‘Long Overdue’: Liberal Voters Hold Firm to Biden’s Stronger Safety Net

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In the dark blue Seattle district, which is represented in Congress by Pramila Jayapal, a prominent progressive, voters see the Democrats’ left wing as the ascendant and want it to take a hard line against the moderates.

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Seattle – In the most depressed congressional district in the Pacific Northwest, Democrats range from liberal to even more liberal.


So as his party moves toward passing a watered-down version of President Biden’s domestic agenda, voters in Washington’s Seventh District, which includes most of Seattle, wrestled this week with many emotions.

Anger at holding Democrats in the Senate. Fanatic support for bold social spending. And her new high-profile representative, Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congress Progressive Caucus, has a strong desire to play hardball, as well as a fingertip hope that she knows just how far to push things.

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Seattleites feel that after long bargaining leftist priorities in Congress, progressive politics is taking over. Most liberal Democratic voters, so wary of Biden during the party’s 2020 primary, now largely see him taking their side. Many believe that the Democratic Party of Barack Obama is now closer to the Democratic Party of Bernie Sanders.

“There are some real major things that are long overdue,” said Ken Zeichner, a retired professor of education at the University of Washington in Seattle.

He listed dental and hearing benefits for Medicare, affordable child care and aggressive action on climate change – all items in Mr Biden’s household spending bill, originally worth $3.5 trillion. “If we don’t stand on the ground now, we’ll never find it,” he said. “It will be another 50 years before the Republicans come.”

Mr. Zeichner commended Ms. Jayapal, who led the blockade of a vote in the House last week on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, to leverage for a more comprehensive package. In doing so, he angered a group of moderate Democrats.

Mr Biden told Democrats privately that his agenda would have to shrink, perhaps no more than $2.3 trillion, to win the support of two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona.

Ms Jayapal reportedly implored Mr Biden not to go down so much.

“I’m 100 percent behind that,” said Mr. Zeichner as he entered a food co-op whose window was inscribed with a checklist of Seattle values: The store was “a weapons-free environment,” a Certified organic retailer and “powered with 100 percent renewable energy.”

Elected to lead nearly 100 progressives in the House last year, Ms. Jaipal has gained a position from the back bench as a highly visible strategist and spokesperson. The Liberals in his hometown this week took a victory lap of sorts with him, even as moderate Democrats vying for more competitive House seats across the country, worried about losing the election next year and with them the majority of Democrats, won. Accused Ms. Jaipal of political sportsmanship.

“Sacrificing too much is not where we want to be right now that so many people need,” said Jaya Wegner, 23. His top priorities, he said, were universal health care and tackling climate change. Her friends under the age of 30, she said, were considering not having children because of the disaster the planet could face in their lifetime.

Even voters who identified as more center-left Democrats, who generally believed in the value of compromise, faltered at the White House’s build back plan to better put pressure on programs to cut Gone, which originally had to be raised with $3.5 trillion in spending tax increases on wealthy people and corporations. Universal Free Preschool? Extended Medicare Benefits? Help for poor and middle class families with children? Cut fossil fuels for power plants and incentives for drivers to buy electric cars?

There were few buyers to turn any of them away.

It appears that even though Mr Biden’s approval rating is slipping nationally, show the polls That most Americans support many of the initiatives in the Build Back Better plan.

Lisa Secan, 69, a retiree who called herself a “liberal Democrat” but said she was “much more center-leaning than the far left”, apprehensive that Ms. Jayapal’s unwavering strategy could be perfected. Making an enemy of good.

“I think we’re at a place right now where we need more people to compromise,” she said.

But Ms. Secan backed down when asked what Democrats should settle on. “It’s a tough call, because I believe we need more money for social programs and health care,” she said.

In an outdoor mall, 59-year-old Richard Johnson, a rare Republican voter, was exercising among upscale outlets selling Peloton bikes and Teslas. He said passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill was “necessary” and he was disappointed that Ms Jaipal had blocked it. He was equally dissatisfied with the liberal flow in the city where he has lived all his life. “We have to get more Republicans here,” he said.

Ms. Jaipal, 56, was born in India, graduated from Georgetown University and ran an advocacy group for immigrants before entering politics. Known as a hard worker by her colleagues in Congress, she has become a ubiquitous guest on cable TV.

Last year she won re-election with 83 per cent of the vote, so she is in no danger of going too far for her base. The Seventh District of Washington is one of the heaviest Democratic congressional seats in the country with a white majority. Seven out of 10 residents are white, followed by 14.6 percent of Asian heritage.

Ms. Jayapal’s progressivism reflects the growth of Seattle. Once dominated by blue-collar Boeing workers and split between the parties, it is now dominated by Big Tech employees, particularly Microsoft and Amazon. City politics have shifted to the left, although there are differences of opinion on local issues of housing costs, police and homeless people.

Independent mayor race next month There are two leftist candidates, one who promises 1,000 housing units for the homeless within six months, and an opponent who wants to end the single-family sector and redirect police spending to social programs.

“I don’t know who’s going to win the mayoral race, but I think it’s a metaphor for tensions within the Democratic Party, and among white people who are very sympathetic to Black Lives Matter but ready to say no.” There are no ‘disregard the police,'” said Ed Zuckerman, a longtime environmental leader in Seattle. “Those tensions are epic in the Seventh District.”

The dividing line between traditional liberals and the progressive wing of the party is often generational, he said, with the inflection point around age 35.

As Mr Zuckerman spoke at an outdoor table at Portage Bay Cafe, 41-year-old Miles Cohen, who works in tech, leaned over and said, “I’m listening, and I really appreciate everything you said. I do.”

Mr Cohen expressed bewilderment, he said, about how progressives in Congress, led by Ms Jayapal, took the infrastructure bill as “hostage” in negotiations. But he later clarified that he was amazed at what it would take to reach an agreement with Mr. Munchkin and Ms. Cinema. He added that if a hardball strategy was needed, “I could come on board with him.”

Tino Quiroga, who was raising her 14-month-old son out of preschool, was another voter who praised the idea of ​​compromise – and then drew a hard line when it came to policies.

“There needs to be a need to be able to pass something that is less partisan that will now be able to pass rather than waiting for everything to be included,” he said. Mr Quiroga feared Democrats would lose a House majority in the midterm elections “unless we were able to give some things up.”

But a priority he wants Democrats to stand on increasingly is universal free preschool. “My god, this is such a big issue,” he said, holding his son Nico. “It can really transform a community.”

Mr Quiroga, who works in tech, looked at his son and did some math about climate change. “When he’s my age — I’m 33 now — you know, in 32 years, the Earth is still going to warm unless we do something now,” he said. Referring to Mr. Biden’s pledge to get the country to cut emissions sharply and his plan for universal preschool, Mr. Quiroga said that “there are some aspects of them that I personally cannot compromise on as a progressive.” I will.”

With very few exceptions, voters were not immersed in the details of the social and climate policies wrapped in Mr Biden’s agenda. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ms. Jayapal’s supporters rely on her to know just how hard it is to fight.

“I’m not a moderate Democrat,” said Kathy Smith, a retired rehabilitation physician in her late 70s. “I’m pulling for the whole thing.”

Ms. Smith to Donald J. Was inspired to become an activist by the election of Trump. He has called voters in various swing states. But she defied Ms. Jaipal as to where progressives should dig their heels.

“Hopefully she will recognize when she needs to moderate her stance,” she said. “Right now she thinks it’s not the time. And I think she knows more than me.

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