Joseph R. Biden mowed down dozens of rivals, including liberal heavyweights, on the way to his party’s presidential nomination, but far-left groups are still treating the former vice president like a loser.
The presumptive Democratic Party nominee can kiss his chances of defeating President Trump goodbye, they say, unless he takes a hard left on issues including immigration, student debt and climate change.
Some Democrats are urging Mr. Biden to resist the threat.
“I am a big fan of Democrats as the big tent party, but there is absolutely no reason the vice president should feel the need to follow through on this long list of demands,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist. “After all, he has shown he best represents where the party is at this point in time.”
Justice Democrats, the group that helped give rise to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is among the most vocal groups pressuring Mr. Biden to kowtow to their demands. They say they represent the young liberal voters he has failed to excite.
A year ago, the same group announced opposition to Mr. Biden’s bid as soon as it learned he was diving into the race. They criticized his support for, among other things, the 1994 crime bill, the 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq and the 2005 overhaul of the nation’s bankruptcy laws.
“We can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘No, we can’t,” the group said at the time. “Joe Biden stands in near-complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today.”
Most Democratic voters, it turned out, saw the election through a less liberal lens.
After a tough start, Mr. Biden gained momentum with a big win in South Carolina. He ended up notching more than 20 primary wins while showcasing unmatched popularity with black and older voters.
The 77-year-old easily outpaced the far-left warriors. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont scored nine victories, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was blanked.
Mr. Biden essentially sewed up the nomination after sweeping Mr. Sanders in the March 17 contests in Arizona, Florida and Illinois. The victories were sandwiched between massive wins in Michigan and Wisconsin, a pair of battleground states that President Trump put in the Republican column in 2016 for the first time in decades.
Still, when Mr. Sanders dropped out, Justice Democrats was among eight groups — including the Sunrise Movement, NextGen America and United We Dream Action — that responded by blasting off an open letter calling on Mr. Biden to “champion the bold ideas that have galvanized our generation and given us hope in the political process.”
They called for Mr. Biden to bar current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists from serving on his campaign team or in his administration.
They demanded he promise to tap a Department of Homeland Security secretary committed to “dismantling” Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection “as we know them,” and surround himself with economic advisers who “believe in the principles of the Green New Deal.”
As for policy, they said, he should scrap student loan debt, back a wealth tax, legalize marijuana and abolish the legislative filibuster, which would allow bills to pass through the Senate on a simple majority vote.
The “commitments are needed to earn the support of our generation and unite the party for a general election against Donald Trump,” they said.
Mr. Biden hasn’t embraced the left’s most radical proposals but has extended an olive branch to liberals.
He has backed a watered-down version of Mr. Sanders’ tuition-free college plan and supports Ms. Warren’s bankruptcy plan.
He said he wants to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 from 65 and forgive loans for students who attended public colleges and universities and private historically black colleges and universities.
That, along with a deep loathing for Mr. Trump, helped him win endorsements from Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, which the Biden camp has used as a shield against his critics.
“What voters and supporters, frankly, that backed other candidates in this primary race — particularly folks who identify themselves as my progressive friends — need to know is that Vice President Biden understands, understands the issues,” said Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders.
Ms. Sanders, who worked on the Sanders campaign in 2016, told listeners last week on SiriusXM’s “Signal Boost,” that “the things that a number of my quote-unquote more progressive friends have been championing and talking about are issues that Vice President Biden has led on for a long time.”
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has seized on the divisions in the Democratic ranks.
Last week, the Republican campaign ridiculed “Beijing Biden,” saying the “left-wing base is going nuts” over the former vice president’s “fake tough-on-China routine.”
Meanwhile, the dictates from liberal groups keep coming.
On Friday, Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement began circulating a petition demanding that Mr. Biden sever all ties with former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers after it was reported that he was serving as an economic adviser.
“Larry Summers’ legacy is advocating for policies that contributed to the skyrocketing inequality and climate crisis we’re living with today,” they said. “We hope Biden publicly rejects Summers’ role as an economic adviser to better earn the trust of our generation.”
Mr. Manley, who shares some of the misgivings about Mr. Summers, said that if Mr. Biden loses the election, these liberal groups will be “poised to claim the only reason it happened is that he didn’t fully embrace their agenda.”
“The reality is what they are demanding is an anathema to a lot of Democratic voters across the country,” he said.