Liberals Lash Out at Biden as Presidential Primary Approaches

Unpopular Democrat draws progressive ire on drilling, crime, immigration

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, President Joe Biden, and Sen. Ed Markey
March 15, 2023

With President Joe Biden on the cusp of launching his reelection bid, the Democratic Party's liberal flank is attacking the president with increased fervor, with one senator going as far as to speculate whether he will support the unpopular octogenarian come 2024.

In the last two weeks alone, Biden has faced intense criticism from a slew of liberal members of Congress, including Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.), and Greg Casar (D., Texas). Markey was one of four congressional Democrats to hammer Biden for approving a 30-year oil and gas project in Alaska, saying Biden was accelerating "the ever more devastating impacts of climate change." Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, attacked Biden for pledging to sign a bill blocking changes to the Washington, D.C., criminal code, while Grijalva and Casar expressed disgust after the president reportedly considered reviving the Trump-era practice of detaining illegal immigrant families at the southern border.

The criticisms come as Biden moves forward with plans to run for reelection in 2024, despite polling that shows a majority of Democratic voters don't want the 80-year-old to seek a second term. High-profile liberals such as California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I.) have reportedly begun privately preparing presidential bids should Biden refrain from running, and New Jersey senator Bob Menendez (D.) said Tuesday that Biden's actions on illegal migrant detention could affect his support for the incumbent.

"I would remind the administration that they're the ones who ended family detention," Menendez told NBC News. "It would be a horrible policy to reinstate." Asked if enacting the Trump-era immigration policy would "affect his support for Biden in 2024," Menendez answered, "We'll see how the administration acts, and then we can make all types of judgments about that."

The White House did not return a request for comment.

While Sanders and fellow liberal senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) have largely refrained from joining the progressive pile-on against Biden, both Sanders and Warren appeared to tacitly criticize Biden's bailout of Silicon Valley Bank, which collapsed Friday in the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history. Sanders said in a Sunday statement that "now is not the time for U.S. taxpayers to bail out Silicon Valley Bank," while Warren in a Monday New York Times op-ed attacked the idea of regulators working to "ensure that billion-dollar crypto firms won't lose a dime in deposits."

While neither Sanders nor Warren mentioned Biden by name in their Silicon Valley Bank responses, Warren is embroiled in at least one public battle against the Biden administration. Vice President Kamala Harris, CNN reported Sunday, has refused to take phone calls from Warren after the Massachusetts senator suggested Biden pick whoever makes him "comfortable" as his running mate in 2024. Harris's team found the remark "pretty insulting."

Biden has not yet formally announced his reelection campaign, though his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, all but guaranteed during a February Associated Press interview that Biden would run again. "He's not done," the first lady said. "How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?" Most Democratic officials have responded by publicly supporting Biden, even as they privately say Biden is too old to campaign for a second term. Still, some liberal institutions are publicly calling for a successor—left-wing magazine the Atlantic, which is owned by liberal billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs, last month published "The Case for a Primary Challenge to Joe Biden."

"Yes, this would be a radical move, and would anger a bunch of Democrats inside the various power terraria of D.C., starting with the biggest one of all, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There would be immediate blowback from donors, the Democratic National Committee, and other party institutions," staff writer Mark Leibovich wrote. "But do it anyway."