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Young Progressive Activists Lay Out ‘Roadmap’ For Biden To Win Back Gen Z

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Representatives from some of the nation’s largest progressive youth organizations will gather Wednesday in Washington to unveil a set of demands for Joe Biden, which the activists billed as a playbook for the oldest President in American history to convince the youngest cohort of voters to turn out to vote for him.

The so-called Finish the Job Youth Agenda is a laundry list of liberal causes. Devised by the leaders of prominent progressive groups like the Sunrise Movement, March for Our Lives, United We Dream Action and Gen-Z for Change, it calls for a permanent and immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank; rejecting new oil, gas and coal projects and ensuring the U.S. reaches 100% clean energy by 2035; and providing free healthcare and affordable housing to people affected by climate disasters, among other Democratic priorities like increasing standards for gun ownership, expanding DACA and stopping construction on a border wall.

The agenda is both an olive branch and an ultimatum for the embattled Democratic President. The activists’ message to Biden was clear: take the concerns of young voters seriously, or risk losing their votes in 2024. 

“This is a literal roadmap to how you build trust and energy among our generation in a critical election year,” said Michele Weindling, political director of the Sunrise Movement, which advocates for action on climate change. “Let us help you, dude.”

Read More: A Controversial Climate Group Rethinks Its Strategy.

Youth voters are a key component of Biden’s political coalition, and one that could make or break the outcome of the November election. In 2020, Biden’s margins with young voters exceeded his margins of victory in key states like Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, according to an analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Yet in recent months, Biden’s poll numbers with young voters have been bleak.

For almost a year, the leaders of groups like Sunrise, Gen-Z for Change, United We Dream (which represents young immigrants), and March for Our Lives (which advocates for tougher gun restrictions) regularly gathered on Zoom calls to hash out their collective priorities and coordinate their demands. (TIME was granted exclusive access to these planning meetings.) Over and over, the young organizers explained that their goal in challenging Biden was to help him.

Read More: The School Shooting Generation Has Had Enough.

“We’re actually making his job quite easy,” says Michelle Ming, political director of United We Dream Action. “We’re giving him the answers to the test.” 

Despite polls showing Biden’s weakened standing with young voters, some Democratic strategists have expressed skepticism that the bloc will actually abandon him, knowing that doing so could lead to a second Trump presidency. But the leaders of these progressive groups say that analysis misses the point. 

“Youth are not thinking about this as Biden vs. Trump,” says Elise Joshi, the executive director of Gen-Z for Change. “They’re thinking about whether their issues are being met or dealt with." Joshi and her fellow organizers say that Biden and the Democrats must earn their support. “They need to be worried that this generation is not going to show up,” she says.

Pollsters caution that Biden cannot count on young voters to show up for him the way they did in 2020. “The campaign may not pull out a bunch of young people just because they’re young,” says John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the author of Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America. “This year it’s more complicated.” 

Della Volpe, who regularly runs focus groups with young voters across the U.S., says he’s hearing more “existential economic struggles” from young voters than he heard four years ago. Many of those he meets have no idea what the Biden Administration has actually done on lots of the issues they care about. “They say: I voted for climate, I voted for student loan debt, I voted for gun violence reform,” Della Volpe says. When he mentions that the Biden Administration passed significant climate-change legislation and delivered nearly $138 billion in student debt relief for almost 3.9 million borrowers, “the room changes,” he adds. “These are some of the best kept secrets in America today.”

And yet anger at Biden’s support for Israel amid the war in Gaza showed in every youth coalition meeting and most of Della Volpe's focus groups. “It’s very apparent that this generation has a red line, and that red line is: ‘You should not be complicit in the mass murder of innocent civilians,” says Joshi. Says Weindling: “Is the Administration really about to lose an entire generation, and lose the 2024 election, with a pro-war policy like this?”

Read More: The 2020 Election Was a Breakthrough Moment For Young Voters.

The activists, who are rolling out their policy agenda as Biden prepares to deliver a heavily scrutinized State of the Union speech, say the President still has time to fix the deep disillusionment of the young voters he needs to win the Presidency. 

“I’m not saying that Biden can’t win,” says Aidan Kohn-Murphy, founder of Gen-Z for Change, who was one of Biden’s most enthusiastic TikTok organizers during the 2020 election. “But if you’re not stressed, you’re not paying attention.”

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com