If you’ve just joined us, I’ve been at the Netroots 2014 progressive activists convention being held in Cobo Center in Detroit for a little over three days now. Joe Biden was the centerpiece of Thursday’s schedule. All Vice Presidential, lots of security and a speech that seemed to beg for the upcoming Democratic presidential nomination.
Today, it was Elizabeth Warren’s turn. She’s the intellectual populist Senator from Massachusetts, who upset pretty boy Scott Brown in her first shot at public office. She’s a brainiac from Harvard who has a heartfelt and natural connection to people of all classes, but especially those who aren’t worth a ton of money. If ever there was a spokesperson and advocate for those who are now virtually unheard from, it’s Senator Warren.
Unlike the Vice President’s protection, you could wander into the Cobo ballroom carrying a bazooka and likely wouldn’t be stopped. Warren is mighty important, but not yet at the Biden level and, having heard her for 30 minutes doesn’t appear to aspire at this point for higher office. Not in 2016 and, my guess is anytime beyond.
I listened to her address with my friend Jim, an activist union mate from Australia and a pleasant union guy from New York. As I’ve indicated before, union reps were everywhere at the convention.
Senator Warren was very warmly greeted by a crowd just short of the number that gathered for Biden. Warren hats and “Warren for President” signs were handed out and eagerly flashed to the media during the speech. The object of all this affection seemed bemused. She was attired in an orange jacket, black top and pants. Nothing fancy. She wears her hair stylishly short and if she really tried could put on a very attractive front. But that’s not Elizabeth, getting all gussied up. What you see is what you get.
She speaks in plain, understandable English, not as if she’s addressing a class-full of Ph.D candidates. She doesn’t patronize with fancy words or flash the vast knowledge she clearly possesses. If I were to describe her approach, it’s like talking to a smart neighbor. You get the impression you could easily go from supply-side economics to the latest cooking tips with her.
She hit the ground running with what she does best. Expose distasteful banking sector behavior. She revealed that the giant banks spent more than a million dollars a DAY lobbying against banking reforms. She insisted the sector fell well short of its goal.
She’s not afraid to call these incredibly powerful institutions that control trillions of dollars some nasty names. She seemed to delight in referring to their “sleazy lobbyists and cowardly politicians.”
“We will fight and we will win; that’s my message for today.” She went on to say that the huge money interests are using their money to try to capture (interesting word) Washington and rig the rules in their favor. She talked of a kid going to jail for a small amount of pot while banks launder drug money and no one gets arrested. She added that students go into debt by upwards of $100,000 in student loans. Meanwhile, infrastructure collapses and research and development lags for want of money while the millionaires and billionaires bleed the system dry with subsidies and tax loopholes.
She insists lobbyists protect every one of these loopholes and privileges.
She ripped the new trade pact negotiations that are being pushed by the power elite as being like Christmas presents for the major players. Negotiations being carried out behind closed doors, in secret. “Why the secrecy?” She asked one of the people knowledgeable of the negotiations that very question. The answer was straightforward. “If people knew what was going on, they’d be opposed.”
Warren then went into cheerleader mode. “We can fight back. I’m fighting back over values. The conservative motto is “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” She continued, telling the crowd that liberals strength lies in investing in helping people succeed; not only son’s, but for all of our kids. Women’s equality anyone?
She ended with progressive demands of good government. Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement. No one should work full-time and still live in poverty. Students are entitled to an education without being crushed by debt. We must protect our safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare. We believe in equal pay for equal work and equality in marriage. Immigrants have made this country and as a last salvo, she looked out across the audience and said, “Corporations are not people.” A final standing ‘O’ ensued.
You get your exercise when you attend a Warren speech. Up and down. Up and down. Yelling at the top of your lungs and applauding wildly.
The audience left wanting more. Much more!