Progressives Made a Splash. Can They Pass Bills, Too?


The two liberal strategists, funded by Democratic donors, plan to offer their services free to progressive organizations and have already hired two staff members — Hannah Simon and Tré Easton to help with their work. The name of their group references the slogan of Nevada — a homage to the home state of Mr. Reid, a mentor and the last Senate majority leader to preside over a Democratic-controlled Capitol. Mr. Jentleson described their new operation as a “political intelligence” firm for progressives, offering insights about legislative maneuvering and ways to shape the policy debate.

“We’re in this moment where we have power for the first time in a long time, and the question is how to use it,” he said. “One of the things we bring to the table is having served in leadership roles when Democrats had power and were able to advance their agenda.”

The shadow of that period looms large over the party, with many Democrats arguing that former President Barack Obama and Mr. Reid spent too much time chasing Republican support for their early legislative initiatives. Mr. Reid has privately urged President Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, to adopt a more aggressive approach to passing their agenda.

“With the country in the shape it’s in, we don’t need people who get along just to go along,” Mr. Reid said, praising the new collective. “We need people who will try to reshape the country and the party.”

Mr. Jentleson and Ms. Kirszner Katz, he said, “are outsiders with the knowledge of the insiders.”

So far, progressives seem fairly satisfied with the early moves of the new administration, encouraged by Mr. Biden’s cabinet picks, a spate of early executive orders and signals that Democratic leaders plan to push through a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package.

But the post-pandemic future will likely presage intraparty battles. Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden staked out a more moderate path than many of his primary rivals, rejecting calls from liberals for proposals like ending the filibuster and expanding the Supreme Court. He has not entirely embraced the Green New Deal and supports more limited plans to tackle health care and college debt.

Pushing their own party will involve a new set of political skills for many progressive activists. Younger organizations, like Justice Democrats and Sunrise, built a following by rallying the public with staunch calls of opposition to Mr. Trump and his administration. Mr. Jentleson and Ms. Kirszner Katz are urging them not to use those same tactics within the party, encouraging phone calls before blasting a fellow Democrat on Twitter, and have released a series of messaging memos laying out their collective position.



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Jonny Richards

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