Elizabeth Warren

Liberty and Justice Dinner - Nov. 1, 2019

Elizabeth Warren
November 01, 2019— Des Moines, Iowa
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Hello Iowa! I’m here to talk about something that people all across Iowa and all across America know down deep in their bones: our democracy has been hijacked by the rich and the powerful. They make it work for themselves, and they leave everyone else behind. We see it every time a corporate executive threatens to cut pay and move jobs overseas. We see it every time an insurance company denies treatment and denies access to the doctors that people trust. We see it when a criminal justice system tears apart black and brown families. And the list goes on: people crushed by student loan debt. We see it over and over. We see it when a gun industry prevents any vote on sensible legislation that could save the lives of our children. We see it when an oil industry continues to drill and calls all of the shots in Washington. That is corruption, plain and simple, and we need to be willing to call it out for what it is. If we’re going to meet the big challenges of our time, then it’s going to take big structural change and that starts with you, Iowa.

You know, a lot of people are afraid of big structural change. Afraid because they’re already rich and powerful and they may lose influence. Afraid because they’ve built lives sucking up to those who are rich and the powerful. Afraid because they see an America where they won’t be able to make the changes they need. Afraid because they are either too cynical or too downtrodden to believe that change is possible. Well, not me! I believe in change and I know we can get it done. And why do I know we can get it done? Because I’ve done it.

So I want to tell you a story about a toaster. Back when I was a young mom, toasters could actually set houses on fire. Really. Those little toaster ovens didn’t have a shut off switch, so you could put in the bread, hear the baby cry, leave the room and come back, and your toast would literally be in flames, sometimes along with the kitchen curtains and kitchen cabinets as well. And then a federal agency stepped in and said “Enough! You can’t sell toasters in America that can have a one in five chance of burning down your house.” Done! No more toaster fires. By the early 2000s, mortgages in this country had gotten so complicated and so dangerous that they had a one in five chance of costing a family their home, not because of fire, but because of foreclosure. Only this time, the federal government was not on the side of the families, it was deep in the pockets of the big banks. In fact, so deep in the pocket of the big banks that they permitted millions of those mortgages to be sold and they crashed our economy. That was 2008. So I had an idea. And the idea was a consumer agency that would protect people when they got mortgages or credit cards or payday loans the same way that other consumer agency had protected people when they bought toasters.

So here’s the deal. I went to Washington and I tried to talk to everybody I could about this idea. And they told me two things. Almost everyone I talked to said the same two things. First: That is a great idea. You could make a real difference. That’s structural change, yes! And the second thing was don’t even try. Big money, the big banks, they will fight you. The Republicans will fight you. A bunch of the Democrats will fight you. You will never get this done. I get it: Big, structural change is hard. But it was the right thing to do. So we took on Wall Street, we took on the big money, and we won. And that little consumer agency has now forced the big banks to return more than $12B directly to people they cheated.We know how to make government work for the people.

So, what did I learn from this fight? I learned that, notwithstanding what the billionaires will tell you, what Big Ag or Big Banking or Big Pharma will tell you, that if we're going to meet the challenges of our time, we need big ideas. Big ideas. Big ideas to inspire people and get them out to caucus and get them out to vote. Big ideas to be the lifeblood of our party and show the world who and what Democrats will fight for. Big ideas to take back the Senate and put Mitch McConnell out of a job. We need big ideas AND, here’s the critical part, we need to be willing to fight for them. It’s easy to give up on a big idea. But when we give up on big ideas, we give up on the people whose lives would be touched by those ideas.

And those people are already in a fight. People who are struggling to pay their medical bills are already in a fight. People who are crushed by student loan debt are already in a fight. People who are denied the chance to vote or stopped by the police because of the color of their skin are already in a fight. And those fights are all our fights. Look, anyone who comes on this stage and doesn’t understand that we’re already in a fight is not the person who is going to win that fight. Anyone who comes on this stage and tells you they can make change without a fight, is not going to win that fight. Anyone who comes on this stage and tells you to dream small and give up early is not going to lead our party to victory. This is a time of crisis, and media pundits, Washington insiders, even some people in our own party don’t want to admit it. They think that running some vague campaign that nibbles around the edges is somehow safe. But if the most we can promise is “business as usual” after Donald Trump, then Democrats will lose. We win when we offer solutions big enough to touch the problems that are in people’s lives. Fear and complacency does not win elections; hope and courage wins elections. I’m not running some consultant-driven campaign with some vague ideas that are designed not to offend anyone. I’m running a campaign based on a lifetime of fighting for working families. I’m running a campaign from the heart. Because 2020 is our time in history. 2020 is our time to win the fight for a Green New Deal and save this planet. 2020 is our time to win this fight for Medicare for All and save our people. 2020 is our time to win the fight for a 2-cent wealth tax and invest in a whole generation. 2020 is our time in history. Our time to dream big, fight hard and win.