Warren’s 11 Progressive Values for Netroots Nation
DETROIT, MI – Detroit’s Democratic Congressman Gary Peters who is running for the United States Senate addressed a packed house at the Netroots Nation convention in his home city on Friday. “I know the power you have to blog, to communicate to tell stories,” he said. “There are many wonderful stories about Detroit, and the wonderful people who make up this city, and the spirit that they have. Tell about how they have been through some very tough times, but they work hard. And if they work hard they should get a fair shot. And if they get a fair shot, this city will flourish!”
He acknowledged some of the past and present challenges of the city. Right now Detroit is literally turning off the water to hundreds of homes where the residents cannot afford to pay the bills. The once mighty Motor City is no longer a manufacturing capital, but it is home to more engineers per capita than any other region in the country. “We’ve got young people who are creating the businesses of tomorrow, and they are using the internet, which is why we must demand net neutrality,” Peters said.
He talked about climate change and its detrimental effects to the Great Lakes, the origins of the labor movement, the auto bailout, and the fact that his opponent is heavily funded by the Koch brothers who have already put more than $6 million into the race. The last reference was met by a loud booing.
“I see you know them well,” he responded.
He was met warmly by the capacity crowd, but the real reason they were there is because he was chosen to introduce the keynote speaker, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren walked on to the stage in a red suit, hugged Peters and waved at the crowd, which was on its feet cheering. The tables were littered with campaign hats, and stickers that attendees had picked up from tables outside the ballroom. The larger signs which said, “Elizabeth Warren for President” and “I’m from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party” were held aloft to loud chants of “Run Liz, run!”
Warren smiled, but shushed the crowd after a moment, and motioned them to take their seats.
“A lot of us in this room have history,” Warren said, and talked about the origins her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When she got the idea to start it, she said, people told her two things:
“One, this is a great idea. This could actually make a real difference in peoples’ lives. And the second thing is – don’t do it. Don’t propose it because the biggest banks in this country will hate it, and you will lose.”
“Well, the experts got that half right,” Warren smiled. “The big banks hated it, really hated it. In addition to spending against my senate campaign, they spent over a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms. But the experts were wrong. we fought back and we won… We won because you and a zillion other people got in the fight. You broke news, wrote opinion pieces, created petitions, you called out sleazy lobbyists, and corrupt politicians. You won this fight!
“That little agency is already 3 years old and forced the biggest financial agencies to return over $4 billion to consumers they cheated. The CFPB is proof of how democracy can work in the 21st century. It’s proof if we push back hard we can win. We fight, we win. We don’t win every time, but when we unite our voices, we can win. We did it in my own senate race. You did it when you got out there and stopped SOBA. We don’t win every time but we’re learning to win.”
Warren has been to Netroots twice before, and the speech felt familiar. But it’s exactly what the crowd wanted. Their enthusiasm seems to grow for Warren year by year, and the crowd that turned out to hear her talk was larger than the one the previous night for Vice President Joe Biden.
“We can’t win what we won’t fight for and it will be a hard fight. Many profitable companies look for every way they can to improve profits and bonuses, but many of them have another plan. They use their money and they try to influence Washington. Those with power fight to make sure every rule tilts in their favor. That’s what we are up against. That’s what America is up against,” Warren lamented.
She told the crowd that the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they were too big to fail, that a kid gets caught with a couple ounces of pot and goes to jail, but the big banks launder drug money and no one goes to jail. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. The country, she said, is bleeding billions in tax loopholes and subsidies that go to companies which “take advantage of every dollar they can squeeze out of our country.” And it happens, she said, because “they all have lobbyists and Republicans in congress to protect them with loopholes. The game is rigged and it isn’t right.”
Banks and lobbyists may have topped Warren’s list, but she saved equal passion for denouncing trade negotiations.
“For big corporations, trade negotiations are like Christmas morning. They get gifts they could never get through Congress. These meetings are held in secret so giant corporations can make deals and get inside information while regulations are gutted.” She says she’s heard others in Washington say that the deals have to be held in secret, because if the people knew what was going on, they would be opposed. “It’s true,” she said. “I’ve heard it. My feeling is if people would be opposed, then we shouldn’t have the trade deals!”
She ended her 15 minute speech by calling progressives to remember what they fight for.
“Lobbyists and lawyers have plenty of friends in congress,” she said. “We can whine about it, or we can fight back. I’m fighting back! This is a fight over economics, privilege, and power. But deep down it’s a fight over values.” The main tenets of the current crop of conservatives’ philosophy in congress, she said, “I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.”
Warren went on to list the beliefs at the core of the progressive political heart in 2014. After each one, the crowd cheered, and sometimes stood.
“We have to talk about what does it mean to be a progressive, an American.
“We believe Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.
“We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth, and we’re willing to fight for it.
“We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality, and we will fight for it.
“We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage, and we will fight for it.
“We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.
“We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt, and we will fight for it.
“We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions, and we will fight for it.
“We believe — and I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014 — we believe in equal pay for equal work, and we will fight for it.
“We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America, and we will fight for it.
“We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform, and we will fight for it.
“And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!
“Right here in this room this is where it happens. This is 21st century democracy. This is where we decide that we the people will fight for this together, and we’re going to win!”