The Sunrise Movement, a group of young climate activists who has roiled Democratic politics, is best known for policies that had little chance of becoming, well, national policy. The Green New Deal, an expansive suite of climate and economic policies championed by the group, was crafted during the Trump administration — a kind of climate change platform for a political world that did not exist.
With Democrats now controlling government, the group finally has a chance to turn that alternative reality into an actual one. But the window of time may be brief: Historically, the president’s party loses power after the midterm elections. Enter Battle Born Collective, a new organization that uses legislative strategy, messaging and policy tools to help progressive groups push their agenda through Washington. The group highlights a dynamic of the new Biden era: Many of the most influential voices in Democratic politics are also the least experienced. “We launched in 2017 and we’ve been very successfully flying by the seat of our pants since then,” said Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement, who is working with the collective. “There’s definitely a learning curve and it’s very useful to have people who are experienced and battle tested.”
The liberal energy fueled during the Trump administration led to the creation of a number of political organizations, as progressives tapped into a Democratic base that was shifting to the left. Much of their work focused on replacing moderate Democrats with younger, more diverse politicians like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other House progressives.
Now, these groups face the challenge of lobbying other Democrats to accept their liberal platform. Adam Jentleson and Rebecca Kirszner Katz, former aides to Harry Reid and co-founders of the collective, believe they can help.
The two liberal strategists, funded by Democratic donors, plan to offer their services free to progressive organizations and have already hired two staff members — Hannah Simon and Tré Easton — to help with their work. The name of their group references the slogan of Nevada — a homage to the home state of Mr. Reid, a mentor and the last Senate majority leader to preside over a Democratic-controlled Capitol. Mr. Jentleson described their new operation as a “political intelligence” organization for progressives, offering insights about legislative maneuvering and ways to shape the policy debate.
“We’re in this moment where we have power for the first time in a long time, and the question is how to use it,” he said. “One of the things we bring to the table is having served in leadership roles when Democrats had power and were able to advance their agenda.”
The shadow of that period looms large over the party, with many Democrats arguing that former President Barack Obama and Mr. Reid spent too much time chasing Republican support for their early legislative initiatives. Mr. Reid has privately urged President Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, to adopt a more aggressive approach to passing their agenda.
“With the country in the shape it’s in, we don’t need people who get along just to go along,” Mr. Reid said, praising the new collective. “We need people who will try to reshape the country and the party.”
Mr. Jentleson and Ms. Kirszner Katz, he said, “are outsiders with the knowledge of the insiders.”
So far, progressives seem fairly satisfied with the early moves of the new administration, encouraged by Mr. Biden’s cabinet picks, a spate of early executive orders and signals that Democratic leaders plan to push through a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package.
But the post-pandemic future will likely presage intraparty battles. Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden staked out a more moderate path than many of his primary rivals, rejecting calls from liberals for proposals like ending the filibuster and expanding the Supreme Court. He has not entirely embraced the Green New Deal and supports more limited plans to tackle health care and college debt.
Pushing their own party will involve a new set of political skills for many progressive activists. Younger organizations, like Justice Democrats and Sunrise, built a following by rallying the public with staunch calls of opposition to Mr. Trump and his administration. Mr. Jentleson and Ms. Kirszner Katz are urging them not to use those same tactics within the party, encouraging phone calls before blasting a fellow Democrat on Twitter, and have released a series of messaging memos laying out their collective position.
“Democrats have not used the power they have as efficiently as they could,” said Ms. Kirszner Katz. “We have very little time before the midterms and we need to get as much as we can right away.”
Some of the activists agree that the changing times may call for some new strategies.
“We think it’s important that progressives are known not only for big ideas but delivering big results,” said Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for Justice Democrats. “That’s a little bit of a transition now.”