Our One Hundredth: The 2024 Warren Re-Elect Comes the 413…
HOLYOKE—Senator Elizabeth Warren launched her campaign for reelection some months ago, but has done relatively little public campaigning since then. While Warren held towns halls when not seeking office, she hands them over to her campaign as the election cycle revs up. Consequently, her town hall here on June 25 became one of her earliest campaign events after a similar one in Boston in April.
There is a degree to which a Warren event, especially one on the precipice of the Tofu Curtain is as much therapy session as wonkfest. The senator gamely took questions about how best to help Democrats win the 2024 elections and concerns about her personal safety post-January 6—she pivoted to worrying about what legislation passes. But the visit also featured meaty portions of policy, which forms the core of her reelection message as well.
“I see that when you get in fights, you don’t want them all, but I guarantee, you don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she told a sun-drenched crowd at Holyoke Community College last month.
“You don’t win fights that you aren’t willing to fight. So, you get in those fights, you hang in those fights. And sometimes you can make change, sometimes big change,” Warren continued. “So, I’m in this fight asking for a third term.”
This is not to say Warren did not toss in some red meat either, such as expanding the Supreme Court—though she explained why it was the only choice. On other matters that mix political controversy and substance, such student loan relief, which SCOTUS squelched days later, Warren looked beyond whatever ruling was to come.
Introducing Warren were Rebecca Hart-Holder, Executive Director of Reproductive Equity Now, and Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia. Hart-Holder praised Warren’s efforts to maintain reproductive health access nationally, even Massachusetts itself holds the line.
Garcia, the first mayor of Puerto Rican decent in heavily Latino Holyoke, thanked Warren for the resources she brought to Holyoke. However, he also recognized her support for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He invoked the story a young women, who came to Western Massachusetts for treatment for a hip displacement. Originally thought to be unable to ever work or have children, she recently retired and had two children. One of them is Garcia.
Largely, this event was classic Warren. After all, her campaign for president did not falter because she wore her policy nerdiness on her sleeve. (If anything it was how that mixed with overresponses to microtrends in the primary). Notably, her presidential campaign received its first preview in the Paper City.
Running for reelection in an arch-Democratic state, there is little peril for Warren in a presidential year, the conditions that helped her topple an incumbent. Incidentally, that was a subject Warren invoked.
The senator recalled how after she returned to Harvard Law after the Senate GOP blocked her from leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she began receiving calls. They wanted her to run against Scott Brown, her Republican predecessor who then boasted sky high approval ratings.
“They say you should run for Senate, you should run for Senate, you should definitely run for Senate,” Warren recalled. “You will lose, but you should run for Senate. Now, let me just start by saying Democrats, we need a better sales pitch.”
“Boy, did that sound like fun. Run and lose, or alternatively, I could just slam my hand in a car door,” she continued.
Of course, Warren did win and while her presidential ambitions did not work out, she touted a number of accomplishments over her tenure. She highlighted a new floor for corporate taxation and a cap on insulin prices. There are more investments in science and hearing aids are finally available over the counter.
But Warren assured there was more work to do. Before taking questions, she outlined four policy-heavy focuses and two bigger, perhaps existential concerns. She laid out her intention to emphasize childcare, housing, climate and gun safety. On the more ethereal goals, she pointed to the essence of democracy itself.
“We also live in a country right now where we have lived through an armed insurrection,” she said. “And it’s not just that, it’s the political party that fostered that has not thrown those people out.”
Warren later waved off a question about her own personal safety. What concerned her was not that her conservative colleagues, even the maniacally conservative ones, posed some threat to her. Rather, Warren worried their legislation with deleterious effects could come into law next time control changes hands.
Beyond that, there is the Supreme Court that Warren called “out of control.” She explained her support for expanding the Court as the only Constitutional road to halt its extreme course.
“And why do I pick expand the Supreme Court? Because it doesn’t take a constitutional amendment,” she explained.
That came into stark relief days after Warren’s town hall when the Court struck President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan. During her town hall, Warren was keen to emphasize that the plan would stand if the Court followed the law.
Ostensibly a reference to the procedural law to standing—the Missouri entity with the strongest case against Biden had not actually sued—it was not to be. The Court found that Republican officials in the Show Me state could sue on the behalf of a distinct state-created corporation that services federal student loans. Once it cleared that threshold, it read Biden’s plan out of federal law.
However, in Holyoke, Warren was not leaning only on the president’s proposal. As Biden would in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, Warren pointed to the changes in income-based repayment programs.
“Later this year, we’re going to see the income determined repayment plan come into place and it’s going to be reworked,” Warren said. “There was an old version of this, that was a nightmare. Nobody could ever make it through.”
The new setup will be much clearer she assured. After 20 years debts would be discharged—10 for those working on public interest jobs.
“The spotlight has stayed on student loan debt cancellation, which I’ve been trying to keep it there,” she said. “But I want you to know we already have in place and the new regs are gonna come out in the next few months.”
Warren took other questions on mental health parity, countering the racial wealth gap and instances of homophobia and transphobia.
After the main event, the wonkiness did not end. Warren faced several questions about growing jobs, right to repair, federal red tape and a bill to curtail bonuses for executives as failing banks. Speaking to the press in front of a background with HCC regalia, Warren eagerly engaged.
Asked about brining jobs back to the region, Warren said that the Inflation Reduction Act provided a lot of opportunities. However, she conceded that setting an appropriate federal floor was essential.
“That’s why federal law to create a floor is so important,” she said. “Massachusetts, can decide that we want to do good things, and I’m all in favor of them. But we need a whole nation that that lifts up so all our workers have not.”
Warren discussed her own bill on executive bonuses and a recent letter to the United States Department of Transportation. She and Senator Ed Markey had defended Massachusetts right to repair law against a USDOT directive to automakers not to comply. The law requires carmakers to share information to non-dealers so they can repair the cars, too.
The senator also addressed questions about the delays and reviews of big projects such as East-West rail.
“It’s one of the things that I’ve been working on with folks, for example, could you make all of the times”—for various reviews—”run simultaneously, instead of sequentially, so everybody’s got to get all their paperwork in at once, regardless of what the complaint is that they’re trying to raise or the issue they want to raise,” she said.
When asked if Congress needed to intervene more in such circumstances, she pushed back, suggesting it was Congress who erected the barriers to agencies’ reviews.
It was a nerdy conclusion to a policy heavy town hall. Warren’s professorial mien has its critics, but for the most part, it has served her well in Massachusetts. That and the selfies are part of the brand by now. A queue quickly formed, not unlike the days when she drew a throng in Washington Square in New York.
“I love that COVID is gone,” Warren exclaimed early in the town hall. “And we can do a little selfie time now!”