Elizabeth Warren tells activists the system is rigged – it’s up to us to FIGHT (full speech)

  • Published on August 13th, 2017

Elizabeth Warren, the Progressive powerhouse senator from Massachusetts gave a rousing, upbeat, 31-minute speech in Atlanta at the Netroots Nation conference Saturday morning. And while she attacked the way the system is rigged, she has hope – because we’re fighting to fix it.

By Meteor Blades 

You can watch it all here (STARTING AT 47:00 into the video). Or you can read the full transcript below. Any transcription errors are mine.

Before i begin, i want to say a word about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, DACA.

The fights that we fight for, they matter. In 2012, because of the persistence of many of you in this room, 800,000 young men and women were protected from deportation. Because of you, because of your work, and because of DACA, dreamers who are as American as you are promised a chance to work and a chance to live without fear of being ripped away from family and friends. And, at the home most of them know, the chance to build a future.

And now, President Trump will make a decision on DACA. Dreamers’ future hangs in the balance. This Tuesday, August 15, people are mobilizing to protect dreamers. So, Let’s not sit back. Let’s stand together and say, President Trump, let dreamers stay! They are our friends, our family, and our future. Give dreamers the chance to fill their dream. That is what we want to do. [Strong applause]  Yeah. You bet. Yeah.

These fights matter, these fights matter, and that is why it is good to be back at a Netroots Nation. i love it. Thank you Mary and Eric and thank you Arshad and thank you the entire Netroots Nation’s team for bringing us together again.

You know, it is a great treat to be here in Atlanta, the hometown of a man who has taught us the importance of necessary trouble, my friend and my hero, John Lewis. What a man.

I look out in this room and I see 3000 progressives, people of every race, gender, religion, and color, all committed to building a better future. I look out here and I see Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. Yeaaah, Trump’s worst nightmare, but also a big threat to everyone who kind of likes things the way they work right now.

A few weeks ago, i read an op-ed in The New York Times from a so-called Democratic strategist, and the title was “Back to the center, Democrats.” [loud booing] Sounds like some other people read it, too.

It was all about how we have to stop caring about—quote—”identity politics.” And how we have to stop waging—quote— “class warfare.” According to this author, the path forward is to go back to locking up nonviolent drug offenders and ripping more holes in our economic safety net. I even got a shout-out. Apparently, I am the face of the problem. So is Bernie.

But let’s be really clear here. The real power, the real threat is not me. It’s you. All of you. Yeah. It is your energy, your passion, and your commitment to our values that threaten the bland business-as-usual establishment.

Now we have been warned off before. We have been told Give Up!, keep your heads down, act like a grown-up, keep doing the same old, same old.

Here is what is interesting. After this was published, instead of a lot of ferocious back and forth and piling on, this time, no one cared. Big yawn. Why? because the Democratic Party is not a going back to the days of welfare reform and of the crime bill. It is NOT going to happen.

Are we clear on that? We are not going to go back to the days of being lukewarm on choice. No, we’re not. We’re not going back to the time when universal health care was something for Democrats to talk about on the campaign trail, but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected. And we are definitely not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street.

Nope, we’re not going back. Democrats are headed forward. We are looking ahead and we will not, we shall not, we must not allow anyone to turn back the clock.

Now, a lot of you have been coming here since the very first Yearly Kos in 2006. i know that feels like a long time ago. Way back in 2006, and when I first came in 2010, a big part of what we were trying to do was to crash the gate and get the Democratic Party to listen to us. We wanted a party led by people who weren’t afraid to call themselves progressive. We wanted a party that would defend progressive values. We wanted a chance to fight for progressive solutions to our nation’s challenges. We wanted a movement, and now, look around, we got the progressive movement. We got it. We got it. We gather here every year to organize, to energize and to sing karaoke. You bet.

And now, we are not the gate crashers of today’s Democratic Party. We are not a wing of today’s Democratic Party. We are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

But, boy, we have inherited a hell of a challenge, haven’t we?

We are gathering here in Atlanta in a moment of crisis for our country. And I am not talking just about Donald Trump and his Twitter account. More and more families today are hanging on by their fingernails in a country with an economy and a government that works for those at the very top. This crisis did not start when a Donald Trump walked into the Oval Office, and it will not magically disappear when he walks out of it. It’s true.

Me, I have been shouting about this crisis from every rooftop i could find for years. talking about how our middle class is squeezed to the breaking point, how chances to move up in this economy are disappearing. and warning that if we are not careful […] the commitment to expand opportunity would be lost. That’s the fight that got me into politics. That’s the fight that brought to me to my very first Netroots all those years ago.

So, I want to ask a question. By applause, get your hands together there. Who got into this fight because they were passionate about economic justice? [applause] There we go. [applause] Who came to fight for reproductive rights? [applause] How about the clean air and clean water? [applause] How about immigration? [applause] Civil rights? [applause] Human rights? [applause] Antiwar. [applause] Campaign finance reform? [applause] […] Net neutrality? […] Do we have any other bankruptcy nerds in the house? One or two. My guys.

