On Call With Elizabeth Warren

By Ravenne Reid on February 28, 2017

One of the most popular women to come out of the 2016 election cycle — perhaps even more so than the Democratic presidential candidate — is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Commonly referred to as the “female Bernie Sanders,” Senator Warren became one of the key players in revamping what it means to be a progressive Democrat. Her stance on issues that range from taking down Wall Street to implementing universal single-payer healthcare is an integral part in her goal of being a champion for the often overlooked and burdened middle-class.

On February 21, CREDO Action, a mobile phone company with an affinity for liberal activism, sponsored a conference call with the Senator to address constituents’ concerns regarding the Trump administration. She, too, had her misgivings about the incoming cabinet and attempted to read a letter in which Coretta Scott King had disclosed her concerns about Senator Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s pick for Attorney General.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to become a federal judge to the District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. However, instances of his past indicated that he was not only a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer but also an adversary of civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). King criticized the nomination because she was certain that Sessions would undo a majority of the progress that her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., had achieved before his assassination.

In the letter, King stated, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”

As a result, Sessions was deemed “too racist” to be appointed as a federal judge. This is, essentially, the point that Senator Warren was trying to make: a person who was once reproved for his bigoted views should not serve as attorney general. In the midst of her recitation of the letter, Warren was silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the grounds that she violated Rule XIX, which states, “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator … any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

Although Warren was no longer allowed to debate Sessions’ nomination on the floor — as per Senate rules — she persisted. Instead, she recited the letter on Facebook Live, and the video received over 6 million views. Warren’s endeavors earned her a top spot on Twitter’s trending topics for the remainder of the night, in which Senator McConnell’s own words were used against him. Users captioned photos of heroic women with the quote in an effort to show that breaking the rules can, sometimes, lead to necessary and positive change.

If Warren was given the opportunity to continue, then it is possible that Senate Republicans would not have faced accusations that they silenced a woman deliberately, but they also would have realized that Senator Sessions’ past may catch up to him in the future. Nonetheless, he was confirmed by the Senate in a 52 to 46 vote.

Of course, this is not the first nor the last time that Democrats will be defeated by members of the president’s party. While President Trump is in office, it is imperative that progressive Democrats like Senator Warren, who was one of his most outspoken critics before the election, strive to keep the party hopeful and unified. Some may argue that left-wingers inside and outside of Washington are showing signs of being quite the opposite, but others may question how Warren will keep Democrats from becoming fearful. Well, for one, she will not hesitate to answer their questions.

At precisely 9:00 p.m., CREDO Action contacted those who RSVP’d via email. Heidi Hess, a senior campaign manager for CREDO, greeted us in a welcoming manner, but as she continued to clarify the reasoning behind the phone call, the solemnness in her tone gradually strayed from warm and gentle. She explained that the call was merely the beginning to further opposition and resistance to the Trump presidency, in which he has threatened the well-being of undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and women.

“His executive orders have shown that he plans to use the power of the federal government to deliver on those threats,” Hess said. “He has put white supremacists, billionaire bigots, corporate cronies, and climate change deniers in his cabinet. In the face of these threats, CREDO community has been relentless in our opposition to Trump.”

Considering the fact that one of the most vocal senators within the Democratic Party was listening on the other line, it is safe to say that their resistance is working.

“Whether by protesting in airports, signing petitions, overwhelming town halls, or pouring hundreds of thousands of calls into congressional offices, people are coming together to resist Trump’s racism, xenophobia, and hate with everything that they have got,” she continued. “We are so grateful that we have progressive champions like Senator Warren who are fighting as hard in the Senate as we are outside of D.C.”

To say that liberal activists are just “grateful” for the opportunity to have their voices heard is the most minimal way of putting it. Oftentimes, it feels as though elected officials are not tempted to listen to their constituents and, therefore, are not concerned with the welfare of the people who put them into office. But now more than ever, a common theme among the masses is fear, and we rely on our most fearless representatives to reassure us that unwanted, downtrodden, and marginalized individuals will be able to exist safely in Trump’s America. And Senator Warren is the woman for the job.

“Our country is facing a moment of crisis,” Warren said. “Let’s be clear, our country was already in crisis because, for years now, Washington has worked just great for the rich and the powerful. Far too often, it just hasn’t been working for anyone else, and we have been living in a nation where opportunity is just quietly disappearing.”

