This week, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) dominated the stage at the CNN Debate in Detroit. And together with fellow Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), they demonstrated how their aspirational progressive vision of bold, radical change is also inspirational for many Democratic voters.
Tonight, Warren returned here to Nevada to inspire more Democrats to “dream big, fight hard, and change America” at Green Valley High School in Henderson. While speaking with about 750 local supporters, Warren went into great detail on how the nation can “make government work for everyone”.
She’s been dreaming big and fighting hard. Might she actually be winning?
When she embarked upon her 2020 presidential campaign on New Year’s Eve, Elizabeth Warren came off an embarrassing pile of stories about her family’s history, their mostly mistaken assumption of Native American heritage, and questions of whether she engaged in cultural appropriation by submitting to a DNA test to validate that assumption. Beyond that, Democratic voters in Nevada and elsewhere embarked upon this campaign cycle with questions of whether a white liberal woman who was otherwise best known for railing against Wall Street corruption could expand her message and her appeal to a broader and more diverse audience.
Over the last seven months, Warren has gone to great lengths to atone for past mistakes, reach out to voters far and wide, and match her woke words with woke deeds in offering plans of action addressing everything from Native American tribal sovereignty to hate crimes targeting transgender women of color. And along the way, she’s also offered detailed plans to take on the climate crisis, protect women’s reproductive health care, pursue comprehensive and humane immigration reform, rethink and rework our approach to global “free trade”, and so much more.
Between her exemplary candidate forum and official debate performances (as we witnessed again at the CNN Debate in Detroit), her town halls that somehow make wonky policy conversations exciting and inclusive, and her steadily rising poll numbers and fundraising hauls, it’s increasingly looking like Elizabeth Warren‘s vision of “big, structural change” may actually be breaking through. At Green Valley High School tonight, Warren spoke with a crowd of about 750 Nevadans about not just what her policies are, but how they honor American values and why she’s determined to use them to make a difference in people’s lives.
“You take care of the people you love. […] That’s who Americans are. That’s what we do.”
– Elizabeth Warren
As she opened the program, Warren did a bit of humble-bragging: “Tonight is my 118th town hall.” She thanked the supporters in the audience who helped her raise $19.1 million last quarter, and she took pride in doing so with small-dollar grassroots donations rather than via exclusive high-dollar fundraisers, like the ones that former Vice President Joe Biden has done here in Nevada and throughout the nation. Warren also noted that because she eschews such “dialing for dollars”, she has more time to meet more voters at town halls like this.
As she’s done at past town halls, Warren told the story of “The Dress”, or her father’s health scare forced her mother to enter the workforce and take a minimum wage position at Sears to save the family house. As Warren noted, “She was 50 years old. She had not worked a day in her life. She was terrified.”
Nevertheless, she persisted. As Warren recounted her mother’s determination to protect and provide for her family, Warren then pointed out the bigger picture here: “You take care of the people you love. It was only years later when I learned it was not just my family. It’s the story of millions of Americans.” She continued, “That’s who Americans are. That’s what we do.”
“I don’t want a government that works for multinational corporations. I want a government that works for people!”
– Elizabeth Warren
While Biden and some of the other Democrats running for the chance to defeat President Donald Trump next year see Trump’s rise to power as just an “aberration”, Warren instead sees decades worth of decay that culminated in what we’re seeing now. She used climate change, and the federal government’s failure to do enough to address the crisis we’re now in, as an example of what’s wrong with the system and why we can’t let it continue as is.
According to Warren, “It’s 25 years of corruption in Washington that has led our politicians to not invest in the big changes we need [to break away from fossil fuels].” She soon added, “In order to make government work for everyone, we need to make big, structural changes, not just a little bill or fix here and there. It starts with taking the corruption head on.”
So not only does Warren want a Green New Deal to revive American manufacturing, shifting resources from subsidizing the fossil fuel industry (via tax breaks and oil/gas extraction from public lands) to investment in renewable energy and clean technology, and revive the kind of scientific research and development that austerity economics has ravaged, but she also wants good government reforms (like new restrictions on corporate lobbying) and a full reorientation of America’s economy away from Wall Street’s wants and toward Main Street’s needs in order to prevent such negligence from happening again.
As Warren puts it, “I don’t want a government that works for multinational corporations. I want a government that works for people!”
“It’s the America of opportunity, the America of our best values that pulls me into this fight every day.”
– Elizabeth Warren
As Warren’s town hall continued, she continued to address the issues and themes that emerged during this week’s CNN Debates. In Detroit, she rebutted former Rep. John Delaney’s (D-Maryland) dismissals of her proposals and Sanders’ ideas in saying, “I genuinely do not understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States just to talk about what we can’t do and what we shouldn’t fight for.” And tonight in Henderson, she continued on that theme in declaring, “In order to make government work for everyone, we need to make big, structural changes, not just a little bill or little fix here and there. It starts with taking the corruption head on.”
And she didn’t stop there. Over the course of the just over hour-long program, Warren explained her signature wealth tax (2% on total assets worth at least $50 million, and 3% on assets worth at least $1 billion), and how this tax can pay for expanded access to child care, universal pre-K, free college for all American students, and debt relief for graduates who’ve already fallen prey to burdensome student loans.
As Warren succinctly explained her tax plan, “With two cents, we can have an America that sees value in all our children.” She later added, “It’s the America of opportunity, the America of our best values that pulls me into this fight every day.”
“The real change in America will come when we say, ‘No more.’ We’re going to be a democracy, and we’re not going to let this country be run by a handful of those with buckets of money.”
– Elizabeth Warren
Towards the end of the program, Warren again recounted the many civil rights and social justice movements, from women’s suffrage to desegregation and LGBTQ+ equality, that were once dismissed as “crazy” and/or “impossible”. According to Warren, “Here’s the deal: They didn’t quit. They organized. They built a grassroots movement. They persisted, and they changed the course of American history.” She continued, “We have the chance to do it. This is our time. Dream big, fight hard, and let’s win.”
Those final comments got me thinking. And a few minutes later, when Warren spoke with reporters, I asked her whether she sees health care as part of this tradition, particularly as other politicians and pundits claim the “Medicare for All” single-payer plan that she and Sanders are running on is “crazy”, “impossible”, and even “malarkey”.
Once more, Warren wanted all of us to view the bigger picture: “I think it’s much bigger than just health care. I think for decades, America has worked great for giant corporations, and that has become the norm. Giant corporations have written our industrial policy, our trade policy, our drug policy, and our health care policy.” Warren then added, “The real change in America will come when we say, ‘No more.’ We’re going to be a democracy, and we’re not going to let this country be run by a handful of those with buckets of money.”
Warren then declared, “The rich and the powerful haven’t paid their fair share in years, and it’s just getting worse. The American people are ready for some real change.” Again, thus far, we’ve seen some signs suggesting she may truly be onto something. At the AFSCME Forum tomorrow and as Warren continues to campaign here in advance of our February 22 Caucus, we’ll eventually see just how many more people are ready for the kind of “real change” that Warren offers.