By Thomas Topping
Associate Editor, Vol. 21
On Sunday, September 27, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered a speech at the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston. The speech has been hailed by many observers as bold, splashy, and stirring. In her speech, Senator Warren discussed the current economic status of minority communities in the United States and argued that over the past several decades, economic policies like supply side economics have concentrated wealth in the hands of the upper class, exacerbating the income gap between white families and families of color.
Over the course of the speech, Warren also made several specific policy proposals that she said would help alleviate the prosperity gap. Senator Warren’s proposals can be divided into three broad categories: Criminal Justice, Voting, and Financial Regulation.
On criminal justice, Warren first proposed training all police officers across the country in de-escalation tactics. While de-escalation tactics have existed for some time, many police departments do not place much emphasis on them. The tactics involve developing a rapport with suspects in order to get them to comply with police requests instead of immediately threatening the use of force. Some officers have pushed back on the tactics, arguing that spending too much time trying to talk with suspects could put officers in unnecessary danger. The Seattle police department is currently implementing de-escalation training, to mixed results.
Senator Warren also proposed equipping all police departments with body cameras, a subject that has been hotly debated over the past year. Many argue that body cameras will lead to more police accountability by ensuring that all encounters between police and the public are open to public scrutiny. Some have even suggested that the cameras are good for officers, as it ensures that people cannot lie about what happened during an encounter. Some major police departments such as Detroit and Milwaukee have outlined plans to equip all police officers with cameras. The National Institute of Justice has published extensive research on the topic in order to help police departments evaluate the costs and benefits of body cameras.
On voting, Senator Warren’s proposals largely revolve around simplifying the registration process and expanding the amount of time people have to vote. Warren proposals include automatically registering people to vote when they obtain a driver’s license and making Election Day a national holiday. Warren argued that these reforms would have a particularly beneficial effect on lower-income people who cannot take time off of work to participate in the electoral process. The two major Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have supported both of these reforms. In fact, while in the Senate, Sanders sponsored a bill to make Election Day a holiday.
Other proposals advocated by Senator Warren include ending the practice of stripping those convicted of felonies of the right to vote and promoting expanding early voting and voting by mail. Early voting, in particular, has gained a significant amount of support across the nation. The National Council of State Legislatures has published data on state early voting laws. In all, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia allow voters to cast ballots prior to Election Day without providing any justification. Furthermore, twenty-seven states plus the District of Columbia allow voters to vote absentee without providing justification.
Senator Warren’s signature issue, of course, is financial reform. She serves on the Senate Banking Committee and has been an outspoken advocate of tighter regulations on banks for several years. Warren argued that in the years leading up to the economic crisis, banks intentionally targeted minority communities for predatory loans. As a result, many of these communities are having a much more difficult time recovering from the recession.
For the full text of Senator Warren’s speech, please see here: