The day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren found herself staring across the Boston Common, flooded with over a quarter of a million demonstrators at the Women’s March, part of the largest political display in human history. As the Bay State’s senior senator put it at a Town Hall in Malden on Sunday, she stood before an “army.”
“I saw an army, an army ready to fight for their values,” Warren told over a thousand town hall goers, jammed into the Malden High School auditorium. “Well, let me tell you where that battle takes place. It takes place at the ballot box in November.”
The crowd was enthusiastic, even rowdy at times, frequently breaking into applause while Warren derided the first year-plus of the Trump administration, and lauded the New Deal-era economy that quelled extreme inequality from the Great Depression through the 1970’s. The senator also implored stronger organization and greater involvement in the effort to rebuke the GOP and create a progressive movement.
“It was amazing,” Vanessa Pendexter, a big fan of Warren, said of the event. “I especially liked what she said about how people can get involved, to keep on going and make a difference.”
“I’m going to get more involved,” said Pendexter, who served as a delegate to the Massachusetts Democratic Convention last year. In 2017, Massachusetts Democrats voted to establish one of the most progressive platforms in state history.
Warren is up for reelection in November — a contest not expected to be very competitive — and is considered a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, who moderated the event, alluded to Warren’s rising star in introducing her as “senator — and who knows? — maybe the next president.” Christenson also noted that Malden High School is the most diverse high school in Massachusetts, symbolically significant as the discussion continually decried the GOP’s racist and bigoted attacks on marginalized groups in America.
But most of the event eyed the more immediate fight: the 2018 midterms.
“Man, we’ve got to ratchet up democracy even harder and fight back,” Warren said, adding that liberals and progressives need to target “local and state” offices down the ballot.
2018 features narrow paths for the Democratic Party to take control of the House and Senate. The party needs a net gain of 24 seats to regain the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011, and two to regain the Senate for the first time since losing the upper chamber in the 2014 midterms. (The road to a majority in the Senate is considered more of a long shot, as Democrats are defending seats in 10 states carried by Trump in 2016.) Dozens of governorships and thousands of state legislature seats will also be up for grabs.
The crowd erupted at the conclusion of Warren’s emotional story of her mother having to get a minimum-wage job to provide for the family after her father suffered a heart attack.
“That minimum-wage job saved our family; it saved our future,” she said. “It’s the reason, ultimately, I got to go to college. I’m the daughter of a janitor, who ended up as a United States senator.”
Warren then lashed out at the fact that, in contemporary America, a minimum-wage job couldn’t even provide for an individual, never mind a family, and that people are currently being forced to work two or three jobs in order to support a family.
Since 2016, Warren has shifted her already-progressive political positions to boldly align with the popular Bernie Sanders platform, adding issues like single-payer healthcare and a $15 minimum to the front of her agenda.
While her 2018 Republican challengers face an uphill battle to unseat the first-term senator (to say the least), Warren will still likely be forced to fight through an ugly and aggressive reelection campaign. Her opponents are sure to receive tons of money from big-time donors looking to sully her name ahead of a potential 2020 presidential bid.
“This year, when Senator Warren is on the ballot, we’re going to stand with her,” said Rep. Katherine Clark before Warren took the stage.
In Malden, Warren’s goal was clear: ramp up the army for 2018. With some success, 2018 will ramp up that same army for 2020, when progressives will have a chance to retake the government, and usher in an economy reminiscent of the New Deal and social democracies. That’s the plan, anyway.
In closing his speech at the event, Mayor Christenson quoted New England poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”