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President Obama gave a terrific State of the Union speech last night. His message was broadly progressive in a wide variety of ways, really focused on economic issues which will help low and middle income families, which was great to see. I was especially delighted by his announcement of a new executive order raising the minimum wage for workers who work for federal contractors, which is an issue that the organization I chair, American Family Voices (AFV), has helped champion. This is long overdue, but I am so happy the President has made this decision. It will improve those millions of low wage workers’ lives, it will improve the way government operates, and it will boost the economy because those workers will have more spending money.

Because everyone else in the political world will be writing about the SOTU today, I am going to write about another political leader, Elizabeth Warren, who I think is creating a new kind of progressive politics that will have a major impact on American politics for years to come.  

Most politicians spend most of their speeches telling people all about themselves: the bills they want to sponsor, how effective they are, how courageous they are in standing up to somebody or another. It gets old pretty fast. But some political leaders follow a different path, wherein they turn from talking about “me” and instead talk about “we”. They believe in building a movement that will change things rather than just bragging about themselves and furthering their own careers, and because of that they do actually start changing things.

That’s what Elizabeth Warren does; that is who she is. Long before she became a Senator or public official, she was a fierce advocate for consumers and working families who had been chewed up and spit out by the financial (and political) system. She came up out of the movement of activists who wanted to help rebuild the middle class, and make it easier for young and poor people to climb the ladder into that middle class. And she still believes in that movement.

That passion for advocacy was on full display last week at an event in New York that AFV proudly hosted. This was the first big event Warren has spoken at outside of MA or DC since her election, so we were excited she agreed to come to New York for us. But we wanted to do an event that wasn’t just about helping one organization. We wanted an event that would help strengthen the entire progressive cause. Our co-hosts included a wide array of national and New York community organizations, online groups, unions, and issue advocates, and we were delighted to have them all involved. It was the breadth and depth and diversity of the progressive world fully on display, and the crowd was rocking: a sold-out, overflow-seating, people hanging from the rafters, boisterous, excited audience thrilled to be there. Other speakers included our MC Rashad Robinson from Color of Change, New York City Public Advocate Tish James, The Nation magazine’s publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, and NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. With a great band playing early and late, it was a progressive party done up the way it should be.

As you can see from the video below of the highlights of her speech, Warren gave an incredibly powerful and passionate speech, focused on the progressive movement and helping middle and low income Americans who are getting squeezed economically by the powers that be. She begins by talking about winning our battles together by building a movement, and she ends by showing her commitment to the issues and for struggling working families that gets the crowd on their feet in response. In her incredibly powerful closing, Elizabeth shows as much emotion as I have ever seen her show in a public speech, as she talks about how much it hurts her to think and talk about the people she has met who are being crushed by the economic forces they are facing. But, she says, it also “makes me madder than hell”. And then she talks about how “our time has come” and “we have found our voice”. It is powerful stuff.

The kind of politics Elizabeth Warren represents is at its heart a moral kind of politics. She doesn’t worry about party politics, as she has always taken on the powers-that-be of both political parties. She doesn’t shy away from a tough fight, instead she has always been willing to push for what is right no matter how powerful the lobbyists on the other side are. And it was fitting that the event we did with her was in a church, because the politics she preaches are deeply moral - the politics not of right and left, but of right and wrong.

She has become an icon for an important new kind of politics, a political movement focused less on the size of government than on, as she talks about in her speech, which side is our government on, everyday people or the rich and powerful. Her willingness to hold both big business and government officials accountable when the playing field is tilted in favor of wealthy special interests is something that has been all too rare in modern American politics, and it is the reason so many people are responding to her the way the crowd in that New York City church was.

And it isn’t just activists who are responding: she is remarkably effective, especially for a first year Senator. It is clear that her calls for tougher Wall Street prosecution drove the bigger, tougher settlements JP Morgan and other bankers have had to agree to in the last year. Larry Summers would be the Fed Chair if it wasn’t for her. Her speech on Social Security was a major factor in taking discussion of Social Security cuts off the table for the time being. And her passionate pursuit of a higher minimum wage have helped create the atmosphere that led to President Obama’s executive order and focus on the issue in his SOTU.

What AFV is seeking to build is a broad national movement around this brand of politics. We want to help Elizabeth Warren and other progressive allies take on the powers that be and fight the good fight for the American people no matter who is on the other side. When she said that “our time has come”, I believe she was right, but only if we join her in the battle. When she said “we have found our voice”, she wasn’t talking about her being the voice of progressives, she was saying we all have to find our voice and join this movement.  Join is in that fight by signing up on our website, and enjoy watching Elizabeth Warren at her best. Watch to the end, it is amazing.

