Apr 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's three tools for selling progressive policies: Jobs, jobs, jobs

Illustration of a raised fist coming out of a briefcase

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden has found a key tool for selling the most progressive parts of his agenda during his first 100 days: make them all about jobs.

Why it matters: Long considered a centrist Democrat, Biden has had to court and cater to his party's progressive wing to maintain support in a narrowly divided Congress. Talking jobs also has the benefit of resonating with the moderates and conservatives he needs in 2022 and beyond.

The big picture: From coronavirus relief and infrastructure to climate change and immigration, the president has continually argued each proposal will be an economic driver and jobs creator — addressing a key vulnerability Democrats have faced in pushing progressive solutions previously.

  • As he rolled out his climate plan to a worldwide audience Thursday, Biden declared: “When people talk about climate, I think jobs.”

Climate initiative

  • During the speech, in which he outlined the most ambitious climate proposal of any U.S. president in history, Biden said "jobs" eight times and mentioned the economy six times.
  • An accompanying statement issued by the White House used "jobs" no fewer than 13 times.

Coronavirus relief

Biden's $1.9-trillion-dollar "American Rescue Plan" included huge increases in money for direct payments, state and local governments, vaccine distribution, schools and enhanced unemployment insurance, among other provisions.

  • While Republicans attempted to play up the parts of the bill they said had nothing to do with the pandemic, the Biden administration successfully messaged it as a measure that would revitalize the economy and create more American jobs.


Politicians in both parties have long argued better infrastructure will drive job creation throughout the economy, particularly manufacturing.

  • While providing more funding for "traditional" infrastructure projects like building and improving roads, bridges and airports, Biden's American Jobs Plan agenda also sets aside a large chunk of money for his climate proposals and Family Plan — which aims to improve child care and paid family leave.
  • When Republicans have branded those elements a "progressive wishlist" unrelated to infrastructure, administration officials have argued how each part will help create and facilitate job growth.
  • It's also a big part of why the White House titled it the "American Jobs Plan" — they want Americans to be repeatedly reminded of the word.


Biden has repeatedly defended the importance of immigration by referencing how Dreamers and other immigrants fill essential jobs, arguing they're key drivers of entrepreneurship and population growth.

  • The president sent an immigration proposal to Congress on Day 1. The fact sheet accompanying it mentioned the economy five times, with a key section outlining how Biden thinks immigration will grow it.

The bottom line: The Biden administration knows a key part of getting his priorities through Congress is successfully branding them with the American people.

  • A simultaneous challenge is convincing the public — who also are voters — that his most progressive proposals won't come at the expense of jobs and the economy but, instead, bolster them.
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