Elizabeth Warren Says Economic Populism Drove Democratic Wins

The Massachusetts senator said the party needs to “go on offense” on economic issues.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a speech on Wednesday crediting economic populism as a key driver of Democrats’ surprisingly strong midterm performance and arguing the party needs to focus even more on the issue in the future to win.

“A lot of people were surprised by last week’s results. Not me,” Warren said in a speech at EconCon, a gathering of progressive economic activists and thinkers in Washington, according to excerpts released by her office ahead of the speech.

“The 2022 midterms prove that Democrats can beat Republican extremism by fighting for working people and making our democratic values clear,” she planned to say.

Economic issues, especially record-high inflation, were expected to be the driving force behind a Republican red wave. Instead, Democrats aired more television ads on so-called “kitchen table issues” than Republicans did in the months leading up to the election and were able to convince voters they could empathize with families struggling to get ahead, even if Republicans still held an advantage on economic issues.

Warren campaigned for a number of vulnerable Democratic candidates during the midterms, appearing with Oregon Gov.-elect Tina Kotek, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan in the final weeks of the campaign.

Warren’s speech amounts to a review of President Joe Biden’s first two years in office, a tenure she argues could have been more successful without the small number of Democratic senators ― an allusion to Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona ― who refused to eliminate the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority requirement and held up the president’s agenda.

Warren specifically noted Democratic opposition killed the president’s plans to lower the cost of housing and child care.

“A few Democrats blocked much of the president’s agenda for working families,” Warren said in her prepared remarks. “They torpedoed the president’s plan to reverse the Trump tax giveaways. 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.”

She lavished praise on Biden, her one-time 2020 presidential primary rival, for defying “the predictions of Washington insiders, lobbyists, and pundits” and “presid[ing] over the best midterm elections for the party in power in 20 years.”

“They understand we can’t solve every problem in two years, 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.”

- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

“The president made smart personnel choices,” Warren said in the excerpted remarks, returning to one of her favorite themes: the need to staff government with progressives. “Instead of surrounding himself with an economic team that believed that government’s principal job was to deliver an economy that benefitted big banks, well-heeled corporations and the fancy lobbyists who strut around Washington like they own the place, Joe Biden picked advisers and regulators who understood that the goal of his Administration was to deliver for working families.”

Warren also continued her recent broadsides against the Federal Reserve, arguing the agency is artificially manufacturing an economic slowdown.

In the speech, Warren painted the re-nomination of Jerome Powell to head the Fed as little more than a GOP plot to sabotage the economy, something she warns both Powell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) will try to do.

“When they couldn’t tarnish the Biden economic agenda from Congress, Powell was their best shot to do it from the Fed ― and make no mistake, they nearly succeeded in causing enough economic harm to win big last week,” Warren said in the excerpt, adding: “The president offered the Powell nomination as an olive branch to Republicans. The Republican response was to break the branch in half, set it on fire, and then spend hundreds of millions of dollars attacking the president for Powell’s interest rate decisions, arguing that Biden is responsible for families’ pain.”

The Massachusetts senator also reiterated her call for Congress to pass legislation lifting the debt ceiling in the lame duck, arguing Democrats will pay little political price for doing so and Republicans will try to sabotage the economy if they do not.

“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,” Warren’s speech reads. “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.”

Warren ended her speech with a call for Democrats to pass legislation addressing child care and housing costs ― an unlikely prospect, considering the party’s meager majority in the Senate and likely loss of the House of Representatives. But she argued it does not hurt to try.

“They understand we can’t solve every problem in two years, but they want to see us giving it all we’ve got,” she said in the prepared remarks. “And if we get a little bloody, at least no one doubts where we stand.”

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