Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Biden and Harris must be aggressive in putting forth their agenda, explaining its import and defending its elements," writes Jackson. "Trump has already made it clear that his campaign will be based on lies and libels about the Democratic agenda." (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

"Biden and Harris must be aggressive in putting forth their agenda, explaining its import and defending its elements," writes Jackson. "Trump has already made it clear that his campaign will be based on lies and libels about the Democratic agenda." (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats Must Ace the Agenda Test

They need to argue the case for the bold agenda that this country desperately needs, and challenge Donald Trump for his policy failures.

Jesse Jackson

 by Chicago Sun-Times

In last week’s Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris passed the character test.

Now as Trump rolls out his virtual convention, they must ace the agenda test. They need to argue the case for the bold agenda that this country desperately needs, and challenge Trump for his policy failures.

The Democratic National Convention focused on the character test. Speaker after speaker contrasted the decency of Joe Biden against what Trump’s own sister called the “phoniness” of Donald Trump, a man she said of “no principles, none.”

The convention introduced Kamala Harris to the country, highlighting her remarkable journey from the child of immigrants, the student at Howard University, California attorney general and senator to the presidential ticket. Jill Biden demonstrated her commitment to family and to teaching.

The convention displayed the character of the party—its diversity, its inclusiveness, its concern for justice. In powerful presentations, Michelle and Barack Obama made the case about why Trump is just not up to the job of president, particularly in a time of crisis. “It is what it is,” as Michelle concluded.

"In the immediate short-term, Trump’s catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic must be replaced by a comprehensive national strategy to get the pandemic under control so lives are saved and the economy can start up again." That left little time to address the agenda. It’s not that it does not exist. The Democratic platform—largely a product of the task forces put together by Biden and Bernie Sanders—details a broad, progressive agenda for change. Biden’s own web page and speeches over the course of the nominating process have presented elements of his program. But no one but political junkies read party platforms, and few probe candidate websites. It is now up to Biden and Harris to lay out their case—and contrast it with Trump’s failed administration.

The priorities are clear. In the immediate short-term, Trump’s catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic must be replaced by a comprehensive national strategy to get the pandemic under control so lives are saved and the economy can start up again.

The 30 million people who have been forced onto unemployment—disproportionately lower wage workers, disproportionately Black and Hispanic—need immediate assistance. Trump and the Republican Senate stood in the way of the needed rescue package, objecting to continuing the $600 a week enhancement to unemployment insurance, aid to the U.S. Postal Service to manage the expected surge in voting by mail, aid to cities and states facing massive layoffs of police, teachers, transit workers and more after their budgets were busted by the economic collapse and the costs of dealing with the pandemic.

Already another round of layoffs is expected, and 20 to 30 million families are threatened with eviction or foreclosure in a pandemic. Schools are struggling with reopening without the resources needed to pay for the protections health officials say are necessary. Yet Trump and McConnell refused even to meet Democratic House leaders halfway to get a bill done.

In the longer run, major changes are needed to make this economy work for working people.

We need a bold initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure and make it sustainable, a transition to renewable energy to fend off already costly climate change and create millions of good jobs.

"In the longer run, major changes are needed to make this economy work for working people." We need major investment in science and technology so America can regain its lead in innovation and job growth. We need a new trade strategy and industrial policy that rebuilds good jobs at home, ensures we make essential products here in the U.S., and demands a balanced playing field from China and other countries that trample trading rules.

At the same time, we need to ensure that workers gain a fair share of the profits and productivity that they help generate. Biden has promised to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We need to empower workers to organize and crack down on labor rights abuses by corporate managers. The economic bill of rights for essential workers should be detailed and readied for passage. Paid family leave and sick leave is vital. Affordable, high-quality child care essential for working parents and their children.

The health care gap must be closed, with affordable health care for all guaranteed. The education gap must be closed, with resources for public schools from pre-K through college. Biden has promised tuition-free education for all students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year in contrast to Trump’s lack of concern for the burden mounting student debt. The wealth gap must be addressed, with progressive taxes helping to reverse the extreme inequality that now threatens our democracy.

We must address the constitutional right to vote. The right to vote should be protected, with restoration of the Voting Rights Act, automatic voter registration, expanded vote by mail and early voting, an end to partisan gerrymandering, and limits on big money in politics. Biden should support the constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote in America.

The systemic racism built into our criminal justice system must be redressed. Equal pay for women should no longer be an issue.

The priorities are many. Biden and Harris must be aggressive in putting forth their agenda, explaining its import and defending its elements. Trump has already made it clear that his campaign will be based on lies and libels about the Democratic agenda. He has already called Biden the “puppet of the radical left,” who wants to “defund the police “and “abolish the suburbs.” He’ll burlesque the Democratic agenda across the country. It is vital that Biden and Harris argue their case. If they do, there is no question that they will ace the agenda test that Trump has already failed. They have little more than two months to get that done.


© 2021 Chicago Sun-Times
Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to form Rainbow/PUSH.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Huge Victory' as Judge Blocks Biden's Oil Lease Sale in Gulf of Mexico

"The Biden administration must end new leasing and phase out existing drilling," said one advocate. "Anything less would be a gross failure of climate leadership."

Jake Johnson ·


'Utterly Shameless': Former Democratic Senators Join Fossil Fuel Lobby Group

"This is climate denial and shameful bullshit," scoffed one scientist. "Also the future for Manchin and Sinema."

Brett Wilkins ·


'When You Don't Change People's Lives, People Get Upset,' Says AOC

To reverse slump in Democratic approval ratings, the congresswoman said Biden should start by cancelling student loan debt.

Julia Conley ·


Sioux Tribe Withdraws as Cooperating Agency Over Dakota Access Pipeline Threat

"The prospect of an oil spill during such low water is truly scary," says the tribe's Water Resources Department administrator.

Jessica Corbett ·


New Report Shows How US Transportation System 'Fuels Inequality'

Favoring cars over public transit has "consequences for racial and economic justice, the environment, and more," the Institute for Policy Studies warns.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo