Warren suggested there was broad agreement on progressive policy priorities, if not the specifics, but said there was a “crisis in our democracy” that requires immediate response, describing a climate in which the president “lies for sport and gets away with it,” and Russia can launch “information warfare against our democracy.”
Democrats must look beyond political victories, she said. “Dishonesty and disinformation don’t thrive in a healthy democracy. That stuff only works when we’ve already stopped listening to each other.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a similar pitch, albeit with a predictably unique spin. In a speech that had been billed as having a “focus on criminal justice,” he also ticked through a list of a more than dozen progressive policy goals before saying none of them matter if the “move toward oligarchy” is not halted.
“The American vision of the future, our vision, must be to create a government and an economy that works for all, not just a handful of billionaires,” he said, while also urging progressives not to allow Trump “or anyone else to divide us up.”
The debates within the party were evident, on both policy and tactics.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio used his address to urge Democrats not to shirk from putting forward a bold policy agenda that voters could embrace, as he did when he campaigned to raise taxes on high-income New Yorkers to pay for expanded early childhood education.
“This is the great dividing line. If you are a willing to say out loud we need to tax those who have done very well to help everyone else, that proves to people both intent, but also typically some sense of courage,” De Blasio told NBC News in an interview after his address.
“American working families are going through a lot,” he added. “If Democrats can plausibly say ‘Here’s what we’re going to do to lighten your burden’ and we are consistent about it rather than this grayness which seems to afflict our party so often, I think it will be very appealing to people.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said that a progressive movement focused on civil and human rights has neglected “small-town America.”
“I don’t talk about Clinton voters or Trump voters. I don’t talk about white workers and black workers and Latino workers. I talk about workers and I talk about voters,” he said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaking on a panel on women in politics, delivered an impassioned plea to Democrats not to shy away from gender equality as a core political focus. She said Democrats should look to build on an explosion of grassroots activity and candidate recruitment among women since Trump’s election.
“Elevating our issues to be the national issues is really important, because they are,” she said. “If you don’t have equal pay you’re not going to have a strong economy, if you don’t have paid leave, you’re not going to compete worldwide.”