Biden, Sanders form task force to unite party on progressive agenda
Determined to beat Trump and Republicans in November, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have established a commission to unite the Democratic Party on a progressive agenda that appeals to the party's various factions. Here, several Democratic presidential rivals and other activists and elected officials march arm-in-arm at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 20, 2020. From left: Tulsi Gabbard, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and S.C. Rep. Jim Clyburn. | Meg Kinnard / AP

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have established a task force to unite the Democratic Party on a progressive agenda. The action reflects the urgency that not only most in the Democratic Party but labor and all its allies place on the task of ousting Trump from the White House in November.

People whom progressives in the Democratic Party spent years battling against on a variety of issues are actually joining those same progressives in an effort to forge the unity needed to defeat Trump in November. And beyond defeating Trump, they are focusing too on freeing the U.S. Senate from the control of Mitch McConnell and his right-wing GOP minions, holding Democratic control of the House, and ousting GOP powerhouses from state legislative positions across the country.

The single-minded determination of a broad array of grassroots forces to oust Trump is what is behind the announcement last week by Biden and Sanders that they were forming a joint task force to hammer out a progressive program that will defeat Trump in November. The two have been appointing people to the new task force since last Wednesday.

Among the first to be appointed are New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Secretary of State John Kerry, both of whom have been named co-leaders of a subsection of the task force that will focus on the environment.

The formation of the unity task force, a Sanders condition for his endorsement of Biden, follows by four weeks his official announcement to back the former vice president.

“Now, it’s no great secret out there, Joe, that you and I have our differences, and we’re not going to paper them over; that’s real,” Sanders said at the time. “But I hope that these task forces will come together utilizing the best minds and people in your campaign and in my campaign to work out real solutions to these very, very important problems.”

The problems of gross inequality and racism in the U.S. have become clearer than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the nation with people of color, the poor, and working people in general hit so much harder than the people at the top of the economic ladder.

People determined to defeat Trump are agreeing that just as it took the New Deal to pull the country out of the Great Depression it will take an entirely new approach to rescue both the health of the people and the economy this time. There is also a deepening realization by broad forces that it will not be possible to rise to the challenge unless Trump is removed from the White House.

The task forces include members from both the Biden and Sanders campaign, and their formation has already increased, by varying degrees, support for Biden by progressives who had backed Sanders and other candidates.

House Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a supporter of Medicare for All, for example, has already endorsed Biden.

Ocasio-Cortez, a leading supporter of Sanders and also a leading backer of Medicare for All, has not yet officially endorsed Biden, although she has announced she will be voting for him in November. She said official endorsement comes when one is convinced Biden is fully on board with the program of profound change that will be needed to defeat Trump.

While Ocasio-Cortez will co-chair the climate change subcommittee with Kerry in one of the most important subsections of the task force, there are five other important parts to the whole package. They include committees on criminal justice, the economy, education, health care, and immigration.

Trump has wasted no time trying to ramp up attacks on these latest Democratic efforts to unite behind Biden on a progressive agenda.

Many believed Trump was hoping Biden would lose the primaries to Sanders, allowing the president to paint the whole Democratic Party as “socialist.”

Events this week show, however, that red-baiting was Trump’s plan regardless of whom the Democrats nominated. Immediately after the unity effort was launched this week by Sanders and Biden, Trump declared that now “Joe Biden is the bannerman of the socialist agenda.”

Jayapal will co-chair the health care group with Vivek Murthy, who served as surgeon general during the Obama administration.

The immigration subgroup of the task force is run by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Appointed to co-chair the environment subsection of the Biden-Sanders commission are Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and former Secretary of State John Kerry. | AP photos

Leading the economy subgroup is Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. Bass is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and endorsed Biden in early March.

Chiraag Bains and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., will lead the criminal justice reform group. Another prominent member of the criminal justice task force is former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served in the Obama administration.

Heather Gautney and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio., have been picked to lead the education group. Fudge serves on the House Committee on Education and Labor and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Gautney was a senior policy adviser to Sanders’s presidential campaign.

“From health care to reforming our justice system to rebuilding a more inclusive and fair economy, the work of the task forces will be essential to identifying ways to build on our progress and not simply turn the clock back to a time before Donald Trump, but transform our country,” Biden said last week when talking about the task force.

Sanders last week urged the Democratic Party to “think big, act boldly, and fight to change the direction of our country.”

“I commend Joe Biden for working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction,” Sanders said.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.