With record unemployment, a public health crisis and a deeply divided country, President Joe Biden has inherited — for lack of a better word — a hot mess.
With great challenges, however, come great opportunities. Biden can cement his status in the history books by enacting meaningful reform in this extremely trying time, and become a pivotal figure in US history. Unfortunately, this likely won’t be happening. After all, he is the poster child for the Democratic Establishment.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at his campaign donors. Both Wall Street hedge funds and Big Pharma companies were quick to rally behind Biden, a troublesome indicator of where his allegiances might lie. Furthermore, President Biden has placed a concerning amount of emphasis on bipartisanship. Given the politically-charged landscape left in the wake of the Trump presidency, unity has a certain appeal. The push towards unity, however, often comes at the cost of compromising party values. And I guarantee that if one of the parties has to compromise, it won’t be the Republicans.
Despite all the terrible things the Republicans have done, placing Democrats on a pedestal would be misguided. While they are quick to denounce Republican policies, oftentimes they are unwilling to dismantle them. When confronted with the deeply-seated structural inequalities that face our country, Democrats have remained complacent.
Calls for comprehensive climate change action, healthcare or criminal justice reform are either swept under the rug or appeased with superficial bills that do nothing. Although Democrats may be comparatively better than Republicans, we are still left with a grim picture of American politics.
So, are we forever condemned to picking the better of two terrible choices? I think not. Within the Democratic Party, there is a faction that advocates for reform: Progressives.
We live in a time in which progressive ideas are gaining traction in mainstream politics. Be it healthcare reform, expanded Social Security benefits or action on climate change, the policies that Progressives so vigorously defend are by no means unpopular. In fact, progressive policies have even managed to surpass the party line. And why wouldn’t they? Regardless of your political party, progressive policies have a certain appeal.
According to The Washington Post, the very same Florida voters who voted for former President Trump over President Biden passed an initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Similarly, Medicare for All enjoys widespread support from most Americans. So clearly, the “left’s radical agenda” isn’t as far-fetched as its critics make it out to be.
Democrats must lean into more progressive policies to provide a clearer alternative to the Republican Party. They are in a position to change American society for the better.
Rather than compromising, let us be more ambitious in what we set out to accomplish. If we root ourselves to a moderate agenda, then we at best maintain the status quo. The very same status quo that has allowed both class and racial disparities in America to grow.
Serious systemic issues are rooted in the institutions of this country, and simply winning elections isn’t enough. The time for fresh ideas and bold policymaking is now. We have no way of knowing how the 2022 midterm elections will pan out. The Democrats could lose control of Congress. It’s absurd they aren’t doing more with the power that they now have. We can no longer afford to wait for people to be ready for change.
How many people of color need to die at the hands of police before our policing is reformed? To what degree does climate change have to worsen for us to enact meaningful policies? If simply aspiring to be better than the Republicans is the standard, then the bar is truly on the floor.
Merely being a Democrat isn’t enough. The political dynamic at Wellesley is in many ways similar to the one in the Democratic Party. Oftentimes, we are complacent because we voted blue, when in fact this is a cop out. We put Democratic politicians on a pedestal — I’m talking about you, Hillary — and refuse to critique what they’ve done. These actions will get us nowhere. Being at Wellesley doesn’t make you progressive, nor does it mean that you’re doing anything to challenge the status quo.