Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered a stirring speech at a packed rally in New York last Monday.
The rally took place in Washington Square Park, a block away from the site of 1911’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Warren used the fire as a cautionary tale about what happens when we let corporate interests dictate governmental policy. She claimed that history is repeating itself, as our government is still beholden to massive industries, from the oil companies to the gun lobby to big pharma.
“Everybody knew about these problems, but the fat profits were making New York’s factory owners rich,” said Warren. “Instead of changing conditions at the factories, the owners worked their political connections. They made campaign contributions and talked with their friends in the legislature. They greased the state government so thoroughly that nothing changed. Business owners got richer, politicians got more powerful, and working people paid the price. Does any of this sound familiar?”
But Warren reassured the crowd that she does, in fact, have a plan to institute large-scale change. Said plan included a lifetime ban on lobbying for federal officials, and a law banning federal judges from leaving their posts to avoid misconduct investigations.
Recently, we asked Manhattan’s top lawmakers about their impressions of Warren’s speech. Here were some of their answers.
Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill): “I was ecstatic. I never thought I’d hear a speech like that from another politician, let alone a frontrunner for president. It was the most policy-centered speech I’ve heard. I do a lot to combat corruption, and I always hear that no one cares, so it’s great to hear Warren talk about corruption for twenty minutes nonstop. And it’s great that when she said, ‘I have a plan’, people cheered instead of booed. She’s the complete opposite of Trump in every way.”
Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Central Park, Lincoln Square): “Sen. Warren’s message – that the root of our problems is systemic corruption; a corruption stemming from the pervasive and largely unchecked influence of money – was persuasively and passionately argued. I came away convinced that she can win the Democratic nomination and, if nominated, defeat Donald Trump.
To me, the Senator’s most profound and inspiring point is that these same problems existed – in even larger and more unjust form – in our past, when people had fewer tools to combat them. And that things changed because people starting with no particular power or access – in the case of Frances Perkins, not even the right to vote – took it upon themselves to push for change, resulting in so many benefits we enjoy today.”
Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea, Midtown): “I came home late from a community meeting last night so I was unable to attend or watch the speech (but I plan on watching it). I’ve been paying attention to what Warren has to say for years now. I’ve always been impressed with how deeply and clearly she understands what’s wrong with our government, economics and society; the way things are skewed to serve the few with wealth and power at the expense of the rest of us; and the cruel injustices we live with. She’s great at communicating that. She has thought-out proposals that make sense, especially her support for single-payer health coverage.”
Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park) and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen) did not provide an answer by the deadline. We will update this article when and if they provide responses.