Some are eager to fight against cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; labor groups in particular have come out quickly since the election to demand protection for those entitlements and benefits.
Labor unions have their own set of key priorities, which they expect Obama to deliver on: most notably, so-called "card-check" legislation that would make it easier to organize. "Card check is important," says Steve Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. "In the private sector the rules are stacked against us — that should be a no-brainer."
But unions are also ready to pressure the administration on a number of fronts, in tandem with many different progressive groups.
THE BIG PICTURE
In fact, there is wide agreement on the issues among various groups on the left. There is widespread support for bold advances in gay rights; many in the LGBT community were deeply disappointed in Obama's first term, despite his embrace this year of same-sex marriage. And most progressives back the ACLU and other civil-liberties groups in wanting the administration to end its drone-strike assassination program, close Guantanamo Bay, lift the shroud of secrecy around the detainees at Bagram Air Base, and cut back on the post-9/11 surveillance state.
But perhaps no issue generated more interest among rank-and-file progressives during this election cycle than reducing the influence of money in politics, in the largely limitless spending environment following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
And there again Obama turned to the dark side when it came to dark money, approving a "Super PAC" to work on his behalf after initially opposing them.
Changing federal law to curb the effects of Citizens United will be a big test of Obama's seriousness and commitment to progressive principles. But in a way, the progressives themselves have taken the matter into their own hands. Through their own grassroots organizing and hard work, they helped achieve impressive victories all across the country, right in the face of billions of dollars spent for conservative causes.
Now, Obama needs to step up and do his part to bring about progress. If he doesn't, that same grassroots effort is ready to turn on him.