President Joe Biden is crowing after a string of apparent victories for his new administration.
He’s had more federal judges confirmed to lifetime appointments in his first six months than any other president in at least 50 years, with five district and two appeals court judges now seated.
And he’s celebrating a massive new bipartisan infrastructure deal.
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But just beneath the surface, there’s trouble brewing as the progressive left is showing signs of being fed up with Biden.
“[Biden] says that democracy is in crisis, right now he is phoning it in,” Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, told Politico.
Levin was even blunter on Twitter, slamming him for disappearing on voting rights issues:
Outside the White House, we're all hands on deck. The Speaker of House has been unrelenting. The Senate Majority Leader says "failure is not an option."
And more than 100 organizations are mobilizing for events next week.
Where is the President? https://t.co/8u0cctZr5U
— Ezra Levin (@ezralevin) June 21, 2021
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Democracy is under threat. Fascism is rising. Time is running out. It's time for the President to get off the sidelines and into the game, or we're all going to lose. /end
— Ezra Levin (@ezralevin) June 21, 2021
Even some lawmakers of the left are miffed.
Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., said he told Biden to be more involved in voting rights legislation during an event marking the Juneteenth holiday.
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Biden “just sort of stared at me,” Jones told The Guardian, saying there was an “awkward silence” between the two.
He also put Biden on notice on Twitter:
— Mondaire Jones (@MondaireJones) June 21, 2021
At least one insider said a core Democratic voting bloc is clearly getting fed up.
“Progressives are losing patience, and I think particularly African-American Democrats are losing patience,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne told The Guardian. “They feel like they have done the kind of good Democrat thing over the last year-plus, going back to when Biden got the nomination, unifying support around Biden, turning out, showing up on Election Day.”
But now, their agenda is being put on hold – and with the Republican Party almost certain to retake the House next year, they see the sands in the hourglass slipping away.
They want Biden to put the screws to centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin (R-W.V.) who have been reluctant to sign onto the more extreme elements of the Biden agenda, including ditching the filibuster, expanding the Supreme Court and making Washington, D.C. the 51st state.
“As the most powerful person in the world [Biden] has all of the resources available to him to make a deal with a member of his own party, as it concerns the foundational task of saving our democracy,” Jones told Politico.
Progressives are also pointing nervously at just how energized conservatives are right now.
“You see Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly just announced a set of tours, what do you think they’re going to be doing there?” Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, told Politico. She and others are worried that Trump and those around him will be able set and drive the agenda – not Biden or progressives.
“We need him to go on offense here, and we need him to be the champion that people voted for on this issue. And we just have not seen that level of prioritization,” Epting was quoted as saying. “We have not seen him fully use the full power of his office, specifically the power of narrative.”
Others in left-leaning circles agreed.
“Progressives are getting restless,” an unnamed leading Democrat told Axios earlier this month, but also admitted that the restlessness can only go so far.
“I don’t think they’re going to revolt,” the person was quoted as saying. “I don’t think there’s anything to revolt to.”
In the end, that may be what Biden is counting on the keep his fragile coalition intact.
But he also risks something else: If progressives aren’t getting their demands met… and have nothing to revolt to… then they could stay home in 2022 and 2024.
And that anger mixed with apathy could ultimately put the GOP back on top in Congress and in the White House.