“The country is ready to become more progressive, and it is becoming more progressive,” he said. “The country is tired of Democrats taking corporate money. They don’t understand how someone can be in office 10 or 20 or 30 years and they’re struggling with housing and jobs and criminal justice.”
This does not mean that the progressives are without challenges, or that their current ascension in the Democratic Party is linear or inevitable. Incumbents have beaten back progressive challengers in Ohio, New York and Texas this year, and Mr. Biden’s victory ensures that a moderate voice will lead the party at least for the near future.
Some Democrats also believe the grass-roots energy is a consequence of the unique political environment, with liberals’ anger toward President Trump supercharging fund-raising and political interest in a way that could dissipate in the future.
In an interview this spring, Representative Gregory Meeks of New York, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus’s political arm, dismissed the idea that an influx of new representation would be a reason to adjust the caucus’s electoral strategy. The group almost exclusively endorses incumbents, even when they are running against Black challengers. This has led it to be on the wrong side of some recent progressive victories, including those by Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Mr. Bowman and now Ms. Bush.
“There’s many other races that went the other way and the incumbent won,” Mr. Meeks said. “It’s about the record of the person while they were in Congress and the relationships they have with the African-Americans they represent. That’s what we think is important.”
That speaks to how a growing left-wing movement could further alter the balance of power among Washington Democrats, on Capitol Hill and potentially in a Biden administration. More than simply being left of party leaders on the ideological spectrum, those in the new crop of House leftists have an inside-outside view of political power and are open to pushing their party publicly if they deem the tactic necessary.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House, though large in number, has rarely had enough members willing to buck party leadership, a key point of distinction between it and the famed Freedom Caucus, the collection of House Republicans who often pressure their party to be more conservative.