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Progressives Call on Democrats to 'Do the Opposite' as Rahm Emanuel Advises Biden to Shun Medicare for All and Green New Deal

The two policies are popular with the American public, but the Democratic Party refused to embrace them in its 2020 platform.

A member of the audience holds up a placard as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), discusses Medicare for All legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 13, 2017. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

On the heels of a convention that featured prominent Republicans urging voters to support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, centrist political operative Rahm Emanuel suggested two of the most popular progressive policies of this election cycle ought to be ignored by the party and its nominee.

"Two things I would say if I was advising an administration," Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, said during an interview with CNBC Friday. "One is there's no Green New Deal, there's no Medicare for All, probably the single two topics that were discussed the most. That's not even in the platform."

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich countered with his own suggestion for Biden:

Medicare for All and the Green New Deal are cornerstone priorities for the party's progressive wing, championed and elevated by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during both of his presidential runs in 2016 and 2020. They're also popular with the American public, particularly with Democratic voters, yet the Democratic party has resisted adopting them into its platform.

Earlier this month, climate activists called the party's decision to drop support for ending fossil fuel handouts "immoral, criminal, inexcusable." Biden has made clear, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, that he does not support single-payer healthcare. In 2019, he told a group of wealthy donors that if elected "nothing would fundamentally change" for them, referring to progressive policies aimed at making the wealthy pay more in taxes to fund social programs.

Progressive activists have grown increasingly frustrated not only with the Democratic Party's refusal to embrace bold and popular policies, but also with its insistence that criticism of the party platform or, in particular, of Joe Biden ahead of the November election, is unwanted and should be suppressed.

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"Just put on your big boy pants, they say, and find the impulse control to at least muzzle yourself for the next 72 days until the election happens," journalist and former Sanders campaign adviser David Sirota wrote for Too Much Information Sunday, characterizing the position of the Democratic establishment.

"After that, fine—then and only then will you maybe be permitted to speak your mind and politely ask the Democratic Party to match its rhetoric with its policy agenda," he wrote.

"This kind of hectoring has become a defining part of the Democratic Party's culture," Sirota wrote, urging disillusioned and demonized progressives to continue pushing.

"The best response to such an onslaught isn't to ignore it or succumb to dishonest unity-themed demands for silence and fealty," he wrote. "After all, the folks making those demands don't actually want unity—they are aiming for corporate victory at all costs, even if waging a war for that intraparty win could depress enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket."

Sirota's commentary echoes that of Sanders surrogate and former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner during an interview on CNN Friday.

"The movement doesn't change," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "The notion that we need Medicare for All does not change. The notion that we need to legalize cannabis and take it off Schedule 1...that doesn't change. The need to have college for all. Environmental justice...none of those core fundamental issues change...Understanding very clearly that we got two dragons we got to slay, we got to slay the dragon of neofascism and slay the dragon of neoliberalism and the progressive movement is here for it."

Time editor and The Ink writer Anand Giridharadas, tweeting about a piece he wrote urging Biden to embrace fundamental, systemic change in United States policy, said, "TL;DR: Listen to everything Rahm Emanuel says, and do the opposite."

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