Jamaal Bowman Explains How Progressives Will Make Biden’s Presidency Even Bolder

Representative Jamaal Bowman

Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). (Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The most compelling response to President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress was not the ably enough delivered yet largely predictable recitation of Republican talking points by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

The most compelling response of the night was the appeal by a progressive who celebrated what was big and bold about Biden’s message, but who did not hesitate to say that the president and the Democratic Party must do much, much more “to meet the gravity of the moment.”

“We are capable of big, powerful, transformative change,” declared Representative Jamaal Bowman, the New York Democrat who responded on behalf of the Working Families Party.

Bowman put the moment in perspective for progressives, speaking not just about what has been done in the president’s first 100 days but also what must be done in the days to come.

“We have taken steps to abate the immediate crises of Covid-19 and the economic shutdown it caused. But we, as the governing party, have to go beyond putting a band-aid on the virus,” the newly elected congressman explained to Working Families Party activists across the country. “We need to rebuild our nation with a new foundation. A foundation rooted in love, and care, and equality. Where justice is truly real for all of us, regardless of race, class, gender, orientation, or religion. I fully believe we can. And the moment is now because this moment is historic.”

President Biden’s speech to the Congress made many progressive points—declaring that “white supremacy is terrorism,” speaking of a duty to “root out systemic racism” in our criminal justice system, advocating a renewal of labor rights, calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, addressing the need to end “the forever war in Afghanistan”—and that was good. But Bowman sharpened those points, and extended them. At every turn, he argued, “We need to think bigger…. to solve the crises of job, climate, and care…. to address the burning crisis of structural racism in our country.”

Bowman bluntly urged the president to be more aggressive and specific in calling out police violence. While he recognized the “important steps” contained in Biden’s Covid relief and infrastructure plans, he warned that the president’s initiatives “don’t go as big as (we) truly need.”

Regarding the climate crisis, the representative spoke of the need for many Green New Deals.

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