Progressives Urge Biden to Deliver on Campaign Promises as Dems Struggle With Frustrated Base

Progressives are trying to push President Joe Biden further to the left, encouraging him and congressional Democratic leaders to energize an unsatisfied base by delivering on his campaign promises—as the party struggles with retaining control of its razor-thin majorities ahead of next year's midterm elections.

Democrats have scored some significant victories under the Biden administration in passing the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and advancing the $1.75 trillion social spending bill—both key to the president's domestic agenda.

But a chaotic Afghanistan troop withdrawal, a spike in inflation, supply chain woes, and the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic have hurt Biden and the party with control of both chambers of Congress. Now the Democrats are the underdogs facing a red wave in 2022, and some progressives say that the president must abandon his central promise of unity to recapture the support of those who voted for him last year.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez warned that inaction and broken promises would leave the party at risk of "breaking trust" with its voters, particularly those in marginalized communities that the president vowed to help on the campaign trail.

"There's all this focus on 'Democrats deliver, Democrats deliver,' but are they delivering on the things that people are asking for the most right now?" the New York Democrat recently told The New York Times. "In communities like mine, the issues that people are loudest and feel most passionately about are the ones that the party is speaking to the least."

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Democrats are now the underdogs facing a red wave in 2022, and some progressives say that the president must act fast to recapture the support of those who voted for him last year. Above, President Joe Biden speaks on the economy during an event at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building on November 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

As Democrats focus on passing the slimmed-down social spending bill, which will likely be further diluted, many of the party's other priorities have fallen by the wayside—including criminal justice reform, solidifying abortion rights, enacting a $15 minimum wage, and protecting voter rights.

Rep. Cori Bush argued that Democrats would risk losing loyal Black voters if they continue to pair down the social safety net and climate provisions in the spending bill, and Biden should champion even bolder bills to motivate his base to turn out in the midterm elections.

"Do I believe Black community members will be happy to see these investments? Absolutely. Will they feel like this has changed their lives in some ways? Yes," the Missouri Democrat said. "But will this be enough to excite? When you're excited, that means that you feel like something else is coming. You have hope that more is happening. So what's next?"

Faiz Shakir, a progressive adviser who managed Senator Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, believes that Democrats adopting a more aggressive strategy would signal to voters that Biden is fighting for their interests.

"I'm a supporter of Biden, a supporter of the agenda, and I'm frustrated and upset with him to allow this to go in the direction it has," Shakir said, per the Times. "It looks like we have President [Joe] Manchin instead of President Biden in this debate.

Delays in passing Biden's Build Back Better Act have made the "president look weak," he added.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.