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Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Warren: Democrats can take power in Nov.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren addresses an audience at Hibernian Hall. Banner photo

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren told an audience of local Democratic activists Saturday that the party has an opportunity to retake control of the House and Senate in the 2018 midterm elections.

Warren, who is said to be testing the waters for a 2020 presidential run, expressed support for striking hotel workers, locked-out National Grid workers and students struggling with college debt.

“I am so excited about November 6,” she told the audience at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square. “The things we can do if we re-take the House and the Senate to make government work for the people.”

A standing room-only crowd packed the venue. Banner Photo

A standing room-only crowd packed the venue. Banner Photo

Before her address, Warren spoke with the Banner about the midterm elections, her advocacy on behalf of consumers and the fallout from the Senate confirmation hearings on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What do Democrats need to do to get on firm footing again?

We need to make clear what our values are and that we’re willing to fight for them. Republicans believe that government should work great for the wealthy and the well-connected. Democrats believe that government should work for the people. For me, that means that every human being has value. And that every human being has a chance to build something something valuable.

You’ve seen your own work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau undermined in recent years. That must be difficult.

Yeah. It’s terrible. But not because of me personally, but because of what it means for people who get cheated by giant banks. People who get their pockets picked by sleazy outfits. Right now, the director of the CFPB has tried as hard as he can to shut down basic functions of that agency, including fair lending that protects against discrimination, protection of service members and protection for students.

He’s trying, but that agency has a strong structure. And when we built it, every job in it, except the one at the top, was protected by Civil Service precisely to protect against a time when someone came in who wanted to work for the banks instead of the people. The current director has a lot of power, and he’s pulling that agency back. But the agency is not broken. It’s still there. It’s still handling complaints. And someday he’ll be gone and the agency will be doing its job full throttle.

What gives you hope for the future when you look at the current political climate?

There’s a whole lot more of us than there is of them. I really mean that. I look at the cost of prescription drugs. There are millions of people who cannot afford prescription drugs, who cut their pills in half or cannot fill their prescription because it’s just too expensive. And there are a handful of executives at drug companies who are happy with things the way they are. Right now, that handful of executives has more power in Washington. But I am determined that we can put power back with the people. I have an anti-corruption bill that would put more power with the people.

I’m working hard, not only on my own re-election, but to get more people in the House and the Senate who will fight on behalf of families, not drug executives. And that plays out in one industry after another. I know it looks bad, but we’ve got a chance in 2018 to force some accountability on Donald Trump and to begin to make changes that will help people in Massachusetts and across the country.

Are you confident that the Democratic Party is on track to regain some measure of power?

I’m hopeful. But I know how much is at stake. I know how much money the Republicans are pouring into these races, often through hidden channels. There are so many new candidates running for office. So many new volunteers helping out in these elections. This is a moment where we may actually change democracy. We may return this country to the people.

With Trump’s presidency, do you think the voters are waking up to what’s going on?

With every one of these events, a new wave of people comes in. We see it now, with the Kavanaugh hearings. We saw it in the spring with the young people who organized protests over guns. We saw it with the public school teachers in West Virginia who went on strike. We see it right this minute with the hotel workers downtown who are demanding that the Marriott Hotel pay enough so that one job is all it takes to support a family.

What do you say to give people hope after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation?

This one hurt. But I am not sorry we got in this fight. Millions of sexual assault survivors have raised their voices. Millions of women who’ve been told to sit down and shut up have gotten in the fight. The Republicans have exposed themselves as the party that just wants power. Understand: The Kavanaugh hearing was not just about sexual assault. It was about raw, naked power and how 11 powerful men were helping one more powerful man get to an even more powerful position. They closed ranks around him. Across this country, people have said, ‘That’s not who we are. Those are not our values. And we will make our voices heard on Nov. 6.

Remember November. Turn pain into power. With victims of sexual assault and people who feel they’ve just been rolled over by this Congress, use that to take back power in November.