WASHINGTON — The most ambitious legislative package in a generation started as little more than series of progressive wish-lists. Platforms like the Green New Deal, the Vision for Black Lives, and the Leap Manifesto spurred discussions among groups like Indivisible, MoveOn, Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, the Sunrise Movement, and labor unions.
By mid-February, those wish-lists had evolved into a concrete set of 64 bills aimed at winning broad support. Congressional Republicans and centrist Democrats initially scoffed at what they called the impracticality of the ambitious measures, which include Medicare for All, free college tuition, guaranteed jobs, a Universal Basic Income, and more. But after a huge grassroots campaign to support the measures, polls have shown growing favor even among Republicans.
Passage during the 116th Congress — once considered impossible with a Republican majority in the Senate — no longer seems out of reach, and the Bundle’s popularity is already shifting the terms of the 2020 presidential race. The Bundle already ranks alongside the New Deal and the Great Society as one of the most sweeping legislative packages ever attempted.
“We’ve been handed a bundle of shit for so long,” Chicago-based community organizer Priya Bakaya told a Washington Post reporter in late February. “It’s about damn time for a different bundle.” The name stuck. The hashtag #BundleOfJoy went viral — often circulated with a cartoon, created by the underground art collective Trans Men United, featuring an apparently pregnant Uncle Sam.
Proponents also laud the Bundle as a safeguard against another Trumpian populist rising in the future. “A lot of Americans who recently turned to the right now have another place to go,” said Dalia Wilkins, a political analyst at Johns Hopkins School of Public Policy. “With common-sense progressive politics on offer, there’s a lot less oxygen for the politics of hate.”
Over the course of the spring, protests and sit-ins targeting members of Congress increasingly began to include demands that members also pledge support for the Bundle.
A handful of Republicans continue to oppose sections of the Bundle, arguing that it will strain American coffers. “Is it called the Bundle because that’s what it’ll cost?” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted in late March. Democrats have leaned into the name, claiming that the bills will plug tax loopholes that benefit corporations and the wealthy and will stimulate the economy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday, “I challenge my Republican friends, who last year voted on a massive tax overhaul that did nothing but enrich the wealthy, to find a bill in the Bundle that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay more than their fair share.”
Even before Trump fled the White House, support for the Bundle was remarkably bipartisan. In the hours after Trump’s departure, five Republican members of Congress issued statements professing support for the package, in a sign that political winds may continue to shift leftward.
Anezka Kruszewska, a historian of political movements at Oxford, found it consistent with other movements. “It’s precisely during moments of intense political polarization that things can change massively,” Kruszewska said, before rattling off a list: “Polarization creates new political openings. It did so in Scandinavia and Germany in the 1930s, in the United States during the 1960s, and in Chile under Allende. But it can go either way.”
Bakaya, the Chicago organizer, said Saturday that it was becoming a point of pride.
“We’re talking about people who have the most at stake, the marginalized majority, crafting an agenda for everyone,” she said. “Now that’s democracy.”