In a widely-covered and well-attended speech that focused on her “for the people” campaign slogan, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) captioned a campaign launch event Sunday with a simple message: “America, we are better than this.”
“We are here at this moment because we must answer a fundamental question,” Harris said at one point during her speech at the event. “Who are we? Who are we as Americans? So let’s answer that question to the world and to each other right here and right now. America, we are better than this.”
Harris’ speech, from Oakland’s City Hall plaza, drew crowds that spilled over into several downtown blocks, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. It aired live on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.
The address was in many ways a laundry list of broad policy goals, though one populated by some ambitious progressive ideas like Medicare-for-all and universal pre-K. Harris pledged to deliver “the largest working- and middle-class tax cut in a generation.”
The remarks were also punctuated with jabs at the current administration. President Donald Trump’s desired border wall is a “medieval vanity project” Harris said. She asserted later: “We have foreign powers infecting the White House like malware.”
“Let’s speak truth about what are clear and present dangers,” the senator added.
Without getting into specifics, Harris said her campaign would focus on treating Americans affected by the opioid crisis, combating pay discrimination, addressing climate change, and speaking honestly about societal issues like inequities in the criminal justice system.
“Too many unarmed black men and women are killed in America,” Harris said. “Too many black and brown Americans are being locked up. From mass incarceration to cash bail to policing, our criminal justice system needs drastic repair.”
She also talked up her time as a prosecutor and California’s attorney general, a sore point with some on the Democratic Party’s left.
Following the Great Recession, Harris said one point, “we went after the five biggest banks in the United States, we won $20 billion for California homeowners, and together, we passed the strongest anti-foreclosure law in the United States of America.”
Yes, Harris’ work brought in billions for Californians, though that effort has its own footnotes. But the attorney general’s office under Harris’ leadership — like the vast majority of law enforcement agencies local and national following the financial crisis — has faced criticism for failing to sufficiently pursue top bankers for civil or criminal penalties, including the one-time chairman of foreclosure-happy OneWest, current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Scrutiny aside, Harris on Sunday fit her work as a prosecutor into broader themes of communal service and “the fight for justice.”
“It was just a couple of blocks from this very spot, nearly 30 years ago as a young district attorney, I walked into the courtroom for the first time and said the five words that would guide my life’s work,” she said at one point: “Kamala Harris for the people.”