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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questions executives of the nation's largest banks during a hearing on September 22, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questions executives of the nation's largest banks during a hearing on September 22, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democrats Can Defeat GOP Extremism by 'Fighting for Working People': Warren

"Democrats need to do more for American families—not less," said the progressive lawmaker from Massachusetts.

Kenny Stancil

During her keynote speech at an economic policy conference held Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on Democrats to step up their efforts to rein in corporate greed and create a better economy for working-class households, arguing that doing so is essential to defeating the increasingly anti-democratic GOP.

"When Democrats fight for and deliver for working people, we win."

"The 2022 midterms prove that Democrats can beat Republican extremism by fighting for working people and making our democratic values clear," Warren (D-Mass.) said at EconCon Presents, a meeting co-hosted by Demos Action, Economic Policy Institute Action, Economic Security Project Action, Groundwork Action, Omidyar Network, and Roosevelt Forward.

"As we face the possibility of an extremist Republican House majority intent on creating economic chaos to usher Donald Trump back into office, we should remember: Democrats need to do more for American families—not less," she continued, speaking just a day after the former president announced his 2024 campaign.

Republicans officially won narrow control of the House on Wednesday, just days after Warren warned that GOP lawmakers hell-bent on winning the White House in 2024 will "blow up the economy" and run ads blaming President Joe Biden for it unless Democrats use the current lame-duck session to abolish the U.S. debt ceiling—something conservative members of the party appear hesitant to do.

By retaining their Senate majority and losing just a handful of seats in the House, congressional Democrats vastly outperformed pundits' expectations and historical trends. But Warren wasn't surprised, telling conference participants that "lesson one from last week's midterms is that when Democrats fight for and deliver for working people, we win."

The lawmaker highlighted a few of the steps that congressional Democrats and the Biden administration took to improve the material circumstances of working people "without one single Republican to help us." Key achievements mentioned by Warren include the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), both passed through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

"Despite endless Republican attack ads designed to convince people otherwise, the evidence shows that, by and large, we got it right—the American Rescue Plan was popular," said the Massachusetts progressive. "It was also successful in saving the economy. It helped people survive the pandemic. And it helped us win elections."

"The IRA showed people Democrats were fighting to reduce costs," she continued. "And it helped us win elections."

Moreover, Biden's executive action canceling student loan debt—an attempt to provide financial relief to millions of working-class households that is currently being derailed by a GOP-led lawsuit and Trump-appointed judge—is one reason why "youth voter turnout last week was through the roof," she added.

There's plenty of evidence to back up Warren's contention that the Democratic Party's stronger-than-expected midterm performance happened because of their progressive economic policies—not in spite of them.

That includes exit polling conducted by Data for Progress, Groundwork Action, and Economic Security Project Action, which found that a majority of voters support Democratic policies to lower prices, including investing in domestic manufacturing and clean energy production, expanding social safety net programs, hiking taxes on corporations and holding them accountable for price gouging, and increasing Social Security benefits.

For more than a year between the passage of the American Rescue Plan and the IRA, however, "costs for families were rising, and a few Democrats blocked much of the president's agenda for working families," Warren said, alluding to Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), and a handful of other corporate-backed party members.

"They torpedoed the president's plan to reverse the Trump tax giveaways," said Warren. "They blocked proposals to cut skyrocketing housing and child care costs. They thwarted efforts to fight corruption, end gerrymandering, defend democracy, and protect abortion rights."

"If ever there was a time for Democrats to grow a spine, this is it."

"We got a lot done for American families," she continued. "But we could have done a lot more to show those families that we're on their side."

"If Democrats had delivered more of the things that touch people's lives—things like child care and housing—we could have picked up the additional votes we needed to hold the House and expand our Senate lead," she added. "Think what that would mean: We would be drafting legislation to get more help to American families instead of confronting a potential House Republican majority intent on creating economic chaos."

According to Warren: "Our performance in the midterms wasn't judged solely by what we did or didn't get done. It was also judged by our willingness to fight for the families who sent us to Washington."

She praised Democratic Sen.-elect John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, in particular, for vowing to take on the CEOs who repeatedly admitted "they were boosting their profit margins on the backs of consumers," which meant ignoring the "Beltway commentators [who] rolled their eyes at the idea that Democrats ought to talk about" corporate profiteering.

"Candidates up and down the ticket called out price gouging, from Big Oil to grocery chains—and they won," said Warren. "Democrats also talked about what's at stake for our rights. They talked about our democracy. They talked about abortion. And they won."

Another key takeaway from the 2022 midterms, said Warren, is that "voters expect us to fight for them."

"They understand we can't solve every problem in two years," she acknowledged, "but they want to see us giving it all we've got. And if we get a little bloody, at least no one doubts where we stand."

Warren's message that Democrats should pursue downwardly redistributive policies more aggressively after losing control of the House echoes advice shared earlier this week by the economic justice group Fight Corporate Monopolies, which outlined popular measures that lawmakers can enact to improve the lives of ordinary people, or at least that Democrats can fight for to show voters who is on their side.

With Democrats in charge of the Senate and White House, "Republicans will try to impose economic pain on families so they can blame us and seize power for themselves," Warren noted. "The incoming GOP [House] majority represents a dangerous new force in American politics. Like their predecessors, they are openly hostile to voting rights, civil rights, abortion rights, and human rights."

"But these Republicans pose a new kind of threat," she continued, adding:

They have new members who were last in Washington alongside a mob that decided to storm the Capitol on January 6. Their ranks are now stacked with election deniers who have only one goal: install Donald Trump as president in 2024. These Republicans will use any tool they think might work to hurt working families—cut taxes for their wealthy donors, gut Medicare and Social Security, starve public schools and healthcare providers, and block any efforts to lift children out of poverty. They will use thinly disguised appeals to racism and xenophobia. Above all, Republicans will eagerly sow economic chaos so they can turn around and blame Democrats for economic chaos—all in service to moving Donald Trump a few inches closer to the White House. If Democrats let ourselves be bullied by Republican hostage-taking, we will hurt the families we came here to help. And, for good measure, we'll be voted out of office in 2024.

"Capitulating to extremists is not only wrong, it's a losing strategy," Warren stressed. "If ever there was a time for Democrats to grow a spine, this is it."

"There shouldn't be a single voter in the country who trusts Republicans on the economy."

To avoid being bullied by House Republicans, Warren implored Democrats to "do everything we can in the lame-duck session to prepare for the chaos that is coming," insisting once again on the need to "eliminate the debt ceiling now."

She also urged Democrats to "go on offense" and "tell our own economic story." She provided a list of talking points:

  • Republicans are the party that brought us the 2008 financial crash;
  • Republicans are the party that ran up the deficit with $2 trillion in tax cuts for billionaires and billionaire corporations;
  • Republicans are the party that is actively working to cut Social Security and Medicare;
  • Republicans are the party that wants to leave millions of people shackled with student loan debt forever; and
  • Republicans are the party that doesn't want Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs and doesn't want the government to end corporate price gouging and doesn't want to make billionaire corporations pay a minimum tax.

"Listen to that list," said Warren. "There shouldn't be a single voter in the country who trusts Republicans on the economy. And, if we get out there and make our case, there won't be a single voter who trusts the Republicans on the economy."

"We need to start fighting back now," Warren added. "Where we can pursue legislative action to help working families, we should fight aggressively. When Republicans try to obstruct and the president can act by executive authority, he must do so."


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