Massachusetts senator gives interview to Guardian and does not confine strong criticism to Trump, a potential presidential rival in 2020, saying most Americans are ‘getting kicked in the teeth’
Elizabeth Warren, one of the most prominent Democrats in the Senate, has broken ranks to criticise Barack Obama for misreading the economy and a swath of Democrats for selling out to wealthy elites.
In an interview with the Guardian, the Massachusetts senator, tipped as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, also spoke of her optimism about grassroots resistance to Donald Trump and how it has changed American democracy.
Obama left office in January, touting an economy 11.5% bigger than at its peak before the 2007-08 financial crisis that preceded the start of his time in the White House. The figures said that economy generated almost 15 million new jobs over 75 consecutive months, the longest streak on record, with the national unemployment rate falling to 4.7%. It is a record that seems at odds with the frustration of voters who chose Trump.
Nonetheless, Warren has become the most senior Democrat to challenge the former president’s halo.
“I think President Obama, like many others in both parties, talk about a set of big national statistics that look shiny and great but increasingly have giant blind spots,” she told the Guardian. “That GDP, unemployment, no longer reflect the lived experiences of most Americans.
“And the lived experiences of most Americans is that they are being left behind in this economy. Worse than being left behind, they’re getting kicked in the teeth.”
The senator went on take a swipe at members of her own party while describing the collapse of old distinctions between left and right. “I think there are real differences between the Republicans and the Democrats here in the United States,” she said. “The Republicans have clearly thrown their lot in with the rich and the powerful, but so have a lot of Democrats.”
Warren, a former Harvard law professor, sat on the fence during last year’s gruelling Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, an old friend. Once she took up the cudgels for Clinton, she gave fiery speeches in which she memorably embraced the term “nasty women” and warned Trump: “We nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.”
It did not turn out that way but now Warren has been heartened by the anti-Trump movement dubbed “the resistance”. She said: “I think that when the history of this time period is written it will be about Donald Trump’s election, no doubt, but it will be about the Women’s March the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated. Democracy changed in America on that day.
“We are no longer a country that believes we can do politics only once every four years, or even once every two years, no longer a country that says that democracy is only about elections and that it will tend to itself in the time periods between elections.”
Warren has never met Trump but she has clashed with him on social media. She has called him a loser, an authoritarian, a liar, a racist, a sexist and a thin-skinned bully. He has called her “goofy” and “Pocahontas” – a reference to her claim to Native American ancestry, based on what she had been told by her family. He revived the racially charged insult in a speech to the National Rifle Association on Friday.
Promoting a new book, This Fight is Our Fight, which charts the rise and fall of the American middle class, Warren brushed off questions over whether she would have won had she run in 2016 – and whether she intends to run in 2020.
But in critiquing the new president after his first 100 days, she called for an independent special prosecutor to investigate his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia – advocating a “non-partisan … full, transparent get-to-the-bottom-of-it investigation” – and seemed to be spoiling for a fight.
“I think what Donald Trump did was he said, ‘The system is rigged and I will be out there for working people every single day; that is my first priority,’” she said. “He got elected and did a 180-degree turn, headed in the exactly the opposite direction.
“He put millionaires and billionaires in charge of his government; he has signed off on one law after another to make it easier for government contractors to steal people’s wages, to make it easier for corporations to hide it when they kill or maim their employees, to make it easier for investment advisers to cheat retirees.”
The prime example, she said, was Trump’s attempt to repeal and replace Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
“It was like in a microcosm,” she said. “If you want one emblematic what does he really stand for, who does he really work for? It was take away healthcare coverage for 24 million people, raise costs for a lot of working families. Why? So that he could produce tax cuts for a handful of millionaires and billionaires.”