Biden faces hard lift in winning over hard left

Some on the left remain uneasy with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE, even as progressive luminaries rally behind the presumptive Democratic nominee ahead of his general election battle with President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKlain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase Romney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (I-Vt.) has vowed to do everything he can to elect Biden after the progressive senator dropped out of the 2020 race last month, and former Sanders campaign officials have launched new groups with the aim of defeating Trump in November.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBecerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (D-Mass.) has said she’d be happy to join the ticket, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezMore than 700 migrant children in Border Patrol custody: report Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) says she will support Biden in the fall.


But some other progressives remain skeptical and say the former vice president has a lot more work to do to ensure the left turns out for him in November.

“I don’t think [the Biden campaign is] anywhere near where they need to be right now with progressives,” said Chuck Rocha, a former senior adviser to the Sanders campaign who recently launched a group to encourage Latinos to vote for Biden.

“They can get there, but to say that it will require a lot of work is an understatement. It’s just too soon because of how it ended in a worst-case scenario for those of us who put our hearts and souls into this race, and then it abruptly ends and you don’t get to fight until the end because of the coronavirus and the Democratic establishment rallying behind Biden. It just leaves a lot of really bitter feelings.”

In an overture to the left, the Biden and Sanders campaigns are setting up joint policy working committees on the economy, health care, immigration, criminal justice reform, education and climate change.

The Biden campaign has reached a deal with Sanders that will allow him to keep hundreds of delegates at the Democratic National Convention this summer, ensuring progressives will have a presence at Biden’s coronation.

Biden has also moved to the left on a handful of issues promoted by Warren and Sanders, including tuition-free college, bankruptcy laws and lowering the Medicare retirement age.


"They've done quite a bit to incorporate our positions," said one prominent progressive. "I think we've moved forward quite a bit. That's what we wanted all along." 

Sanders has directly appealed to his young supporters to put aside their differences and support Biden.

The Progressive Turnout Project, Indivisible and the Human Rights Campaign all endorsed Biden this week.

But some on the left are still not sold.

Nomiki Konst, a self-identified democratic socialist and activist who has worked for Our Revolution and The Young Turks, said the unease about Biden is a common sentiment in her circles.

Konst said Biden’s campaign has been “invisible” since he became the presumptive nominee. She and others are upset with Biden for putting Democrats distrusted by the left in key positions within the campaign.

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is acting as an outside economic adviser. And former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), is helping to lead the search for a woman to be Biden’s vice president. Dodd is a longtime lobbyist who was featured in a 1990 GQ article that described an incident in which he allegedly sexually harassed a waitress during a dinner with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the 1980s.

"I am disgusted about Chris Dodd," Konst said. "I mean how out of touch are you? ... I think we can make some real demands. Women's groups should not be sitting silent.”

The appointment of Dodd comes as Biden has faced a sexual assault allegation from former Senate staffer Tara Reade, which has further troubled the left. There have been op-eds by some Biden critics calling on Democrats to replace him, and on Thursday, Reade called for Biden to end his campaign. 

Biden denies the allegation and top Democrats have rallied to his defense.

Some progressives view the "Me Too" movement as one of their greatest achievements and worry they’re sacrificing their credibility by siding with Biden over Reade.

“It’s about more than 2020, it’s about the long-term viability of Me Too, which is one of our few bright spots,” said one progressive strategist.


Larry Cohen, the chairman of the pro-Sanders group Our Revolution, said Biden could make further progress with the left by picking Warren as his vice president. He said the group recently conducted an internal poll that found Warren was the overwhelming favorite to be Biden’s running mate.

Other Democrats point to polls showing Biden with near-universal support among Democrats to make the case that Biden’s critics on the left are a small group that is overrepresented in the media.

“I do think, of course, there are people who are yearning for someone else, but …they are over-represented in being noticed online, getting quoted, versus being mathematically huge,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale.

Still, there is some concern that if the hard left stays home or votes for a third-party candidate for president, it could tip the balance of close races in key battleground states to Trump.

“Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t a small fringe,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist. “I tend to think it is, but let’s not take the chance and white knuckle this to the end. Sanders would be wise to publicly make clear to the media that is supportive of him, to the media that continues to troll Joe Biden and his operatives, that they should stop sowing discord and get on board.”

Former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelHow Democrats can ensure Trump never runs again Biden doubles down on normal at White House Biden faces monumental task healing divided country MORE (D-N.Y.) said he’s confident Biden will be able to expand his support among progressives as the election gets closer and becomes a binary choice between Biden and Trump.


"You have to fight in hand to hand combat for every vote, especially in battleground states," Israel said. "Biden’s campaign started early, with Senator Sanders, to unite the party so that we’re not looking at four more years of Donald Trump. It's an integration of consensus policies, structure and message.”

Some progressives say they’ve had enough of the division and that it’s time to move on to ensure that Trump is not reelected and that Biden is held accountable when he is president.

“Putting aside the important Tara Reade story, I am so over this whining about ‘Bernie lost, Biden won.' It’s over,” said Jonathan Tasini, a progressive strategist. “Let’s get our big boy pants on, focus on how deeply dangerous a second Trump term would be and embrace a productive, movement-building moment by plotting a serious unified effort to point to the failings of American exceptionalism exposed by the pandemic and oppose the worst policy aspects of a Biden administration that are sure to come.”