, Biden has already enacted various progressive policies through executive orders and agendas that have set him apart from former presidents and combat his “centrist” label. However, in their criticisms of Biden progressives seem to argue for change beyond the current political spectrum and what has been represented in American government thus far, more closely aligned with ideals held by more “radical” Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. This would involve reimagining the morality of socialism, which the U.S. has a long history of opposition to.
The issue with “unity”:
Perhaps the most obvious split between conservatism and progressivism is displayed by Congress. The Senate is split an even 50 – 50 and neither party holds the majority. Vice President Harris, as president of the Senate, will hold a tiebreaker vote in the Senate in partisan issues, which will likely occur given the Senate’s partisan divide. Democrats won the majority of the House in 2020, though it was likewise a close race, 222 – 211.
Given some Republican congress members’ support for the Jan. 6 insurrection, which has been widely condemned by members of all political parties as an attempt to overturn secure, certified election results, some leftists have opposed President Biden’s call for unity between both parties. Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who publicly supported the insurrection attempt, have specifically been under fire from leftists who call for their removal rather than repentance.
This argument from far leftists is subject to criticism for its generalization of conservatives as white supremacists. In only the first few days of Biden’s presidency he has already enacted a historic amount of progressive racial justice legislation compared to American history.
The issue of representation:
The issue of certifying the 2020 election’s results amongst Congress members has also been tied to issues of white supremacy. Some insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol wore Confederate memorabilia and neo-Nazi garb, and their direction from former President Trump, who enacted many policies that disproportionately hurt people of color, has seen Trump and insurrection supporters in office labeled as “white supremacists.” More radical Democrats have labeled Republicans in general as “white supremacists,” which reflects an opposition to the unity Biden calls for.
Moreover, these leftists have taken issue with the racial representation promoted by the Biden administration, with a historically diverse cabinet for America, yet containing members with more a centrist ideology. Vice President Harris has especially endured heavy criticism from the left, such as from Harris’s history of cannabis convictions as a California prosecutor that oversaw more than 1,900 cannabis-related convictions in San Francisco, though only a few dozen were actually imprisoned. Far-left Democrats have also criticized Harris’ rulings as California attorney general, who “rarely prosecuted police officers who killed civilians” and “refus[ed] to allow advanced DNA testing that might have exonerated Kevin Cooper, a Black man on death row,” according to NPR. Likewise, leftists have criticized Harris’ record on transgender rights, most notably her 2015 decision to block gender affirming surgery for an incarcerated transgender woman.
Biden, likewise, has been criticized for his own criminal justice policy by leftists, most notably through the 1994 Crime Bill which has been argued to have caused mass incarceration in the ‘90s. Both Harris and Biden have been scorned in relation to how the criminal justice system can disproportionately incarcerate people of color, as emphasized by the Black Lives Matter movement.
President Biden has recently been criticized for his choice of the attorney general, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Merrik Garland, as well due to his history as a prosecutor who was “tough on crime” and conservative in support of civil liberties.
In this way, some leftists feel that, although there is racial representation in President Biden’s administration, their policies are not radical enough to truly benefit racial minorities. However, since his Jan. 20 inauguration, President Biden has passed many progressive social policies through executive orders. For more information, please visit the Quaker Campus’ new article “Biden Passes 17 Executive Orders on First Day in Office.”
The issue of what Biden has done so far:
Although President Biden has passed executive orders that take a progressive stance on controversial issues like the pandemic, economy, immigration, LGBTQIA+ and racial equity, climate change, and government accountability, some leftists argue Biden has not enacted enough change.
Most controversial amongst leftists has been President Biden’s plan to issue a $1,400 stimulus check, to add to the recent $600 stimulus. Progressives have argued for a $2,000 stimulus in addition to the stimulus checks that have already been issued, as opposed to President Biden’s support for a sum of $2,000. Some also feel the stimulus has not been issued fast enough during President Biden’s first week in office.
Is Biden progressive enough?
Some Whittier College students think not.
Despite Biden’s major executive orders, social policy from the Trump administration continues to be controversial for many Democrats. More progressive leftists are calling for even more rollbacks from Trump policy and additional provisions to protect new social policies affecting minority groups like race, gender, sexual orientation, and more.
The Biden administration has also overseen a continuation of the student loan payments and interest pause. Prior to this action, Biden had planned to forgive $10,000 worth of student loan debt per borrower, which would not require congressional approval, though he has not enacted this plan yet. Progressives call for Biden to cancel the loans during the economic downturn or answer incoming Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for Biden to forgive $50,000 per borrower, while centrists and conservatives argue that to forgive student loan debt would be unfair.
Still, fourth-year Jewel Henderson, who does not identify with a specific political ideology though supports Bernie Sanders, believes that Biden is not progressive and that only limited progress can occur in America due to its history of discrimination, like many leftists cautioning Biden’s presidency. Henderson argues that no matter who is president, America must undergo large scale cultural and systematic reform to truly be progressive. She believes that common people should have more say in who is elected into government as opposed to establishments alike the Democratic Party that elected Biden as their candidate for the presidency. Despite the seemingly progressive executive orders Biden passed on his first day, Henderson argues, “Biden is not a progressive person nor is he a progressive candidate for the Democratic Party. He was the poster boy of the democratic establishment.” Overall, she, like leftists who are critical of Biden, is skeptical of the change Biden can bring: “While we may be out of a Trump era, we still are going to be facing a lot of problems that I don’t know if Biden and his administration are actually going to fix.”
What is it that leftists want?
Generally, accountability. Many argue against praising the Biden administration and encourage the public to continue pushing for change in social policy and equity. Much of this vision seems to stem from concerns about Trump’s administration, which enforced more conservative change in policy despite major public backlash, and the power Trump was given due to his large public following, such as through his Twitter account.
While Biden’s identity as a centrist or progressive Democrat is still subject to the actions he takes during his presidency, he certainly is enacting more far-left change than his predecessor, Trump. Though currently Biden’s approval rating is at 63 percent, leftist criticisms may continue.
The Quaker Campus will continue coverage of the Biden Administration in further articles.
Featured image: Photo courtesy of Getty Images.