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Does Biden-Harris Ticket Appeal To Progressives In The Democratic Party?


Democrats yesterday opened their first ever virtual national convention. Later in the week, Joe Biden will formally accept the party's nomination. A candidate who wanted to be that nominee spoke last night, Bernie Sanders.


BERNIE SANDERS: Our campaign ended several months ago. But our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream. But let us be clear - if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.

GREENE: But is that progress also at risk even if Joe Biden wins? He and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are seen as more moderate. Let's talk to a progressive. Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal from the Bronx, defeated longtime Congressman Eliot Engel in a primary race over the summer and joins us this morning. Jamaal Bowman, welcome.

JAMAAL BOWMAN: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

GREENE: So is the party as united as it sounded last night?

BOWMAN: To me, absolutely. From my perspective, it is. I mean, we have work to do. We are all coming together at this moment to focus on beating Trump, to making sure Joe Biden wins along with his running mate, Kamala Harris. We have work to do. And the collaboration that was shown between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in terms of their coalition that came together to put forth policy around climate change policy, around universal child care, shows that the parties work together. We have no choice. We have no choice but to work together because we got to take our country back from the fascist that's in the White House at this moment.

GREENE: Well, so you had a Republican, John Kasich, speaking last night in a speaking slot. And then a progressive, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she gets just one minute tonight. And they got into it a bit. Kasich suggested that she's extreme. She wrote, something tells me a Republican who fights against women's rights doesn't get to say who is or isn't representative of the Democratic Party. What should we take from that back-and-forth?

BOWMAN: Well, I don't think we should take much from the back-and-forth. I think the larger conversation is, how connected is the DNC to the people on the ground and to the issues that matter most to the people? You know, I was happy to see Bernie Sanders speak. And that sort of rallied the troops, the progressive troops, across the country because he's right, you know? The movement continues.

Victories like my own, like the victory of Mondaire Jones and Cori Bush, I think, shows that the people are looking for a progressive policy. And it was unfortunate that AOC only got 60 seconds. And it's unfortunate that the DNC didn't bring in more younger, more diverse and more progressive speakers to the convention overall. I think that's the conversation we need to have going forward. How are we - how is the DNC and the Democratic Party overall connecting to more diverse, younger voters on a consistent basis?

GREENE: Well, let me ask you about another aspect of that conversation. I mean, the New York district that you will represent if you win is majority Black and Latino. And you have a tweet pinned on your account saying, you deserve a representative who will do everything to protect our communities during this crisis. I mean, you would be representing them, so would, you know, a president. If Joe Biden wins, is Biden the right person to lead a national conversation about race and about racial justice?

BOWMAN: Well, he has to be. And what I want to say is he doesn't have to do it alone, right? He can get the conversation started. And it's my job and the job of many others to push him to make sure that conversation remains front and center. But he doesn't have to do it alone. The president is not a king. He's the elected leader of our country. But other people have to lead that conversation as well.

And it's happening not just on down-ballot races like my own. But it's happening at the local level. It's happening with organizers across race and class and religion and culture. So it's happening throughout the country. And it's not going to go away. So that's what I'm most excited about, the young people who are involved, the white people who are involved, the wealthy people who are involved. This is a different time. And I'm excited about, you know, where we are and where we're going overall.

GREENE: It's really nice talking to you. Jamaal Bowman, the Democratic nominee for New York's 16th Congressional District. Thanks so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

BOWMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.