The Biden administration’s decision to extend a COVID-era eviction ban in certain areas of the country might be unconstitutional and could be short-lived, but beyond policy, it was something else politically: a rare win for progressives.
While the Democratic Party has moved left over the past few decades (and has been joined by the nation as a whole on cultural issues) progressives have generally been handed loss after loss when it comes to both elections and policy issues.
Just consider the most recent elections: moderate Joe Biden is in the White House, moderate Eric Adams won the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, and the moderate won a hotly contested Congressional primary in Ohio this week against a candidate backed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
And in Washington, the Green New Deal is nowhere. Medicare for All is dead. And the infrastructure bill that was once $2 trillion is now cut in half as it makes its way through the Senate. And that is before a whole host of other priorities from liberals even get discussed, like gun control measures or student debt. The Senate filibuster looks like it will stick around for a while.
Soon enough the midterm elections will come around, and if history is any guide, Republicans will have more power.
You could forgive progressives for having a serious case of whiplash. Just two years ago they were driving the Democratic Party. The Squad, including Boston’s Representative Ayanna Pressley, seemingly spoke for a changing party. In 2019, it appeared like the next Democratic presidential nominee could be someone like Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren, choices that could please progressives.
Now major legislation in Washington must go through Biden in the White House and Joe Manchin in the Senate. In other words, progressives keep running into reasons why their agenda items can’t become law, rather than ways for them to pass.
It is this frustration that may have led Representative Cori Bush to walk out of the House chamber on Friday and decide to spend the night on the steps on the Capitol instead of leaving for recess as many other members did. She said this was no time to leave Washington when there was the urgency to act to extend the eviction moratorium.
After a lot of back and forth, the Biden administration finally relented and came up with a plan to extend it for another 60 days, even though many people wonder if this is even possible. The Supreme Court, after all, said that only Congress could extend it, not a president or the Centers for Disease Control.
“I hope people see right now that I mean what I say. Hopefully, this has shown not only leadership, the caucus, but our progressive family that when we say we are not going to back down, we don’t back down,” Bush told the New York Times.
It was certainly a win. It might be a new way forward for progressives to push the administration to act. But consider what happened just last week. Our Revolution, the Vermont group closely aligned with Sanders, changed their focus given their political reality. They announced they are softening demands that Democratic candidates back the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. They now say they are “pragmatic progressives.”
Which sounds a lot like someone else: Hillary Clinton.