Liberal activists say they’re going into Tuesday’s elections with a long wish list but toned-down expectations about what Democrats will be able to accomplish even if they do win control of one of the levers of power.
As long as President Trump wields a veto pen, the liberal agenda such as government-sponsored health care and tuition-free college will face some insurmountable roadblocks, said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America.
What they do expect Democrats to follow through on, though, is prodding the president into more public accountability.
“I think we are going to see investigations into the corruption of the Trump administration and I think that is part of what the American people want,” he said. “They want a check on Trump.
“I think we will see an alternative vision for America, but I don’t think we will see much of that vision move forward until we replace the president in 2020.”
It’s a more circumspect approach than that of the tea party, the movement that helped power Republicans into a takeover of the House in 2010, then led to immediate showdowns with then-President Barack Obama over his health care law, funding for Planned Parenthood and environmental regulations.
“It would be really early to get cocky,” said George Goehl, director of People’s Action. “We are in long-game terrain right now.”
Mr. Goehl said he does expect House Democrats to hold votes on issues that are popular with working-class voters, including a “Medicare for all” health bill, increasing the federal minimum wage and addressing concerns about clean drinking water.
“It doesn’t mean these things are going to move to the Senate, and come out, and President Trump is going to sign them,” he said. “But I think you have to demonstrate what you would do if you have power.”
Just as Mr. Obama energized the political right, Mr. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton two years ago has been the biggest motivator for the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Since then, they have decried his unconventional style of governing and risen up against his attempts to crack down on illegal immigration, repeal Obamacare and put conservative judges on the Supreme Court.
They have demanded that Democrats do everything they can to stall Mr. Trump’s “America First” agenda and rallied behind candidates who have pledged to expand Social Security, support a $15 minimum wage, abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement and tighten the nation’s gun laws.
“When we win on Tuesday it is going to be because progressives delivered — that is from the grass-roots to the new leaders we have that are part of the ‘New American Majority,'” Mr. Chamberlain said.
Mr. Chamberlain said the coalition powering Democrats is comprised of liberal white and minority voters.
He said he anticipates that the groundswell of activism will add to the numbers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Capitol Hill’s most liberal members.
Among liberal champions likely to claim seats is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former organizer for Sen. Bernard Sanders’ presidential campaign. The self-described Democratic Socialist shocked the political establishment in June, defeating 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, a member of House Democratic leadership.
Rashida Tlaib in Michigan is set to become the first Muslim-American woman elected to Congress, and Ayanna Pressley is poised to become the first black member of Congress from Massachusetts after upsetting another 10-term incumbent, Rep. Mike Capuano, in a primary.
“I believe it is critical that Congress both stand up against the cruel, draconian policies coming out of the White House and work in partnership with community to make progress on the challenges and inequities we face,” Mrs. Pressley said in a statement to The Washington Times.
Mrs. Pressley also stressed her desire to thrust new ideas into the national conversation.
“I believe we have a mandate to pursue bold, progressive ideas, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Washington to pass common-sense policies, like gun control and criminal justice reform, comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and Medicare for All,” she said.
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