More liberal, populist movement emerging in Democratic Party ahead of 2016 elections

“The first Obama administration was focused too much on saving the banks and Wall Street,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a liberal who is retiring after four decades in Congress. “There’s going to be a big populist push on whoever’s running for office to espouse these kinds of progressive policies.”

Senate Democrats’ recent decision to abandon the filibuster for almost all nominees was a major victory for liberals, who had long championed the change, and paves the way for left-leaning nominees to join courts and helm agencies.

In addition, liberals have accelerated their push for a higher minimum wage — successfully persuading Obama to support a $10.10-an-hour proposal after he suggested $9 an hour this year. They also are making a case for tougher financial regulations, specifically targeting massive banks they would like to break up.

More broadly, liberals argue that the nation must do more to narrow economic inequality, to expand the safety net to help those who have lost jobs to globalization and to relieve some of the burden of student debt — goals that the president generally shares.