Progressives converging on Philadelphia for this year’s Netroots Nation convention heard from a cross-section of the Democratic presidential primary pack during a Saturday forum that found the candidates agreeing on at least one thing: Each of them was best-suited to send President Donald Trump packing in 2020.
“He’s wrong, he’s arrogant, he’s inhumane and it’s why I’m gonna beat him at the ballot box,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said of her fellow Empire State resident — and, it might be noted, constituent.
The New York Senator was the first of the quartet to take the stage and the forum began with a question about the Trump Administration immigration policies and controversy over the detention centers for undocumented migrants.
A pair of parents came out to advocate the closure of an undocumented immigrant detention center in Berks, a proposal Gillibrand said she supported while cradling their young baby.
Gillibrand also spoke passionately about problems like white privilege and climate change.
“I’m willing to lose my presidency for it,” she said of the effort to reduce global carbon emissions, she said, netting a respectful reception from the crowd in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Former U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro got a few more cheers as he emerged on stage and earned applause for his immigration response.
“Instead of breaking up families, we should break up ICE,” he declared.
After one attendee described her experiences after losing her job because of the Baby R’ Us bankruptcy, Castro responded that “I don’t believe that any bank or company in this country is too big to fail.”
Another audience question concerned the housing crisis, which the Secretary jumped to answer, proclaiming housing a human right.
Castro’s biggest applause line, however, came when he pledged to get rid of the Hyde Amendment. The 1976 legislation, which prevents federal funding from going to abortion services, is a hot issue in the campaign because of Joe Biden’s past support.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, appeared to be the most electrifying candidate to take the stage. Her emergence prompted “Warren! Warren!” chants and it was clear she was the crowd favorite.
Warren was loose on stage, cracking jokes and responding to prompts from the audience. The moderators noted this was her seventh appearance at the yearly convention and numerous spectators carried her campaign signs.
That raucous atmosphere occasionally back-fired, though, as when seven crowd members unfurled a giant sign and started shouting at Warren to pledge to legalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
Later a smaller group shouted for her to address foreign policy. Coincidentally, the first outburst occurred immediately to my right and the second just a little farther to my left (lucky me).
Despite all that, it was definitely a pro-Warren crowd. One person, who I’m pretty sure was also one of the voices shouting for foreign policy questions, declared “I want to be you when I grow up.”
All the while, Warren hit on her core themes.
Cash bail was denounced as “a system that tilts in favor of a few and against the many.” She pledged to “break up big tech” and touted her wealth tax proposal.
She was especially animated over the detention centers, growing emotional when describing the young girls who were being held in cages and denouncing the physical and sexual abuse that has gone unpunished.
“Donald Trump may be willing to look the other way, but President Elizabeth Warren won’t look the other way,” she promised to the loudest applause of the event before concluding on her familiar fighting theme: “At the end of the day, you don’t get what you don’t fight for.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who took the stage after Warren, faced a noticeably thinner crowd as audience members headed for the exits to get a glimpse — or a selfie — with the Bay State pol. Inslee soldiered on, pledging to protect reproductive rights and abolish the filibuster.
When asked about how Donald Trump had alienated our allies and hurt the image of the U.S. abroad, Inslee rejected Trump’s harsh policies and spoke of the need instead for more caring and kindness.
“That’s why my first act will be to ask Megan Rapinoe to be my Secretary of State,” he jokingly pledged.
Unfortunately for him, by that time the group demanding more foreign policy discussion had already left.