By Gregory Krieg and Annie Grayer, CNN
Updated 6:02 AM ET, Tue November 17, 2020
(CNN)Joe Biden won’t be sworn in for another 64 days, but the President-elect is already under pressure from activist groups to bring progressive leaders into his administration — and close its doors to establishment figures with cozy relationships to Wall Street, defense contractors and the fossil fuel industry.
The pressure campaign has played out in public, with the release of open letters and lists of acceptable candidates for top Cabinet positions, via private calls with potential nominees, and on social media, where progressive groups have warned the incoming administration against reneging on Biden’s promise to forge an aggressive new path in the fight against climate change.
Top progressives are, for now, sounding a cautiously optimistic tone following the release of Biden’s “agency review teams” and his quick decision to name longtime adviser Ron Klain, who has built bonds across ideological lines, as his White House chief of staff. But there are potential fights on the horizon and the uncertainty surrounding control of the Senate could further complicate a detente that has largely carried over from the campaign. If Democrats fail to win both run-off elections in Georgia early next year, the body will remain under the control of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — and everything from Biden’s legislative agenda to his Cabinet nominations would likely face partisan blockades
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Cori Bush wanted to make something clear when I spoke with her the day after the election. “I don’t hate police,” she said gently. The newly elected House member had unseated a 20-year incumbent in Missouri’s safely Democratic 1st District based on her record of activism in Ferguson, where the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown turned Black Lives Matter into a national movement. During her primary, Bush told me that the House’s police reform bill, passed a month after George Floyd’s death, was “too soft” and criticized its lack of “real ‘defund’ language.”
“Defund the police” is shorthand activists like Bush have long used to describe their desire to slash police budgets and reinvest those funds into social services. But the parlance of her movement, she told me, had been distorted and weaponized by her GOP opponent during the general election, who painted her as “this anti-police, hateful person,” she told me in our call after her win. “I loathe what [police] allow—the fact that they’ve had problems in their departments, in their unions, that they have not addressed,” Bush clarified. “And the result is dead bodies who look like me.”
Bush didn’t aim her explanation at anyone in particular, but it eerily anticipated the criticism that her soon-to-be-colleague Rep. Abigail Spanberger lobbed on a call with fellow Democratic House members the following day. “If we don’t mean ‘defund the police,’ we shouldn’t say that,” the moderate first-term House Democrat, who nearly lost her race in central Virginia, seethed. She also said, “We need not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again.”