WASHINGTON — With much of the Democrats’ legislative agenda stalled last spring and prices climbing, Senator Elizabeth Warren went on a media tour predicting they were going to get clobbered unless they got something done and stopped hiding from inflation.
Now, after a midterm election that saw her party hold off a Republican wave and even flip some tough House and Senate seats, her assessment has gotten sunnier: Democrats’ economic message is working.
“Democrats won because we delivered for working people,” Warren said in an interview on Thursday that was something of a victory lap after she campaigned for Democrats in key swing states. She added that, once her party “finally” began to confront inflation more directly and pushed to pass legislation holding down Obamacare health insurance premiums and capping insulin costs for Medicare recipients, it set itself up for success in the midterms.
“The Republicans,” she said, “had nothing.”
With vote-counting still underway in crucial contests, it’s not clear who will control the House or the Senate next year. But Democrats who fought off disaster in a difficult political year are interpreting the results as a win, and crediting their approach to the economy — something Republicans assailed them on for months — with helping them win key contests.
“The overwhelming majority of the American people support the elements of my economic agenda,” President Biden said during a news conference on Wednesday. “I’m confident these policies are working and that we’re on the right path, and we need to stick with them.”
It’s not clear whether the midterm results actually are a validation of Democrats’ economic approach, or whether they merely found ways to overcome weakness on the issue by motivating voters to cast ballots based on other concerns such as abortion and democracy. According to exit polling conducted by CNN, more voters who said they were most concerned about inflation backed Republicans than Democrats.
But Warren said that it wasn’t an “either-or” on pressing issues, and that Democrats made that clear.
“There’s not a bright line between talking about abortion and talking about economic issues. They are both about people who are trying to build stable futures,” she said.
And did student loan relief, which Warren pressed Biden to authorize, help Democrats win?
“Absolutely,” Warren said. “When Joe Biden stands up and says, ‘I’m going to bring some relief here,’ and Republicans fight to stop that, millions of people with student loan debt take notice.”
In the interview, she urged Democrats to pursue three key policies in the next two years. Those are universal child care, a progressive priority that fell out of the the social spending package Democrats passed this summer; stronger antitrust laws aimed at price-gouging by large corporations; and incentives to expand the availability of housing. But she acknowledged that will be difficult if Republicans seize control of one or both chambers of Congress after all the votes are counted.
“I’d like to see us push the legislative agenda, although I recognize it would be an uphill slog with Republicans in control of either house,” Warren said, urging Democrats to try to force votes on their economic agenda whenever possible.
“They should have to say in public, out loud, here are the things that the American people really like, but that Republicans are blocking,” Warren said. “I think that’s part of how we won this time, and it should guide us going forward.”
Warren’s loud warnings for her party earlier this year, and her clear outlining of an economic agenda, have sparked some speculation that she might be interested in a job other than the one she currently holds. She ran for president in 2020, but failed to win any of the key early states.
Now, there are only two years left in Warren’s term. In the interview, she said her plan to seek a third term has not changed.
“Joe Biden is running for president and I’m supporting him. I’m running for Senate here in Massachusetts,” she said, “and I’ll ask the people of the Commonwealth to help me with that.”