Senator Elizabeth Warren had a rare opportunity to bring her presidential campaign to a national audience on Monday night when she took part in a town hall-style event televised by CNN. Previous participants of the CNN series have drawn huge viewership or enjoyed a fund-raising boost, so the event came with high stakes.
Here are four themes Warren touched on during her town hall before a largely friendly audience:
She called for abolishing the Electoral College
Returning to a familiar theme, Warren hammered voter supression tactics, describing a need to “repeal every one of the voter suppression laws that is out there,” but she went further Tuesday and called for the end of the Electoral College for the first time.
“You know come a general election, presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi. They also don’t come to places like California and Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states. But my view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College,” Warren said to applause. “I think everybody ought to have to come and ask for your vote.”
She stopped short of commiting to reparations for slavery
Warren has spoken frequently of racial discrimination during her campaign stops, and she was asked about the issue multiple times during Monday’s town hall. In response to a question about making a public apology for slavery, Warren brought up the idea of reparations.
“America was founded on principles of liberty and freedom, and on the backs of slave labor. This is a stain on America. And we’re not going to fix that we’re not going to change it until we address it head on,” she said. “So I believe it’s time to start the national, full-blown conversation about reparations in this country.”
Warren said she supported a congressional panel to study the issue, but stopped short of endorsing the idea completely. When pressed by host Jake Tapper on whether she would commit to a monetary transfer to historically oppressed populations, including African-Americans and Native Americans, she demurred and said “there are a lot of ways to think about how reparations should be formed.”
Elizabeth Warren says there needs to be a national conversation about reparations and calls for a congressional commission to study the issue, but does not commit to direct payments, explaining there are a lot of ways to do it. #WarrenTownHall https://t.co/pPFMVywETf pic.twitter.com/omtAk2JaNR— CNN (@CNN) March 19, 2019
She opened up about her religious beliefs
Asked about the role religion has played in her life, Warren discussed her Methodist upbringing and highlighted a famous Bible passage that she said helps guide her every day.
The story she cited describes a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats, with the sheep going to heaven as a reward for their treatment of the least among them.
Warren told a rapt audience that she drew a number of lessons from the passage.
“What I hear in that is two things that guide me every day. The first is that there is God, there is value, in every single human being. And the second is that we are called to action,” she said. “[The passage] does not say, ‘you just didn’t hurt anybody and that’s good enough.’ It says, ‘you saw something wrong, you saw somebody who was thirsty, you saw somebody who was in prison, you saw their face, you saw somebody who was hungry, and it moved you to act.’ I believe we are called to act.”
She called for combating white supremacy with the same urgency as defeating ISIS
In the wake of a mass shooting that killed 49 people praying in two New Zealand mosques, as well as a spike in hate crimes following Donald Trump’s election here in the US, combating the rise of white supremacy has taken on a new urgency. Warren argued the threat of white nationalism should be treated the same as threats from ISIS and Al Qaeda.
“It starts with the fact that we’ve got to recognize the threat posed by white nationalism,” Warren said in response to a question about how she would unite the country.
“And that means you’ve got to call it out. Then when you’ve called it out, as president of the United States, you’ve got to use the tools available to you,” including the Justice Department, Waren said.
Elizabeth Warren: "White supremacists pose a threat to the United States just like any other terrorist group — like ISIS, like al Qaeda. And leadership starts at the top and that means you’ve got to call it out." #WarrenTownHall https://t.co/BtPhvujnVL pic.twitter.com/fF2Om6kh1g— CNN (@CNN) March 19, 2019