Capitol Alert

Q&A with Elizabeth Warren: Why she thinks she can beat Trump and won’t attack Bernie

In an interview with the California Nation podcast, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren discussed her approach to the Golden State, friendship with opponent Bernie Sanders and left-leaning policy proposals on immigration and health care.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

Q: I hear from people who say, “I want someone who can beat Trump.” It’s very early in polling, but people see Sanders and Biden in these hypothetical match-ups with Trump doing better. Why do you think you’re the person to beat Trump?

A: I’ve been around this block before. I had never run for public office. Back in 2012, when a very popular Republican incumbent who already at that point had $10 million in the bank and a 65% approval rating came up for reelection, people called me and said, “You should run. Nobody else was really going to take this guy, you should run, you should definitely run, but do keep in mind you’re not going to win because you’re a woman, and Massachusetts is not going to do that. They (have) never elected a woman to the Senate or to the governor’s office, but get in there and run anyway.”

Now my first response is “Democrats ... get a better sales pitch.” But my second response was to say, “You know, sometimes you’ve just got to get in there and fight,” and that’s exactly what I did.

I made two promises to myself when I got in that race: I would make every single day count, and I did. Every single day, I talked with some group of people, someone, about something that mattered a lot to me, like canceling student loan debt, like universal child care, opportunities like expanding housing and making it more affordable. I talked about those things with people. And the second thing I did is every chance I got, I’d meet a little girl and I’d say, “Hi. My name is Elizabeth. I’m running for the Senate because that’s what girls do.” I stayed in that fight every single day. I started out down 17 points, and in the end, I beat him by 7.5 points. I know how to fight, and I know how to win.

Q: What differences, if any, do you see between yourself and Sen. Bernie Sanders?

A: I’ve known Bernie and been friends with Bernie forever and ever and ever, long before I ever got into politics. I can’t talk about Bernie and what Bernie wants to do. He’ll get out there and make that case. ... We just don’t attack each other. It’s not about a pact. Bernie’s been my friend forever, and I’ve been his friend forever.

Q: You support a Medicare-for-all plan that abolishes private insurance. How will you get there?

A: Here’s where you start: You talk with people across this country about how we make a health care system work. People understand it is not sustainable to have an industry right in the middle that made $23 billion. And how did they do it? By raising your premiums and denying you coverage. That’s not sustainable. We have people all across this country — I do selfies after every single one of these town halls — and you know the kinds of things they talk to me about? They talk to me about children who’ve had heart surgery, a child I met just the other day who had brain cancer, preexisting conditions.

Q: Is Medicare-for-all just the destination in the long-term or is that where you want to start as president with that big plan?

A: That is the plan. That’s where we need to go. But I’m a co-sponsor on Bernie’s bill, and as Bernie puts in it, we’ve got to have a transition. You know, it’s gonna take a transition period to get there. That’s built right into Bernie’s bill. But the key is that we have to agree on where we’re headed. And where we’ve got to be headed is the best possible health care coverage at the lowest possible cost.

Q: Section 1325 of the immigration code makes it a criminal offense for people crossing the border without documentation. Are you in favor of repealing that?

A: I am. I think that the whole notion of criminalizing the approach to coming across the border without documentation is not making anybody any safer. We just need to be in a different position on this. It’s really important on immigration that we concentrate our resources on the people who pose threats to us, and that’s not children. It’s not mamas fleeing terror from gangs down in Central America. It’s not people trying to build a life who have family here.

Q: You’ve released your tax returns, which show you and your husband have made more than $10 million over the last decade. Should people be concerned by the wealth you’ve accumulated?

A: Look, Bruce (Mann, a Harvard professor) and I both grew up without much, and I am the first to say — and so is he — how deeply fortunate we have both been. I graduated from a commuter college that cost $50 a semester. I think about that a lot, the opportunity I had that opened doors for me. My daddy ended up as a janitor. We didn’t have the money for me to be able to go to school. But that opportunity gave me a chance in life. I want every kid to have an opportunity. That’s why I’m in this fight. It’s why I believe that it’s time for us to say that all of our public colleges and universities should be tuition and fee free and really lower the barriers.

Q: What are your ties to California?

A: I have family in California. My daughter and her husband and our three grandchildren are all in southern California. Our son and his wife live in California. Shoot, I’ll tell you the first time I came to California. It was when I was a girl. All three of my brothers joined the military and the two oldest ones were both stationed in California at the same time, one in Vandenberg and one at Riverside.

Q: What are your plans to win this state? It’s a very progressive place. What’s the strategy?

A: Look, the strategy is to get out there and fight for what I’ve been fighting for for pretty much all my grown-up life. I spent a big chunk of my adult life studying why families are going broke in this country, studying why America’s middle class has been hollowed out, working on why it is that people who work hard, who play to the rules, find the path so steep and so rocky, and, for people of color, even steeper and even rockier.

The principle answer: It’s about a government that just doesn’t work for them, a government that’s working great for those at the top, a government that works great for those that can hire an army of lobbyists, a government that works great for giant drug companies, just not for people trying to fill a prescription. That’s the thing that we could change come 2020. We get enough people in this, we can take our government back and we can make it work not just for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. We make it work for everyone.

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.