As Joe Biden prepares to take the oath of office on January 20, what are the prospects for the US left in the years ahead? Today’s Left is in a challenging place: strong enough for other forces to care about what it thinks and does, but too weak to shape political outcomes. Biden’s steady stream of conservative cabinet picks are but the latest reminder of this.

Recent years have seen impressive campaigns and mobilizations, most notably the 2018–19 teachers’ strikes, the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, and Bernie Sanders’s presidential runs. But the teacher mobilizations have yet to spark broader labor resurgence, as many had hoped. Much of the energy of Black Lives Matter dissipated into a hollow focus on diversity and representation, while police have continued to get away with murder and local governments have walked back promises to defund their police departments. And the Democratic Party establishment put an end to the Sanders campaign.

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