America is moving forward from the dark days of Donald Trump’s presidency. Critical numbers of working people of all races joined young, Black, brown, and Indigenous voters to propel us to victory. We organized progressives in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to help take back those states. Thanks to decades of on-the-ground organizing in Georgia and Arizona, we flipped those states blue. And we kept our gavel in the House of Representatives through remarkable turnout, including in swing districts where eight incumbents ran and won while supporting Medicare for All, and four ran and won while supporting the Green New Deal.
Progressive ballot initiatives also won across the country. Florida overwhelmingly passed a $15 minimum wage. Voters in Colorado passed 12 weeks of paid family leave while also rejecting an abortion ban. Four states, red and blue, legalized recreational marijuana. And Arizona raised taxes on the rich to increase funding for public education. Make no mistake: Voters approved a progressive agenda. We also gave President-elect Joe Biden a clear mandate to fight for us, to respond to the root causes of suffering, and to transform this country so people can thrive, not just survive.
Even as we celebrate our tremendous victories, we must pay attention to why more than 74 million people voted to reelect Trump. We also have to understand why Democrats lost seats in the House and failed to pick up more in the Senate. It’s clear that too many people no longer believe that government has done enough to help lift all boats. Worse, they see that both Democratic and Republican administrations have allowed and promoted policies that benefit the wealthiest. Working people have watched their incomes stagnate and fall, even as the incomes of the richest people rise. They have seen Grandma cutting her pills in half because she can’t afford her prescription. They have cried as their families are torn apart because of cruel immigration laws and criminal injustice. And they have sat inside smoke-filled homes as the planet burns.
The solution to this is clear: a progressive agenda that makes a transformative difference in people’s lives. Biden’s platform was the most progressive of any recent nominee because our movement worked with his campaign to push forward bold policies. Now it’s time to deliver on them. With President Biden, Congress must take immediate action on critical priorities. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which I chair, is ready to make that a reality, and that is why our members overwhelmingly passed reforms that make us more organized, effective, and ready to meet this governing moment. Working inside and outside of Congress, we are ready to fight for an agenda that lifts people up.
First, we must deliver expansive Covid-19 relief that meets the scale of the crisis and directly takes on the disparate harm it has caused to Black, Indigenous, and other vulnerable communities, starting with the country’s 140 million poor and low-income people. This relief should stay in place until the economy recovers, and it must put money directly in people’s pockets through generous stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance, and other social safety net benefits that include everyone, regardless of immigration status. It must also include rental and mortgage assistance, cancellation of student debt, and an immediate raising of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The relief package must invest heavily in state and local infrastructure and in direct government aid to small and medium-size businesses, through a program like my Paycheck Recovery Act, so they can get help and keep workers on the payroll. We also need to ensure that everyone has access to free testing, contact tracing, and vaccines, while also creating 200,000 new public health jobs.
Second, we need to put people back to work, give workers more power, and transition to a clean energy economy. This is the moment to create millions of new clean energy jobs. We can invest in a clean energy infrastructure package that transforms our grid, supports public transit, and fixes crumbling roads and bridges—all while building our communities through new and better schools, water systems, and broadband. We can dramatically curtail air, water, land, and climate pollution and invest in resilience jobs that enable communities to prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
We should negotiate or renegotiate fair trade policies that protect domestic manufacturing, strengthen worker power and environmental protections, and expand workplace democracy. We must also finally invest in a family infrastructure that builds a strong caregiving economy with living wages, benefits, and rights for child care, public education, and domestic workers.
Third, we must absolutely guarantee health care for everyone. It was unacceptable before, but it is egregious that during a pandemic, at least 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured. As we work toward a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system, we can immediately achieve some foundational pieces while improving Medicare’s coverage, by automatically enrolling in Medicare anyone who loses their job, expanding Medicare to lower the eligibility age to 50 and cover everyone up to age 25, and lowering prescription drug prices through the negotiating of critical drugs across all payers. We must also increase funding for community health centers and rural hospitals while protecting health care options for women.
Fourth, we must expand voting rights and get money out of politics. We just witnessed voter suppression at work, and we must return the vote and the voice to the people. By building on HR 1, which the House passed in 2019, we can fix and expand voting rights in America and provide statehood for the District of Columbia.
Fifth, we must confront racism in all our institutions. From the enslavement of Black people to federal policies that intentionally excluded Black, Indigenous, and other people of color from programs that built up the middle class, we cannot look away. We must take on racism in America and end the racial wealth gap by establishing a truth commission and a commission to study reparations. We must pass reforms for justice in policing, legalize cannabis federally, and fully honor tribal sovereignty and treaty obligations. And we must create a fair and humane system that recognizes the value and worth of immigrants, strengthens refugee and asylum protections, and fixes laws that criminalize immigrants and restrict their access to core safety nets.
Sixth, we must end our endless wars and invest in diplomacy. Massive Pentagon budgets not only fuel these wars but sap our communities of investment. It’s time to repeal the decades-old Authorization for Use of Military Force, require congressional approval for all acts of war, and end the wars in Afghanistan and Yemen. It’s time for Congress to cut defense spending by at least 10 percent while investing in diplomacy and placing restrictions on the revolving door between the military and defense contractors.
Finally, it is absolutely crucial that we take on our rigged economy. It is unacceptable that huge corporations and the wealthiest get wealthier while poor and working people get poorer. Congress can implement standards for corporations receiving government money. We can focus on promoting good jobs with benefits. And we can narrow the gap between CEO and worker pay while advancing gender and racial diversity in top management. We must also restructure our tax system so that Wall Street and the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share. In addition, Congress must finish the work we started this session to end monopolistic practices so we can protect consumers and small businesses.
This is a brave and just agenda. It is the way forward. And progressives inside and outside of Congress are ready to make it a reality.