[ GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI and MADELINE CONWAY | November 10, 2016 |Politico]
With Hillary Clinton cast aside as the torchbearer for the Democratic Party, Elizabeth Warren is trying to pick up the flame.
Clearly aiming to provide Democrats with a path forward in the Donald Trump era, the progressive hero lit into the president-elect with her typical force during a hastily arranged speech at the AFL-CIO on Thursday afternoon, but she also insisted that Americans pay attention to his populist message.
The feeling that the speech at the labor behemoth’s executive council meeting was designed to break from Clinton’s Democratic Party, however, was unavoidable: The Massachusetts senator didn’t mention Clinton once, despite supporting and campaigning for her in the general election.
“This wasn’t a pretty election. In fact, it was ugly, and we should not sugarcoat the reason why,” Warren said toward the beginning of her address. “Donald Trump ran a campaign that started with racial attacks and then rode the escalator down. He encouraged a toxic stew of hatred and fear. He attacked millions of Americans. And he regularly made statements that undermined core values of our democracy.”
But she insisted that leaders must be more in tune with the unrest in America. “There are millions of people who did not vote for Donald Trump because of the bigotry and hate that fueled his campaign rallies. They voted for him despite hate. They voted for him out of frustration and anger — and also out of hope that he would bring change.”
Warren’s comments land at an era-defining inflection points for both parties. Republicans — long expecting to be consumed by their own civil war at this point — watched closely as Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence came to Washington for meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Democrats, meanwhile, are desperately in search of a leader for their own party, now that President Barack Obama is on his way out and Clinton appears poised to disappear. And on Wednesday night, droves of young Democrats took to the streets in major cities to protest Trump’s election.
While party leaders spent Wednesday morning in shock and began in the afternoon and early Thursday to try to determine who the next Democratic National Committee chair should be, Warren mentioned many of Democrats’ most important base constituencies in her speech — except for labor, suggesting the address was pulled together before the venue was selected.
Still, she is likely to face major resistance from more centrist parts of the party in her apparent attempt to be a face for its future: Her anti-Wall Street rhetoric has worried some Democrats who are wary of skewing too far to the left.
Insisting that Trump’s message won while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s ways of doing business were rejected on Tuesday — because Democrats picked up seats in both chambers — Warren promised to be a leading force in resisting Republican efforts to decrease regulation of financial institutions, gut Obamacare or “force through massive tax breaks” on the wealthy.
“We do not control the tools of government, but make no mistake, we know what we stand for,” she said. “The sun will keep rising, and we will keep fighting.”
And, she added, Democrats’ first task must be rejecting pieces of Trump’s campaign.
“We will stand up to bigotry. No compromises on this one, ever. In all its forms, we will fight back against attacks on Latinos, African-Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants, disabled Americans — on anyone. Whether Donald Trump sits in a glass tower or sits in the White House, we will not give an inch on this,” she said. “Not now, not ever.”
Still, she suggested she is open to working with Trump on some matters, like reforming trade policies, improving infrastructure, and addressing college and child care costs, urging him to commit to those causes and insisting that his election and both primaries show voters want change in Washington.
“When President-elect Trump wants to take on these issues, when his goal is to increase the economic security of the middle-class families, then count me in. I will put aside our differences, and I will work with him to accomplish that goal,” she said. “I offer to work as hard as I can and to pull as many people as I can into this effort.”