Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) expressed hope for unity under President-elect Joe Biden's administration and blasted outgoing President Donald Trump's unfounded calls to stop vote counting at a virtual discussion held by Penn's Fels Institute of Government.
Friday's event featured Warren, a former Penn Law professor and candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, in a discussion on the future of American politics with political strategist Chris Sautter. The conversation, moderated by Distinguished Fellow of the Fels Institute Elizabeth Vale, was held on Zoom as part of the Fels Institute's Public Policy in Practice Series.
At the time of the event, Biden had won nearly 270 electoral votes but had not yet been declared the winner of the election. Major news outlets called the race the following morning, Nov. 7, after declaring that Biden had won Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes. Trump has since refused to concede.
The event began with the panelists fielding questions from Fels students. Warren spoke about her optimism about Biden's impending win and a number of issues she hopes will be addressed under his administration, including abolishing the electoral college and fighting for racial justice.
She called for the abolition of the electoral college in favor of a national popular vote. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Al Gore both famously lost the 2016 and 2000 presidential elections, respectively, despite winning the popular votes.
“If the majority of the people want somebody to be President of the United States, that person ought to be President of the United States," Warren said.
On education, Warren called for the alleviation of student loan debt.
“I want everyone in this Zoom call to know this,” Warren said. “The President can use executive authority to deliver meaningful student loan debt cancelation.”
Warren was asked about her thoughts about the election and for advice on how to handle the fact that despite Biden's victory, more than 70 million people still voted for Trump.
“For four years now, millions of us have stood with each other and stood for each other,” Warren said. “This election, people proved that nothing is going to stop us from making our voices heard and our votes counted.”
Warren admitted there will be many challenges ahead, including the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and a “racial reckoning that is long overdue.” She called Trump's attempts to stop the votes from being counted "pathetic" and "undemocratic," adding that these are “actions of a desperate man trying to cling to power for just a little longer.”
Trump made multiple calls for vote counting to stop in the days after the polls closed, alleging without evidence that voter fraud would favor his opponent.
"We must count every vote, and we will," Warren said.
She expressed disappointment with the unclear results of the Senate races, in which Democrats were favored to win the Senate majority. Of the races that have been called, Democrats and Republicans each hold 48 seats with the Alaska and North Carolina races still undetermined and Georgia's two elections both headed to a runoff in January.
Warren said that a Republican majority in the Senate will make it difficult for Joe Biden to pass legislation like universal childcare and expand Social Security, and that the Georgia Democratic Senate candidates must emphasize this in their runoff campaigns.
She also expressed concerns about the Supreme Court in light of Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation. She added that women’s rights, including abortion, are being chipped away to the point that reproductive healthcare services are unavailable in some areas, despite the fact that three out of four people favor abortion rights.
Warren lauded Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's commitment to fighting for affordable healthcare and blasted Trump for failing to improve healthcare amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Healthcare is a basic human right and the last thing Americans should have to worry about during a global pandemic is healthcare,” Warren said, adding that the healthcare system is currently broken and discriminates against people of color, especially Black Americans.
Warren closed the question-and-answer session by delivering advice to those aspiring to fight for political change.
“Dream big, fight hard,” Warren said. “The more you give, the more it comes back to fill up your heart.”
College first-year Dhivya Arasappan said that this advice resonated with her, particularly because she is interested in public policy.
“These are the ideas that solve problems at the end of the day,” she said. “[Warren] has inspired me to get involved more with policy.”
After the question-and-answer session, Warren participated in a lightning round of fun questions, where she expressed her love for her dogs, including Bailey, who was next to her throughout the event. She also said that she misses Philadelphia, where she loved to take walks outside.
“It was very nice to see the human aspect of her with Bailey nuzzling her,” Arasappan said about the lightning round. “It definitely made me laugh.”
In Sautter's question-and-answer session, he discussed how the recent election changed the political landscape of the United States.
“There is a new Democratic coalition emerging,” he said. “We have two states — Georgia and Arizona — that are going to be a part of the Democratic coalition for years to come.”
Although many news outlets including the New York Times and CNN have yet to call either state, Biden currently holds slim leads in both. Fox News and the Associated Press called Arizona for Biden on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Trump won both Georgia and Arizona in 2016.
Sautter then correctly predicted that Pennsylvania’s election results would be announced on Saturday. On the runoff Senate elections, Sautter said that Democratic victories will depend on high voter turnout. He suspected that many people who were active during the presidential campaign will continue to be active in the runoffs.
Arasappan said that Sautter's message on turnout was one of the moments of the event that stuck out to her.
“He touched on a really important point about how to turn those two Georgia senate seats blue,” Arasappan said. “It’s really all about turnout.”
Warren was similarly optimistic about the future of positive political change.
“We’re just getting started,” she said.