Progressive youth groups issue demands for Biden ahead of general election

A slate of progressive youth groups have issued a list of demands they want to see presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden adopt ahead of the general election.

Eight progressive groups said in a joint letter released Wednesday that they feared Biden’s centrist policies would alienate younger voters, who trend more liberal, and hinder Democrats’ efforts to unseat President Trump in November. The groups noted that while Biden racked up delegates with a March winning spree, he consistently ceded voters under 45 years old to Sanders in the primaries.

“While you are now the presumptive Democratic nominee, it is clear that you were unable to win the votes of the vast majority of voters under 45 years old during the primary. With young people poised to play a critical role deciding the next President, you need to have more young people enthusiastically supporting and campaigning with you to defeat Trump. This division must be reconciled so we can unite the party to defeat Trump,” the letter reads. 

The letter, which was released shortly after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced he was suspending his campaign, indicates Biden could face stumbling blocks as he works to coalesce the Democratic base around his campaign.

While Sanders, who had garnered the endorsements of all eight groups that signed on to the letter, centered his campaign around a litany of progressive policies like “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, Biden has cast his campaign as an opportunity for a return to a pre-Trump sense of “normalcy.” 

However, the letter from the progressive cohort indicated some of the groups’ followers have little appetite for a return to traditional politics that they say caused “endless war, skyrocketing inequality, crushing student loan debt, mass deportations, police murders of black Americans and mass incarceration, schools which have become killing fields” and more.

“Messaging around a ‘return to normalcy’ does not and has not earned the support and trust of voters from our generation. For so many young people, going back to the way things were ‘before Trump’ isn’t a motivating enough reason to cast a ballot in November,” they wrote. “Why would we want a return to normalcy? We need a vision for the future, not a return to the past.” 

The groups pressed Biden to adopt a litany of policies, including committing to transitioning to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 for electricity, buildings and transportation, reducing gun deaths by 50 percent in a decade, protecting immigrants without legal status from deportation, backing Medicare for All and supporting an annual tax on the “extreme wealth” of the richest 180,000 households in America. 

They also demanded the former vice president appoint prominent elected officials who backed either Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as co-chairs for a possible transition committee.

The groups warned that failing to heed their demands could doom Biden among younger voters, who turned out in force for former President Obama but did not come out in the same numbers for 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton.

“The victorious ‘Obama coalition’ included millions of energized young people fighting for change. But the Democratic Party’s last presidential nominee failed to mobilize our enthusiasm where it mattered. We can’t afford to see those mistakes repeated,” they wrote. “We need you to champion the bold ideas that have galvanized our generation and given us hope in the political process.” 

Sanders made a point to praise Biden as a “decent man” in his withdrawal announcement but stopped short of issuing an explicit endorsement. 

“Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward,” he told his supporters in a livestream.

Biden reached out to Sanders’s supporters after news broke that the Vermont senator was dropping out, noting that they are “needed” in his tent.

“You will be heard by me,” Biden wrote in a statement. “I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.”

Centrists who have rallied behind Biden urged Sanders to issue a more explicit message of support for Biden, saying it could go a long way to sway his enthusiastic supporters.

“I think it’s important for Senator Sanders to endorse Joe Biden soon and to do it enthusiastically,” Jim Kessler, the executive vice president for policy at the center-left group Third Way, told The Hill. “It is very important for Senator Sanders to signal to his millions of followers that ‘I’m with Joe.’ And he should put a bumper sticker on his car and tweet it. And then we can have discussions about what needs to be done to excite young voters.”

Tags 2020 election Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Democratic primary Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Youth vote

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