This is one of the things that i love about coming to Netroots. We all came to this fight from different experiences and we get fired up about different issues. But if we are going to be the people who lead the Democratic Party back from the wilderness and lead our country out of this dark time, then we can’t waste energy arguing about whose issues matter more and who in our life should be voted off the island.

We need to see each other’s fights as our own, and I believe we can.

You know, following the 2016 election i heard a lot of people say Democrats need to decide whether we are the party of the white working class or the party of Black Lives Matter. Well, I say, we can care about a dad who is worried that his kid will have to move away from the factory town to find a decent work AND we can care about a mom who is worried her kid will get shot during a traffic stop. [applause and cheers] The way i see it, those two parents have something deep down in a common. The system is rigged against both of them. And against their kids.

Over the last generation, the most powerful people in this country have gotten way more powerful. Corporate profits and CEO pay are near record highs. But workers’ wages? They haven’t budged and, one after another, workers’ rights are getting ripped away. Unions are under attack. Millions of people are struggling to piece together 2, 3, 4 jobs just to pay the rent. The balance of power is shifting in other parts of our economy too. […]

You know, in industry after industry, airline, banking, health care, aquaculture, tech, a handful of corporate giants control more and more and more. The big guys are locking out smaller, newer competitors. They’re crushing innovation. Even if you do not see the gears turning, this massive consolidation means prices go up and quality goes down for everything from air travel to broadband service. And rural America is left behind. Dismissed by corporate giants as flyover country.

This concentration of power strikes at the heart of our democracy. Our government is supposed to be the one place where everybody gets the same fair shot no matter how powerful or how powerless they might be. But thanks to the revolving door between Capitol Hill, K Street and Wall Street, powerful people have more and more and more influence in Congress.

Thanks to Citizens United, corporate money slithers through Washington like a snake. Washington works great for the rich and the powerful, but for everyone else, not so much.

Yes, the system is rigged. And if you do not feel like anybody in politics is doing anything to unrig it, well that’s how a lot of folks who should have been with us last November ended up voting for Donald Trump. For many Americans, it isn’t news that the balance of power in our country has tilted away from them. LGBTQ Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, poor people.

I have not personally experienced the fear, the oppression, the pain that many of my fellow Americans endure every day, but I do know this: for a lot of our fellow citizens, the system is rigged, and it has been for a long, long time.

Don’t just take my word for it. Look around. When women aren’t invited to the debate over our own health care … And health insurance must cover Viagra, but not birth control.

When we’re almost two decades into the 21st Century and we do still don’t have equal pay for equal work. When a man running for president of the United States can get caught on tape bragging about sexual assault and Republican Party leaders turn a blind eye, yeah, the system is rigged.

But keep going. When the black-white wealth gap triples over the last three decades. When racist voter ID laws and voter suppression tactics sprouted like weeds in this country. When a man too racist to become a judge in the 1980s is now the head of the Department of Justice [applause] [booing] When communities like fFint are living with poisoned water and polluted air. When there is still no justice for Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, and so many more. Yeah. The system is rigged.

And keep on going. When you can still be fired from your job because of who you love. When you cannot use a public restroom or serve in the military because of your gender identity. When you’re afraid to report a rape because ICE could be split up your family. When you’re treated like a suspect every minute of your life, yeah, the system is rigged.

And if you don’t feel like anyone in politics is doing anything to unrig it. Or you feel like it is too broken to unrig at all. Well, that is what a lot of folks felt last November. Folks who should have been with us on Election Day, but who just stayed home.

So spare me the argument about whether we ought to be trying to bring back folks who voted for Donald Trump, or trying to turn out votes who just did not vote. Because we can’t do either of those things until we show that things can change, and that we will fight to change them.

You know, it is easy to make the case that Donald Trump and the Republicans are not the answer to any of these problems. Heck, they aren’t even trying.

Just look at Republican priorities. Cut health care coverage for 25 million Americans. Cut taxes for billionaires in giant corporations. Roll back Wall Street regulations. Gut the Consumer Financial Bureau. And let the big banks wreck our economy again.

Turn polluters lose. To let them spew and dump and destroy whenever and whatever they want. Zero out the programs that help to keep a roof over their heads. Double down against Planned Parenthood, against undocumented immigrants’ rights for due process. and this week play a reckless game of chicken with a dangerous foreign power and threaten nuclear war.

The Republican agenda will make the powerful more powerful and leave everyone else further behind. The Republican leadership is willing to threaten our health, our economy, and our basic safety.

Now, all of that is true and we should say so clearly and loudly. But that is not the end of our job. we have to show people that when we get the chance to lead, things will start getting better. and that starts with showing some backbone, not just backbone when we stand up to Donald Trump, but backbone when we put forward our own agenda.

