Guest Columnist

Pederson: Warren has vision for big structural change

Elizabeth Warren leaves the stage at an LGBTQ Presidential Forum in the Sinclair Auditorium on the Coe College campus in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. The forum, which brings together ten Democratic presidential hopefuls, is hosted by The Gazette, The Advocate, GLAAD, and One Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Elizabeth Warren leaves the stage at an LGBTQ Presidential Forum in the Sinclair Auditorium on the Coe College campus in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. The forum, which brings together ten Democratic presidential hopefuls, is hosted by The Gazette, The Advocate, GLAAD, and One Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Governing demands vision: big ideas and the ability to rally people around them. It also takes a plan: a method and strategy for turning inspiring ideas into the letter of the law.

As I survey the wide and impressive field of Democrats running for president, I see just one candidate with a vision for the change we need and a plan to make it happen.

That candidate is Elizabeth Warren, and I’m proud to endorse her for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses and the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Elizabeth is the candidate for change. She understands that to rescue our democracy and our economy we must end the corruption that enriches the few while leaving everyone else behind. She’s also the candidate for results. Elizabeth has the experience, philosophy, temperament and track record to actually make that change happen.

Ending corruption, rebuilding our middle class and returning to a more sustainable capitalism are the defining challenges of our time. If we solve them, we’ll improve the lives of millions of Americans and save a democracy that seems to grow more imperiled by the day.

Elizabeth has placed those goals at the foundation of her campaign, and crafted specific detailed plans for achieving them. She understands that we need new policy — student loan debt forgiveness, universal affordable child care, a 2-cent tax on the wealthiest of the wealthy — but also a new process — stringent ethics rules, an end to unfettered influence, the abolition of the filibuster — to make it happen.

I was so inspired a few weeks ago by her speech at Washington Square Park in New York City, where she told the story of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and the resulting revolution in worker rights. She told the story of Frances Perkins, the matriarch of workers rights in America and the first woman to serve in the Cabinet, who witnessed the fire firsthand and then fought like hell for reforms in Albany and Washington, D.C.

Perkins practiced an inside-outside approach to big, structural change — exercising all the power she had in her state and federal offices while fostering a mass movement of women, workers, immigrants and more to keep up the pressure and hold lawmakers accountable.

Elizabeth, as our president, will do the same. Her plans are the start of the agenda she’ll pursue from the White House, and her campaign is the beginning of the movement that will carry it into law.

Elizabeth grew up on the edge of the middle class, and spent her career studying the structural and systemic reasons that families fall behind in America. She came to politics because she realized it was the only way to make the change we needed.

She spent years fighting changes to bankruptcy law that enriched big banks while crushing struggling families — employing her expertise in concert with consumer activists and advocates.

She imagined a new federal agency that would protect consumers from shady and predatory financial schemes: first spelling it out in a law-review article, then fighting to write it into legislation and finally organizing and staffing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an agency that has now returned more than $12 billion to consumers.

In the Senate, she quietly led a bipartisan effort to make hearing aids available over the counter — a pragmatic, practical change that will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans.

Our system of democratic capitalism is under threat. Corruption from statehouses to Congress to the Oval Office itself is bending our government to work for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. Inequality and disinvestment is hollowing out opportunity and leaving millions behind. Democracy and capitalism require an expanding middle class, not a shrinking one.

Elizabeth has a vision for big structural change, and she knows how to get it done. That’s why I’m endorsing her, and why I’ll be caucusing for her on Feb. 3.

Sally Pederson was Iowa’s lieutenant governor from 1999 to 2007.

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