Warren stumps for new ‘economic patriotism’ plan in Detroit, Lansing

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at Lansing Community College, June 4, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared in Detroit and Lansing Tuesday as part of a presidential campaign swing through the Midwest in which she unveiled ambitious new plans to overhaul the nation’s economy — and attempt to save the planet from climate change in the process.

About 1,700 attended the Elizabeth Warren event at Lansing Community College, June 4, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

As part of her plan for what she calls “economic patriotism,” Warren announced her goal of creating a new “Department of Economic Development.” That would be aimed at job growth, promoting monetary policy that would purposely weaken the dollar in an effort to reduce the trade deficit, and massively increasing levels of funding for research and development programs outside of their traditional geographic clusters.

“Climate change poses a survival threat,” Warren said in beginning her speech at Lansing Community College. “In order to fight back against that threat, we’re going to need all of the research, all of the innovation, and all of the manufacturing of good green products to help us turn around climate change, and that’s why I’m here in Michigan.”

Warren’s new plan pointedly incorporates the kind of pro-manufacturing, pro-American trade rhetoric that propelled the 2016 candidacy of her fellow Democratic presidential contender U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — and that, crucially, plays well in the Midwestern “blue wall” states that President Donald Trump flipped from blue to red in 2016.

“We need to increase this research, but anybody who wants to use that research to build a new product or start a new process, you’ve got to build your factory here in the United States of America,” she said. “American taxpayers pay for that research, and American taxpayers deserve to see American jobs come out of it.”

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Warren last week announced her Midwest trip, which includes a Wednesday stop in Elkhart, Ind., amid a steady climb in polling that now shows her much closer to the top of the crowded Democratic primary field than she once was. Warren now consistently polls third behind front-runners former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Tuesday’s announcement, expansive even by the standards of Warren’s sweepingly targeted, policy-heavy campaign, is aimed squarely at strengthening American manufacturing and trade interests. Warren said her efforts would create the global demand for “$1.5 trillion in purchasing over the next 10 years” that will be “100 percent ‘Buy American.’”

Her plan includes a total investment of $2 trillion over 10 years, an amount that she said Tuesday in Detroit would “create more than a million good jobs here at home.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at Lansing Community College, June 4, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Warren’s “Green Industrial Mobilization” proposal would mandate that all companies receiving federal contract money pay their employees $15 an hour and provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Companies also would have to stay out of union organization drives.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Michael Joyce released a statement Tuesday railing against her progressive laundry list of policies, saying, “Elizabeth Warren’s support of absurd plans like giving the government control of healthcare, jobs, and education shows just how out of touch she really is with everyday Michiganders.”

Warren was introduced by state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), who described how Trump’s victory in Michigan impacted Democrats and vowed to work to turn the state blue again in the 2020 presidential election.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow at Lansing Community College, June 4, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

“Michigan is a microcosm of the rest of the country,” McMorrow said.

She also recalled her own decision to seek office in 2018 and she said her November win earned her an encouraging phone call from Warren.

Warren and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday joined 11 of the 24 other Democratic contenders to have visited Michigan, following U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former U.S. Rep. Beto O-Rourke (D-Texas), U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), businessman Andrew Yang, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), former Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam and self-help guru Marianne Williamson.

Members of the diverse crowd of 1,700 that showed up at LCC to hear Warren’s pitch Tuesday specifically cited their enthusiasm for her emphasis on policy, but acknowledged there’s a long way to go until the end of the 2020 primary campaign.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at Lansing Community College, June 4, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

“I wanted to go and hear her speak and see more about what she’s doing on the campaign trail, because I want to vote for her,” said Katelyn Maddock, a 25-year-old therapist from Lansing who said she’s followed Warren’s career since her 2012 election to the U.S. Senate.

“The fact that she has concrete policies that she’s citing, it’s like, ‘What am I going to do about this problem? Here’s the solution,’ not just, ‘This is a problem.’”

Answering a question from a supportive audience member who feared ultimately resigning himself to voting for Biden in the 2020, Warren said advised those in his position to “put [their] worry to work.

“The system now for this Democratic primary, it’s us. It’s you; it’s me; it’s that woman in the back; it’s the mom over here with the kid; it’s all of us. And it’s going to come down to all of us,” Warren said. “I don’t want to be the America of 10 years back, or 20 years back, or 30 years back. I want to build a better America.”

Joe Biden, 2012 | Kelly Kline, Flickr

During the rest of her stump speech, Warren advocated for her other signature policies, including access to free college, an increased wealth tax, and universal child care, before concluding by connecting her program of economic reform to her own background in rural Oklahoma.

“Is opportunity just for a thin slice at the top?” Warren asked rhetorically. “Or is opportunity a chance for every kid to get a great education, an opportunity for every kid to get a great job?”

“My daddy ended up as a janitor, but his baby daughter, she got the chance she got the opportunity to become a public schoolteacher, to become a college professor, to become a United States senator, and to become a candidate for president of the United States.”

Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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