For many in here, every day is a battle against powerful entities, and it is time to pick sides and get into the fight. So, let’s talk about picking sides. Are you ready to talk about picking sides? It is time for us to say that Democrats are on the side of working people. yeah. On the side of moms and dads dreams of a better life for their kids. On the side of people in every part of this country and people of every race, gender, and religion who just want a level playing field and a chance to build a future. That is what they want.

And we know that we need to show them that their fight is our fight. Let’s start with jobs. It is time to rethink the basic social contract on labor. We are going to fight for fully portable benefits for everyone, and we are going to fight to make sure that all work, full-time, part-time, gig gets basic pro rata benefits.

We are going to fight to help workers come together to form a union so they can take power into their own hands. And we’re going to turn the minimal wage into a living wage, fight for $15. Yes. It is time for us to say the Democrats are on the side of hard-working families who are just getting counted every single day. We are going to fight for universal pre-K and to make it easier for every family to get childcare. We are going to fight like hell to stop Republicans from jacking up the cost of health care insurance and taking away health care for millions of people. Trumpcare will not get one Democratic vote, not now, not ever.

But it’s not enough just to defend the Affordable Care Act. We’re going to improve it starting with bringing down the cost of prescription drugs and leading the fight for Medicare for All. That is what we are going to do. And we’re going to make it possible for young people to go to college or get a technical degree debt-free. That is where we are. We’re going to fight for affordable housing and good schools all across the country, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns to the most remote, rural homesteads. And we will fight our hearts out to defend and expand the Social Security and Medicaid. Yes, we will.

It is time for us to say that the Democrats are on the side of consumers, so we will fight to break up the monopolies that are killing competition, yes. We are going to put a cop on the beat so no one can steal your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street. And whether you are shopping for broadband or student loans, or airline tickets or health insurance, we are going to go to bat for you to make sure you don’t get cheated. Another thing we need to say, but it is a little controversial, so i hope you’re sitting down or holding on to your neighbors, but we have to say it out loud in public: Democrats are on the side of science. […]

We are done arguing about whether climate change is real. […] We are done arguing about whether or not trickle-down economics works. And we are going to fight to build an economy so it works for working families. And we are done arguing about gun safety. We are going to fight for commonsense reforms that the overwhelming majority of Americans support.

It’s time for us to say, Democrats are on the side of fairness and equality. So we are going to fight for equal pay for equal work. We are going to fight to keep Planned Parenthood open, and we are going to make sure that women have access to safe, legal abortions. And we aregoing to fight to put more women in positions of power from committee rooms to board rooms to that really nice Oval-shaped office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We are going to reform our criminal justice system so that getting caught with a Baggie of pot does not mean that your life is ruined. And getting pulled over by the cops does not mean that your life is at risk.

It is time to say that Democrats are on the side of American values, so, we are going to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. We are going to say to every dreamer in this country, you are an American, this country is your home, and we have your back. That is what we are going to say.

We are going to fight to wipe the stain of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban off the books once and for all.  And by the way, Mr. President, we are never, ever going to build your stupid wall!

We are also going to fight for all democracy. That means we will fight to reverse Citizens United so big corporations can’t buy our elections. We will fight to stop the voter ID laws so that Republicans can’t steal our elections.

You know something? It is about time for us to be upfront about whose side we are NOT on. We are not on the side of big Wall Street banks that break the law and think everyone else needs to be held accountable. When big bank CEOs break the law, they ought to go to jail like anybody else. We are not on the side of giant corporations that want to twist government rules for themselves. […] We are going to slam shut the revolving door, and say, enough is enough with corporate money that is drowning out democracy.

And let’s be really clear on this one. just in case anyone doubted it. we are not on the side of the bigots and misogynists in the Republican leadership in Washington. We are not afraid to say it to their faces. We are not on the side of foreign government that hacked our elections, or politicians whose fragile egos put our national security at risk. and let’s be clear here. folks, we don’t have to tiptoe anymore. we don’t have to hedge our bets. we don’t have to ask  permission from the pundits or the corporate CEOs. And we sure don’t have to ask permission from Mitch McConnell. Actually, that’s probably a pretty good thing because he would probably tell me to sit down and shut up. Nevertheless, I would persist.

I need to make a really important point. We don’t have to fear the wrath of the powerful because when we are bold enough to stand up for our values, when we are bold enough to stand up for our fellow Americans, then that is when we are powerful. That is why we are here. That’s right.

So, isn’t that the spirit that brought all of us to this movement? Isn’t that the reason that we are proud to call ourselves progressives? Isn’t that the Democratic Party that we want to call our own? This fight is our fight. This fight is the fight Americans have been waiting for someone to take on. this is the fight that Americans are ready to rally behind. This fight is the fight that Americans are counting on us to win. This fight is my fight, this fight is your fight, so let’s go win this fight!

(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)

About the Author

Meteor Blades is a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos. He believes there is something profoundly wrong with our system. - the unchecked accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of a very small group of corporate business interests has contributed to the wholesale corruption of our political system. For an understanding about the level of corruption in our country, he encourages you to view these two PBS documentaries: (1). ,The Untouchables; (2) The United States of ALEC.