Because the term itself has been so systematically loaded with negative connotations, talking about government can seem like tricky territory to tread. So tricky, it means that many American communicators shy away from it—even those of us who believe most deeply in the role of government in protecting our health, safety, security, environment, and economy, and upholding and safeguarding our core values and principles—freedom, opportunity, and justice for all.
This Flashcard is one in an occasional series meant to help NW communicators talk more effectively about our government, examining, in particular, how communications experts and some of government’s most outspoken natural defenders define its role.
Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, has gained recognition for consistently championing government policies, regulations, and taxes, as our tools for working together to build ladders of opportunity into the middle class and to protect ourselves from corporate special interests, especially Wall Street and the too-big-to-fail banks.
The good news is that there seems to be a hunger for these messages. Clips of Warren talking about government and regulation have been viewed online millions of times. And while government itself may not always fare well in public opinion polls, recent research finds a desire to fix what’s broken and reinstate government for and by the people. In fact, 96 percent of Americans believe that the influence of money in our political system has got to be changed. In another poll, 90 percent of respondents said they’d support a law that imposes tough new campaign finance laws. And fighting corruption polls off the charts, with 82 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans who believe reducing corruption is important. Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of Democrats who were dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations grew from 51 to a whopping 79 percent.
Here are some of Warren’s powerful words—debunking familiar anti-government rhetoric and standing up for government as our tool for getting things done:
Talking Gov’t Like Senator Warren
- The American people know that government matters—without it we would no longer be a great nation with a bright future.
- Attacks on government are abstract, but the consequences of [starving it] are real: less accountability for rule-breakers, less opportunity for our children, cracks in the foundations that businesses need to succeed, and a tilted playing field that limits opportunities for all of our people.
- The system is rigged for powerful corporations and against working families. When we fight for fairness, we get safer and we get stronger.
Elizabeth Warren doesn’t stop there. Here are some more quotes from her recent statements, interviews, and speeches:
- What we need is a system that recognizes we don’t grow this country from the financial sector, we grow this country from the middle class.
- In our democracy, government is all of the things that ‘we the people’ have already decided to do together.
- You tell me: When was the last time you heard someone call for regulators to go easier on companies that use lead paint on children’s toys or for food inspectors to stop checking meat?
- This is a democracy, and for more than 200 years our democracy has defeated extremists and rejected the idea that government does not matter.
- We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is “I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.” We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages. We are not that nation, we have never been that nation, and we will never be that nation.
- It is not complicated. Our government has three basic functions; provide for the national defense; put in place rules of the road, such as speed limits and bank regulations that are fair and transparent; and build things together that none of us can build alone—roads, power grids, schools—the things that give everyone a chance to succeed.
- We are a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, growing small businesses and thriving big businesses. But our people succeed, our country succeeds because we have all come together to put public institutions and infrastructure together. We all decided to pass laws and put cops on the beat so that no one steals your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street. We all decided to invest in public education so that businesses have skilled workers and a kid with an idea can create the next breakthrough company. We all decided to invest in basic science so there is a great pipeline of ideas to create our future. These achievements aren’t magic. They didn’t simply occur on their own through dumb luck. In each instance we made a choice as a people to come together.