LAWRENCE, Mass. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., formally announced her 2020 presidential bid Saturday, calling for “fundamental change” on behalf of working people and arguing that President Donald Trump is “just the latest and most extreme symptom of what’s gone wrong in America.”
Speaking on a clear, chilly day against the backdrop of old red brick mill buildings at the site of one of the nation’s most famous labor strikes, she said workers now, like workers then, had had enough. She said replacing Trump, whose administration she called “the most corrupt in living memory,” was only the first step in fighting back against a system tilted in favor of the wealthy.
“It won’t be enough to just undo the terrible acts of this administration,” Warren said. “We can’t afford to just tinker around the edges — a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.”
The selection of Lawrence was symbolic: In 1912, a historic labor strike was started by a group of women at Everett Mill, where Warren made her announcement. The senator drew on the strike as a story of women, many of them immigrants, taking on a stacked system and triumphing by gaining raises, overtime and other benefits.
In a voice that often rose to a shout, Warren described the U.S. economy as similarly tilted against the middle class, with wealth and political power concentrated at the top.
“Today, millions and millions and millions of American families are also struggling to survive in a system that’s been rigged, rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected,” Warren said. She added: “Like the women of Lawrence, we are here to say enough is enough!”
Warren, who took the stage to the Dolly Parton song “9-to-5,” described her own journey, growing up as the daughter of a janitor and going on to become a law professor and a senator. As a scholar of bankruptcy law, she explained, she had studied how the opportunities she was afforded had narrowed in recent decades, as the rich became richer and the middle class was squeezed.
She said the rising generation of young people could be the first in which a majority were worse off economically than their parents, while the rich “seem to break the rules and pay no price.” In response, the crowd began to shout, “Enough is enough!”
When they quieted, Warren said, “When I talk about this, some rich guys scream, ‘Class warfare!’ Well, let me tell you something: These same rich guys have been waging class warfare against hard-working people for decades. I say it’s time to fight back!”
Warren touted proposals aimed at diminishing the financial industry’s power in Washington and cited her proposed wealth tax, which she called an “ultra-millionaire tax.”
“When government works only for the wealthy and the well-connected, that is corruption plain and simple,” she said, adding, “Our fight is to change the rules so that our government, our economy and our democracy work for everyone.”
Warren also received important endorsements Saturday from Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts; Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts, her former law student; and from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
In practical terms, Warren entered the presidential race over a month ago and has campaigned in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Puerto Rico since then. But as the Democratic field becomes increasingly crowded, the event in Lawrence was seen as a way to draw a fresh burst of attention to her candidacy.
Her announcement comes as she seeks to establish herself in the race as a champion of liberal policy but also as she continues to face questions about her claims to Native American ancestry and her sometimes awkward attempts to settle the issue.
Questions about Warren’s ancestry first arose in 2012, when she was running for the Senate against Republican Scott Brown and it became widely known that she had identified herself as Native American during her early career as a lawyer and law professor. Warren has said that family lore held that her maternal ancestors included members of the Cherokee and Delaware tribes.
Although there is no evidence that claiming Native American identity helped her professionally, the matter has dogged her throughout her political career. Trump has long branded her with the slur “Pocahontas,” suggesting that she made up a minority identity.
Brad Parscale, campaign manager of Trump’s re-election effort, hit Warren on the Native American issue Saturday and said, “The American people will reject her dishonest campaign and socialist ideas like the Green New Deal that will raise taxes, kill jobs and crush America’s middle-class.”
Warren also stepped afoul of some Democrats last year when she took a DNA test to prove Native ancestry, which angered some social justice activists and Native American leaders who felt that she gave undue credence to the controversial claim that race could be determined by blood and conflated heritage with tribal citizenship.
Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation last week, after months of resisting her own advisers and staff, some of whom had called for her to show contrition earlier. Democratic voters at Warren’s early campaign stops have repeatedly said the issue was not important to them, but it continues to be discussed.