The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist group, has announced itself as one of the most influential progressive forces in the formative days of Joe Biden’s incoming administration.
As Biden build his White House senior staff and Cabinet, the climate movement has nicked a series of high-profile wins, one of the few divisions of the Democratic left to successfully incorporate a number of its top allies and ideas into the new government’s upper ranks.
However, the promise of today, before Biden has even taken office, will soon be met by the realities of a divided Washington.
Sunrise’s young leaders said that after two years of pitched battles across America, they are prepared for the fights to come.
Joe Biden has already nominated Deb Haaland, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico to lead the Interior Department and created a high-level White House climate shop, along with Gina McCarthy, former Environmental Protection Agency head, and John Kerry, former Secretary of State in top roles.
Together, with willing partners in Biden’s inner circle, Sunrise and allied organizations have helped make the structures on paper that could position the administration to pursue bold goals to fight climate change in the coming years.
Founded in 2017, the Sunrise Movement first got national attention when its members arrived as uninvited guests for a sit-in at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill, shortly before she formally reclaimed the speakership after the 2018 midterm.
Since then, the organization has emerged as an activist powerhouse with a growing electoral might. While they are closely allied with groups like Justice Democrats in backing progressive primary challengers, Sunrise’s most significant campaign win came months before Biden defeated Trump in the November election.
Earlier this year, the group launched an all-out defense of Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a co-author with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Green New Deal resolution, against a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III.
“Most people just see us as the agitators who are never happy, who are never really going to back anyone, who are just constantly throwing stones but not willing to go to bat for any political leader, besides maybe AOC,” executive director Varshini Prakash said in a CNN report.
The Markey campaign “was an opportunity to show that we are willing to back you if you back us and that we are willing to throw down if you are willing to take the risks to your friendships, your image, or whatever it is that you’re worried about.”