Regardless of what has become the norm in American politics, a president must be willing to look out for all Americans, not just those with the privilege of making up the top one percent. Senator Warren understands this notion, which is why her vision for our country going forward is an America that provides opportunity for the working, middle-class and those right above, way below, or exactly on the poverty line.

“But now, President Trump has come along and made all of these challenges a whole lot worse,” she continued. “He has stuffed his cabinet with bankers and billionaires who are eager to do the bidding of big corporations. He has nominated a right-wing Supreme Court justice who has repeatedly sided against working people. And he has pushed a reckless ban on Muslim immigrants and refugees that cuts right to the core of who we are as Americans. So, it is time for us to get out there and fight back.”

The first question for the night asked the Senator how we can prevent cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Senator Warren begins her answer by saying that President Trump has already gone back on the promises that he made on the campaign trail about refusing to do so by appointing former Republican Representatives Mick Mulvaney as his budget director and Tom Price as his Health and Human Services Secretary.

“These are two men who have spent their time in Congress trying to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits,” she said. “We know that millions of Americans depend on these benefits to get by. So, it is up to us to hold President Trump accountable for his promises.”

Another question that dealt with our depleting education system under Secretary Betsy DeVos, aptly enough, came from a woman in Michigan. In the state, DeVos was known as a pro-school-choice advocate. She has worked hard to create legislation that requires public funding for private schools and expands charter schools despite the fact that the students there have reading and math scores well below average. This disregard for the fate of our youth, from the person in the Trump cabinet who should show the most concern for our children’s future, has sparked national outrage.

“I am deeply troubled by Secretary DeVos’s record on education,” Senator Warren said. “I am very skeptical about how she will lead the education department going forward. But the one thing that is important to remember is that Congress has given us a lot of tools to ensure that our education system works for all of our students and that K through 12 education dollars get to the students who need it most. These tools are already written into law, and we have got to watch what Betsy DeVos does every step of the way. We cannot let our vigilance lapse.”

Third, a woman from New York asked about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, under the Trump administration. She claims to have called, written letters, marched, and disrupted town halls of her Republican representative, but does not seem to think that her efforts are being taken seriously.

On the contrary, however, she and millions of other constituents have made the ACA a widely popular subject. Not only has the possibility of a repeal with no replacement thus far brought about the most resistance from Trump opponents and supporters alike, but the ACA has also received a 48 percent favorable view according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is the highest rating that the Act has gotten since it was enacted in 2010.

“These are tough times and we are facing hard fights, and the truth is that we are going to lose some of those fights,” Senator Warren said. “With that said, we also know that pushing back matters, and when we push back, we win some battles. To me, it is clear that as Democrats and progressives, we stand for every person in this country, and that’s how we should approach the fight on the Affordable Care Act. GOP senators cannot repeal and run, so we need to keep marching, writing, calling, and fighting back.”

The last question of the night focused on advice Senator Warren can give to women who would like to run for office. As of now, the 115th United States Congress is made up of 104 women out of 535 members, which is less than 20 percent overall. Specifically, there are 21 women serving in the Senate (21 percent), and 83 women serving in the House of Representatives (19.1 percent). Even in 2017, our representative government is still not reflective of its name, and it is imperative that more and more women become persuaded to change that.

“I never planned to go into politics,” she said. “I ran for the Senate because it was a way for me to continue [working on the issues facing America’s middle-class families]. But some people told me that I couldn’t win. When I got a call from Senator Patty Murray, who encouraged me to run, she said, ‘Women always think of reasons why they aren’t good enough to hold public office, but men never do. They just ask if they can raise enough money.’”

“Being in public office has been an incredible opportunity for me to fight for the issues that I care about,” she continued. “I hope that young women who are passionate about tackling the challenges facing our country will consider throwing their hat into the ring. So, get in there and fight. That’s how we make real change, and that’s how we build the kind of country that we want to live in.”

Senator Warren ended the call by thanking all of us for fighting for real change, and if there is any one quote that stood out the most from her words of wisdom, then it is this: “The character of a nation is not the character of its president.”

Listen to Senator Warren’s entire conference call here: https://credoaction.com/pages/warren-conference-call/

Ravenne is a sophomore at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, and she currently majors in political science. In addition to that, she also minors in journalism and film studies.

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