Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren electrified the crowd at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night with her trademark feisty rhetoric and populism, casting Wall Street and big oil as villains while praising President Obama as a defender of the middle class.
“The system is rigged,” Warren told delegates packed into the Time Warner Cable Arena. “Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in profits. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. And Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”
Teeing up the night’s capstone speech delivered by former President Clinton, the Democratic senate candidate and Harvard professor had the crowd on its feet before she opened her mouth.
Warren sought to depict a stark contrast between the president’s defense of the middle class and Mitt Romney’s economic policies in the November election while steering away from resentment, offering a story of her own hardscrabble upbringing and speaking of the business owners she met across Massachusetts. “These folks don't resent that someone else makes more money. We're Americans. We celebrate success. We just don't want the game to be rigged,” she said.
But she didn’t mince words about the GOP hopeful. “Mitt Romney? He wants to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. But for middle-class families who are hanging on by their fingernails? His plans will hammer them with a new tax hike of up to $2,000.”
She continued, “The Republican vision is clear: ‘I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ”
Warren echoed first lady Michelle Obama’s comments on opportunity, delivered during prime time on the convention’s first night. “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed,” Obama said of her husband’s belief on Tuesday.
Picking up the theme, Warren said, “President Obama believes in a country where we invest in education, in roads and bridges, in science, and in the future, so we can create new opportunities, so the next kid can make it big, and the kid after that, and the kid after that,” she said. But it was delivered in blunter tones. “We build it together,” she said referring to Obama’s vision for the economy—and a nod to his now-famous “You didn’t build that” remarks on government involvement in businesses last fall that have become a Romney campaign talking point. The crowd cheered.
Warren's tone was far more combative than the one that Obama is likely to use on Thursday night when he delivers his speech accepting the Democratic nomination. Obama has at times pushed a populist message, most notably in a speech in December when he echoed Teddy Roosevelt in calling for greater economic fairness. But wary of being cast by Republicans as antibusiness, he often steers clear of harsh criticisms of corporate interests.
Warren was named by Obama to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was her brainchild and was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to crack down on financial fraud. She is unpopular with many Republicans but is a rock star to many in the Democratic base.
Warren is currently running a tight race for Senate in Massachusetts against Republican incumbent Scott Brown. She kicked off her speech with a “special shout out” to the delegates from Massachusetts, calling on them to help both her and Obama win. Tonight’s speech could boost her odds. The crowd was roaring when she left the stage.