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Progressive Values Are America's Values, Sen. Elizabeth Warren Tells Netroots Nation In Keynote Speech

When progressives fight for working Americans they can win, Warren tells crowd.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation 2014.
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Editor's note: Following is the text of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's speech Friday at Netroots Nation, as transcribed by AlterNet.

A lot of us in this room have a lot of history. Five years ago, I was fighting hard for a new consumer agency to keep the big banks from charging families on mortgages and credit cards. I went to see a lot of experts in Washington. I went to try to talk to people about the idea for this agency. The economy had crashed. Here was one way that we could fix things so it wouldn’t happen again. This is one way to level the playing field a little bit for families.

So I went and talked to these experts—and a lot of people on our side—and they almost all told me the same two things. The first thing they said was, “Great idea. This could actually make a real difference in people’s lives. The second thing they said was, “Don’t do it. Don’t even get out there and fight for it. Don’t do it because the biggest banks in this country will hate it and you will lose.” Well, the experts got that half-right. No surprise, the big banks really did hate it. They spent—are you ready for this—in addition to all their campaign contributions and everything else—they spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year, lobbying against financial reforms. They really put their money where their mouth is on this one.

But the experts were also very wrong. We fought back and we won. We won—and that’s what I want to talk about today. We won because you and a zillion other people across this country got in the fight. We won because you got out there. You broke news. You wrote opinion pieces. You organized petitions. You built coalitions. You kept that idea alive. You called out sleazy lobbyists and cowardly politicians. You said we—we the people—will have this agency and you are the ones who won. You won this fight.

And you know, it matters. These fights really do matter. That agency is almost three years old now and it has already forced the biggest financial institutions in this country to return more than $4 billion to consumers they cheated. But never miss the central point of this story. The CFPP is proof of how democracy can work in the 21 st century. It is proof that if we push back against the biggest, strongest, most ruthless lobbying effort in the country; that if we push back hard that we can win. We fight, we win.

Now understand, we don’t don’t win every time. And we are still trying to figure out how to make it all work. But we have united our voices and when we unite our voices, we can win. We did it in my Senate race. When Wall Street said that they would send money to Scott Brown by the double bucket fulls, and we pushed back and managed to win by eight points. You did it, when you got out there and stopped SOPA, you did it by getting organized and fighting back. So, we don’t win every time, but we’re learning to win. We’re learning to win and we will keep winning. We will fight and we will win—that’s my message today.

I want to talk about what we’re up against. I want to talk about what’s happening in this country. And make no mistake, this isn’t easy. We can’t win what we won’t fight for, and it will be a hard fight. Today, many powerful companies look for every possible way they can to boost their profits; to boost their CEO bonuses. They try to run more efficient companies. They try to grow faster. They try to beat out the competition. But many of them have another plan. They use their money and their connections to try to capture Washington and rig the rules in their favor. From tax policy to retirement security, those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. Everyone else just gets left behind. That’s what we’re up against. That’s what democracy is up against.

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