Elizabeth Warren is the badass America needs: Why her amazing Planned Parenthood speech proves how important she is

Long after she took herself out of the running for president, Warren keeps making a bigger difference than anyone

Published August 5, 2015 2:40PM (EDT)

Elizabeth Warren        (AP/Timothy D. Easley)
Elizabeth Warren (AP/Timothy D. Easley)

If anyone still wonders why progressives are so inspired and motivated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, all they have to do to understand why is watch her speech on the Senate floor yesterday, taking the Republicans to task for their inane crusade against Planned Parenthood. She is a natural-born orator, which is a surprisingly rare gift among politicians. But even more unsual is the fact that she is also a leader who sounds remarkably like a normal person expressing the confusion and outrage the right engenders with its repeated destructive tactics:

"Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor? Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women's health care centers. You know, on second thought, maybe I shouldn't be that surprised. The Republicans have had a plan for years to strip away women's rights to make choices over our own bodies. Just look at the recent facts."

Warren was responding to the latest tiresome Republican attempt to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the so-called "sting" videos that have conservatives salivating at the prospect of finally "ACORN-ing" the organization. It wasn't enough that they've launched two congressional investigations and eight (and counting) state level probes into the matter; they are now working themselves into a full blown frenzy, demanding that all funding for the group be cut, or else. This is, of course, a stale gambit that never achieves their stated policy goals, but they seem to find it a satisfying exercise nonetheless.

Warren called them out in no uncertain terms:

“The Republican scheme to defund Planned Parenthood is not some sort of surprised response to a highly edited video. Nope! The Republican vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated, right-wing attack on women’s rights.I’m sick and tired of it. Women everywhere are sick and tired of it. The American people are sick and tired of it.”


The Center for Medical Progress, which was responsible for the videos, was not just some group of scrappy outsiders putting together a little show. By all accounts, they were at least keeping certain members of Congress in the loop long before they released the videos. And they have certainly rolled out their response in coordinated fashion.

Senate Republicans were unable to get a vote on the measure yesterday only managing to get 53 Senators to break a filibuster, when they needed 60. Two regular Joes who call themselves Democrats actually voted for it, Sen. Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Donnelly of Indiana. One Republican in a tight re-election race in a blue state, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against. Other than that, this was a party line vote to deny health services for millions of women. (Being the comedians they are, the same Republicans who keep voting to repeal Obamacare, cut Medicaid and privatize Medicare kept insisting all day that they would be happy to fund some unnamed "other" health centers, something which they've gone out of their way to avoid doing since the beginning of time.)

That isn't the end of it unfortunately. The right-wingers are pledging to shut down the government in September by attaching this bill to a government funding bill which cannot be filibustered. And they are being egged on by their activists who seem to think this is something they can win.

Employing his usual measured tone and reasonable language, Red State blogger Erick Erickson is threatening "violence at the polling booth" if they fail:

Friends, if Republicans in Congress will not stop giving tax payer dollars to the American Joseph Mengele, we should show the party violence in the polling booth.

The national media will not cover the savage butchery of Planned Parenthood. Forcing this fight in Congress will force coverage. They will spin it against us, but every congressman who speaks up should stand surrounded by the images of butchered children so that all Americans can see what we are fighting for.

The budget and appropriations fights are forthcoming. If Barack Obama is willing to risk a government shutdown because he demands our tax dollars continue funding an organization that kills our children and sells their organs, we should have that fight.

Shut down the government if that is what it takes. Shut it down now. If we cannot stand on this high ground, we should not stand at all. Children are being ripped apart and their hearts, brains, lungs, and livers sold. Is this not a fight worth having?

Erickson attempted the usual clumsy GOP rhetorical two-step by implying that it would be President Obama who shut down the government, but then gave the game away when he tweeted this about a Red State gathering this week at which the presidential candidates are expected to take questions:

[embedtweet id="627114464660357120"]

As Brian Beutler astutely observed in this piece in The New Republic, this presents a dilemma for GOP hopefuls. Beutler points out that the videos don't actually show what these people insist they show, which exposes the fact that it's really about abortion, not "harvesting fetal tissue." They could, after all, simply ban that practice altogether if that's what truly had them exercised.

Beutler writes:

In an admirably clear-eyed analysis of the Planned Parenthood controversy, Robert Tracinski of The Federalist (which has otherwise been a reliable outpost of rote anti-Planned Parenthood disinformation) admits, “The case wasn’t about what it seemed to be about based on the selected excerpts we had been offered.” The most plausible rationale for this is that conservatives, who have a permanent axe to grind with Planned Parenthood, are using deception to threaten its viability, and make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions as a consequence

The right smells blood and Republican officials can't control it. (Admittedly, there aren't many of them who want to try.) The GOP's big midterm victory in 2014 proved to conservative activists that showy legislative confrontations are winning tactics and they're ready to go at it again.

Most of the presidential candidates (at least those with any sense at all) would undoubtedly prefer not to have to sign on to a government shutdown, but they have no choice. This is no longer about some arcane debt ceiling vote or a "fiscal cliff." The activists have cleverly managed to bring together the fiscal warriors with the anti-abortion crusaders, and there is no room for deviation in the Republican Party when it comes to either issue.

From the sound of her voice and the passion in her language it's clear that it's the GOP's combination of cynicism and fatuous sanctimony that stuck in Sen. Warren's craw, just as it sticks in the craw of everyone who sees through their devious strategy. It's infuriating that they routinely get away with these dishonest tactics, chipping away at necessary services for women (and inevitably delaying desperately needed life-saving research) solely to serve their cruel, antediluvian agenda.

Elizabeth Warren proved once again that you don't have to be a bully or a billionaire to "tell it like it is." All you have to do is be willing to confront these zealots with the truth about their phony crusade. Sadly, it's not something that most public officials are willing, or able, to do.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Abortion Conservatives Elizabeth Warren Gop Planned Parenthood The Republican Party