Speaking from a classroom in a temporarily shuttered early learning center in Springfield, Senator Elizabeth Warren ticked off a list of reasons to support Joe Biden in his quest for the presidency.
“I love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans,” she said in a speech Wednesday night during the Democratic National Convention. “Plans to bring back union jobs in manufacturing and create new union jobs in clean energy. Plans to increase Social Security benefits, cancel billions in student loan debt, and make our bankruptcy laws work for families instead of the creditors who cheat them.”
Left unsaid was that they were her plans first.
In her five-minute speech — her third star turn at the party’s convention — Warren sought to fire up progressives for the broad coalition Biden is seeking to build by extolling his willingness to embrace ideas she has long supported.
“Big problems demand big solutions,” she said, launching into a signature riff about her experience as a young mother that highlighted Biden’s support for another key component of her presidential platform: universal child care.
The appearance cemented Warren’s status as a kind of policy conscience for liberal Democrats, following a summer in which she quietly advised Biden on policy while he considered her for his running mate.
But it also underscored the delicate construct of the broad tent Biden and his supporters are seeking to erect, one that encompasses ideas from liberal firebrands such as Warren while also appealing directly to moderate Republicans disillusioned with Trump.
Warren’s speech came on the heels of two nights of programming that left some progressives incensed that Republicans, including John Kasich, the former Ohio governor, and Colin Powell, secretary of state to George W. Bush, were given more prominent speaking slots than liberal stars Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia.
“The risk is that they’re seen — and what they’re saying on the stage — is seen as a middle finger to the people that the Democratic Party are going to rely on to make the phone calls, to send the text messages, to contribute the small dollar donations,” Neil Sroka, of the progressive group Democracy for America, said of the Republicans featured at the convention.
Warren shot to prominence after the 2008 financial crisis as a fierce critic of Wall Street — and of politicians of both parties who she felt had enabled its greed.
More recently, she has fashioned herself as a bridge between the party’s progressive left and its moderate wing — a role that failed to get her the nomination but that she is now hoping will be useful as the party seeks to unite against President Trump.
“She’s a great bridge between the progressive and more moderate wings of the party,” said Julian Castro, the former US housing secretary who ended his presidential campaign in January and endorsed her. “This is an all-hands-on-deck election for Democrats. We know we can’t take anything for granted.”
Warren’s speech Wednesday night further enshrined the improbable alliance between her and Biden, erstwhile rivals who first clashed over bankruptcy rules in the early 2000′s, when Warren was still an academic, and sometimes lobbed fierce criticism at each other when they were both running for president.
It was also the latest effort by Democrats to present a tightly united front.
“Joe’s plan to ‘build back better’ includes making the wealthy pay their fair share, holding corporations accountable, repairing racial inequities, and fighting corruption in Washington,” Warren said, focusing again on where Biden’s ideas overlap with her own.
Warren focused more on making the affirmative case for Biden than on attacking Trump — a role she relished during the 2016 campaign. But she used the empty classroom behind her to depict Trump’s response to the pandemic as bumbling and ineffective.
“This crisis is on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him,” she said. “On November 3, we hold them all accountable.”
And, in what may have been a nod to the progressive energy that has mobilized to tug Biden to the left on a litany of issues, she seemed to acknowledge her supporters would have more work to do no matter what happens this fall.
“And after November, we all need to stay in the fight,” she said, “to get big things done.”
The speech was her third at the Democratic National Convention. In 2012, introducing former president Bill Clinton, Warren electrified the crowd with her anti-Wall Street battle cry: “The system is rigged.” Four years later, she continued that theme in a keynote address, urging progressives— many of whom angry over the defeat of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — to vote for Hillary Clinton, or risk sending Trump to the White House.
“When we turn on each other, we can’t fight back against that rigged system,” Warren said.
She is nothing if not consistent; she returned to the theme again Wednesday, this time in service of Biden.
“These plans reflect a central truth,” she said, of the proposals Biden has embraced, “Our economic system has been rigged to give bailouts to billionaires and kick dirt in the fact of everyone else.”
Wednesday’s appearance was also her most personal. She used the setting — the Early Childhood Education Center in Springfield, which has been closed because of COVID-19 — to draw attention to the importance of child care and her hard-won understanding of its importance.
Standing in front of children’s artwork and blocks spelling out the initials for “Black Lives Matter,” as well as her own campaign slogan, “Dream Big Fight Hard,” Warren recalled how, as a young mother, shejuggled her job as a professor and responsibilities as a mother.
Warren described telling her Aunt Bee that she was thinking of quitting her job because of a lack of reliable child care.
“Then she said the words that changed my life: “I can’t get there tomorrow, but I’ll come on Thursday.”
“She arrived with seven suitcases and a Pekingese named Buddy and stayed for 16 years. I get to be here tonight because of my Aunt Bee,” Warren continued. “I learned a fundamental truth: Nobody makes it on their own.”
Warren said Biden and his vice presidential nominee, California Senator Kamala Harris, would “make high-quality child care affordable for every family, make preschool universal, and raise the wages for every child-care worker.”