Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) officially kicked off her presidential race at an Oakland rally in which she promised to counter President Trump’s administration with a campaign that would “always speak with decency and moral clarity, and treat all people with dignity and respect.”
Her speech drew a huge crowd — some estimates put it at about 20,000– and garnered some its biggest cheers when she told of how she would challenge Trump, on issues like climate change and immigration, but also on restoring America’s leadership in the world. At one point she talked of foreign powers “infecting the White House like malware.”
The most sustained applause came when she said that she was a candidate. She actually announced on Monday that she was running, but she was viewed as a presidential prospect almost from the moment that she became a U.S. senator in 2017. And in the last few weeks, she published a memoir and made appearances on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” On Monday, she will be the first 2020 candidate to do a CNN town hall.
“With faith in God, with fidelity to country, and with the fighting spirit I got from my mother, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States,” she said, beaming from the stage.
She talked of her parents, both immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1960s — her mother from India and her father from Jamaica.
Harris joins an ever-growing field of Democratic contenders, already notable for its diversity. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced her presidential bid, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have created exploratory committees. Also announced are Julian Castro, former secretary of the Health and Human Services; South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former Rep. John Delaney.
Harris spent little if any time talking of her experience in the Senate, where she has been a junior senator in the minority party in power, and instead focused on her role as a San Francisco prosecutor and later as California’s attorney general, and her willingness to take on special interests and big banks.
She highlighted the need to find commonality amid bitter political divisions, but she also emphasized a host of progressive political prescriptions, including Medicare for All, debt-free college education, universal pre-K and a middle-class tax cut. She said that she would pay for the proposals by rolling back Trump’s biggest domestic achievement, tax reform. She characterized it was a trillion-dollar giveaway for large conglomerates and the 1%, something that could put her at odds with some studio and media company executives, who lobbied for the drop in the corporate rate to 21% from 35%.
But she said that the 2020 race would be anything but normal.
She talked of this being an “inflection point in in the history of our nation. We are here because the American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before.”
She mentioned the word “fight” multiple times, reflecting the expectation that Democratic primary voters want a candidate who can counter Trump in a more effective way than his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
She described Trump’s call for a border wall as a “Medieval vanity project” and something that would not halt the flow of trans-national gangs.
She blasted attacks on the free press, white supremacist rallies and shootings, and childhood immigrant detention.
“That’s not our America,” Harris said.
Harris also addressed the fact that she is only in her first term in the Senate, saying that “it’s not your time” has been a familiar response to doubts in politics.