Progressives are already talking about what they should do differently to win the Democratic Party presidential nomination if President Biden decides not to run in 2024.
They warn that any left-leaning candidate must learn from past mistakes to stand a chance of becoming the nominee and winning the general election against a tough Republican opponent.
This requires bringing new ideas to the national stage, exposing some traditional Democrats and perhaps even presenting a new slate of candidates, they say.
Biden has said he intends to run for a second term and prominent liberals have said they will support him.
“I’m not running for president in 2024. I’m running for the Senate,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on NBC.Meet the pressto reporter Kristen Welker, who went on to ask if she’d “exclude” him entirely. “You can ask whatever you want but I’m going to say the same thing.” President Biden is a candidate in 2024 and I support him. Cheerfully.”
But some in the party, looking at the president’s poll numbers and a disruptive midterm cycle, are at least starting to think about what they should do if he steps down.
“If all of the Republicans’ bid is a free fall and all of the Democrats’ bid is a contained decline, then this country is falling apart,” spiritual author and activist Marianne Williamson told The Hill. .
“If the best Democrats can offer is relief from people’s distress, it’s not going to work,” she said. “If they are proposing fundamental economic reform, then it will be. But for that to be believable, they’ll have to create a lot more over the next two years.
Williamson, who mounted an insurgent presidential campaign in 2020, raises concerns raised by many progressives that former President Trump or Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis could be the next Republican nominee.
With Biden’s approval ratings at record lows, some voices on the left have called for a more strategic view in recent days, while sparking speculation about what the next White House cycle might look like if things got worse. .
“It’s not going to work in 2024 if all Democrats are doing is trying to warn people that ‘we’re not Trump’ or ‘we’re not DeSantis,'” she said. “The only way to defeat either will be to provide a real alternative to the neoliberal principles that dominate both parties at this point.”
Like many progressives, Williamson thinks it will take more than business-as-usual politics — the kind of normalcy that narrowly sent Biden to power — to beat a right-wing rival next time around. When asked if she would consider running for president again, she didn’t completely shut the door on the idea.
“I just want to do whatever I can to help disrupt the status quo and be part of the solution,” Williamson said. “What that means, I’m not sure yet.”
Others discuss how things need to change more broadly ahead of the next election.
In addition to Warren, who upped the ante on Biden last week by writing a Editorial from the New York Times Warning that the party could lose Congress if Democrats do not act decisively, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also raised questions about a third nomination.
Former Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote a memo informing supporters that the senator has not necessarily ruled out another run if Biden declines one. The letter was first reported by the Washington Post.
For now, the sporadic conversations — taking place between activists, supporters of progressive lawmakers and some left-leaning media personalities — signify a desire to build on the momentum generated by past populist campaigns, but with the changes needed to actually win.
“They should show what’s going to be different this time,” said Cenk Uygur, a host of “The Young Turks.” “If these two want to run again, they’ll have to show that they can actually fight the corporate wing of their own party, because I haven’t seen that yet.”
This logic goes beyond Warren and Sanders.
Progressives have suffered major legislative bruises in negotiations with moderates, leading to some skepticism about the left’s approach and effectiveness. This became more evident during discussions around the Build Back Better agenda, where members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushed to include expansive social spending and climate provisions, only to have these priorities repeatedly scaled back before finally ending up on the chopping block after Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) declined to vote for them.
There is also electoral uncertainty. Looking ahead to November, progressives challenging incumbents from Texas to Illinois face tough offers. Last week, Biden took the rare step of endorsing Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) over progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner in an Oregon congressional primary, infuriating many supporters. And while the “team” may soon see more members, others are wary of sounding overly optimistic. Democrats are widely expected to lose the House, which would automatically dampen their ability to govern.
With that in mind, some on the left are looking to move past midterms to consider the possibility of an open presidential race where a range of candidates could compete for airtime.
This thought is not without reason. A new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll released Monday found that 63% of those polled said they did not want Biden to run again.
“At this point, I’d rather support someone outside the box who has a fight in them,” Uygur said.
In the Midwest, Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner, who co-chaired Sanders’ campaign, is challenging Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) to a rematch for a Cleveland-area seat.
A source close to Turner’s campaign said the incendiary speaker and former state senator is often approached to launch a national candidacy.
Unlike other activists who have taken a more collaborative approach to working with Biden and the administration, Turner represents something different. If she does run, she would run for office having been a vocal critic of the president — a line few other progressives have been willing to cross during his tenure.
There is also a strong desire for more racial diversity among leftist presidential candidates, some acknowledge. Sanders, Warren and Williamson are all white.
“A lot of people in the movement are urging him to run for president for these reasons,” the source close to Turner’s operation said. “We need a bold progressive, an uncompromising progressive, on the debate stage. It will change the conversation about what the party should be doing.
This outspoken criticism of Biden could inspire others to bring sharper elbows into public discourse, using tactics that some believe will be advantageous against the eventual Republican nominee.
“Showing you can fight in a Democratic primary is a good prelude to showing you can fight Donald Trump,” Uygur said. “If you’re afraid to put a glove on a main challenger, you’re probably going to get crushed.”