Originally posted to Mike Lux on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 09:59 AM PST.

Also republished by Ready for Warren.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hillary, what say you? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Banach MacAmbrais

    I'm in the Henry Wallace part of the Democratic Party.

    by CTDemoFarmer on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 10:20:47 AM PST

  •  People who support Warren politics have a choice (4+ / 0-)

    To support her against the Rising Clinton Electorate of grasstops - or not.
    I'll be Ready for Warren myself.

  •  This is what Obama should have said. (10+ / 0-)

    Time to drive a stake through the failed policies of the last 35 years.   We need a revolution, and I think Warren, Grayson, Brown and Sanders should wage it in the House and Senate.   Just say no to SNAP cuts and all the rest of the bull shit.   Time to draw a line in the sand.    

    What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

    by dkmich on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 10:49:30 AM PST

  •  I am with Jeremy Scahill on this: (6+ / 0-)
    You know, I think that there—you know, the State of the Union address, historically, is sort of propaganda. And I think that there was, on the issue of foreign policy, a radical disconnect between what the president was publicly projecting with his remarks and what his policies actually amount to on the ground. You know, it was significant, I think. Obama, I believe, is the first president in history to use the word "drone" during a State of the Union speech, and he said that he has restricted the use of drones to cases only when it’s prudent. And yet, a month ago, a drone strike in Yemen on December 12th wiped out a wedding party and massacred people in Yemen. Now, it’s being investigated by the U.S. government, but why did that strike happen? What kind of an intelligence failure or breakdown led to the killing of these civilians? A few days ago, the U.S. bombed Somalia. The U.S. is increasingly involved in covert operations in Mali. In Iraq, the CIA is ramping up its paramilitary activity. In Afghanistan, when the president says we’re going to draw down and we’re going to focus on the counterterrorism mission, what they really mean is these hunt-kill squads that come from the military’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA’s paramilitary division.

    What I thought was significant also is what wasn’t mentioned in the speech—Egypt, where the U.S. is backing a dictator in General Sisi and supported a coup by not labeling it a coup when General Sisi went on television and said the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, is no longer president, and the U.S. refused to label it a coup because then it would have been required to cut off military assistance to Egypt, which is of strategic importance to not only this White House, but to the U.S. government writ large. So, Central African Republic was not mentioned, where there is a horrifying situation playing out with massacres left and right inside of that country. And Pakistan wasn’t mentioned, a place where the U.S. continues to engage in a covert war with very, very high stakes. So, I think while the president is saying he doesn’t want the U.S. to be on a permanent war footing, everything his administration has done on a counterterrorism or national security level, especially with the assassination czar, John Brennan, has been to ensure that the U.S. is going to continue to embrace assassination, covert operations as a central component of its national security policy.

    And finally, President Obama addressed the issue of the National Security Agency and tried to reassure the public, "Hey, we’re not spying on you." And yet, he has done nothing to hold James Clapper accountable for the perjury that he committed in front of the United States Congress, and at the same time is jailing and prosecuting whistleblowers. The fact of the matter is, if you read the stories that have come out via Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and others documenting the abuses of the National Security Agency against Americans and non-Americans alike, this is a major scandal, and we would not be debating it if it wasn’t for Edward Snowden. And I think it’s telling that the heads of the CIA’s torture programs and people like Donald Rumsfeld, who is a war criminal, are on a book tour, while Edward Snowden is in exile, and Thomas Drake, former NSA official, had his career ruined, and John Kiriakou, former CIA operative, was sent to federal prison after he had blown the whistle on aspects of the waterboarding program.

    The U.S. and Israel are belligerent terrorist states. War crimes, large jailed populations, international law breaking, and massive propaganda are a few of the weapons used to crush any chance at peace.

    by Ipracticedissent on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 10:59:09 AM PST

  •  I ♥ EW (6+ / 0-)

    “Hardworking men and women who are busting their tails in full-time jobs shouldn't be left in poverty.” -- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 11:19:52 AM PST

  •  Oh, to have her in the White House. (5+ / 0-)

    I can dream, can't I?

  •  It is hard to believe that she'd resist a draft if (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the alternative is HRC. EW feels this in her soul.
    HRC is a corporate sell-out & I'm not going to vote for her.

    Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.-J. Toobin "New Yorker"

    by chuck utzman on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 12:14:16 PM PST

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