Kamala Harris Delivers Knockout Speech In Oaktown, Is Now Basically President
Senator Kamala Harris officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign Sunday with a hellzapoppin' speech in her hometown of Oakland. It was positive, hopeful, inspirational, and it brought tears to the eyes of her supporters and probably anyone who is considering running against her in 2020.
HARRIS: 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.
According to local police estimates, roughly 20,000 people came to the Oaktown to hear California's junior senator detail her plans to fumigate the White House. That's larger than the figures Donald Trump invents for his own rallies. It even exceeds the audience for Barack Obama's 2007 campaign launch, but in fairness to the brother, it was January in Illinois and they didn't count the polar bears in attendance.
If you've only enjoyed Harris in previous appearances grilling Brett Kavanaugh and unnerving Jeff Sessions, this speech provided a great opportunity to see the senator in a non-bed-wetting capacity. She was engaging, compelling, and at times earth-moving. The commander in chief is the head of state, a figure of not just authority but security. Harris delivered that from the word "hello."
HARRIS: I'm running to fight for an America where the economy works for all people. For an America where you only have to work one job to pay the bills. I'm running for president because I love my country. I'm running to be president of the people, by the people and for all people.
"For The People" is Harris's campaign slogan, which is a stirring call-back to her career as a California prosecutor. She states that in her career, she's only had "one client: the people."
HARRIS: It was just a couple blocks from this very spot that nearly 30 years ago as a young district attorney I walked into the courtroom for the very first time and said the five words that would guide my life's work:
"Kamala Harris, for the people."
Now, I knew our criminal justice system was deeply flawed.
But I also knew the profound impact law enforcement has on people's lives, and its responsibility to give them safety and dignity.
I knew I wanted to protect people.
And I knew that the people in our society who are most often targeted by predators are also most often the voiceless and vulnerable.
And I believed then as I do now, that no one should be left to fight alone.
You see, in our system of justice, we believe that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us. That's why when we file a case, it's not filed in the name of the victim. It reads, "The People."
"In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police who investigate crime and... Kamala Harris, who kicks ass. This is her story. Chung! Chung!" Harris has been targeted by, well, dummies because she was a prosecutor and later attorney general. Here, she smartly describes her past career as something from a Dick Wolf series. She's Olivia Benson's co-pilot, helping bring the hammers of justice to some scuzzy sex offender. It also provides a strong contrast to the current White House occupant, who is a straight-up gangster.
She spoke of how as a prosecutor she "went after" the five biggest banks in America. She won $20 billion for California homeowners and passed "the strongest anti-foreclosure law" in the US. She described going after "transnational gangs who traffic in drugs and guns and human beings." She saw firsthand their "sophistication, their persistence and their ruthlessness," so she has experience, not frightened xenophobia, on her side when she says that Trump's "medieval vanity project won't stop them" from entering the country.
What was especially impressive about Harris's speech is that she remained positive and hopeful while simultaneously performing a live autopsy on Trump's presidency. This is where she is frankly superior to Obama. He did "hope and change" like a motherfucker. He governed wisely, but he struggled with getting tough. It felt off brand. It just wasn't who he is. But if a black man's secret reservoir of strength is the black woman closest to him, Harris steps forward to show us that strength unbridled. There's no question that Harris won't have a problem slapping the taste out of any Republican's mouth, starting with Trump.
HARRIS: We are here because the American Dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before.
We are here at this moment in time because we must answer a fundamental question.
Who are we? Who are we as Americans?
So, let's answer that question. To the world. And each other. Right here. And, right now.
America, we are better than this.
This is the deadliest diss track, call and response in recorded history. Harris is America's BFF who ain't afraid to pull her aside, point at her new scraggly-ass man, and say with her head firmly cocked, "Honey, we are better than this."
After dragging Trump for a while, Harris spoke truth to power on a range of issues. "Let's speak some truth" was another popular refrain during her speech. "Let's speak truth" about the economy, the opioid crisis, climate change, big pharmaceutical companies. "Let's speak an uncomfortable but honest truth" that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and transphobia are "real." Harris points her middle finger directly at the White House when she describes them as "age-old forms of hate with new fuel." All this truth will overwhelm Trump, who doesn't speak "honesty," just a little pidgin liar.
Pundits often talk about whether a candidate has an amorphous, unmeasurable "thing" or "presence," and that is normally just BS that elevates men and marginalizes women. "But is she likable?" If we're to even entertain that question, Sunday's rally demonstrated that, to borrow from another Oakland great, you can't touch Harris on "likability." Just look at the faces of the folks who are inspired by the woman's candidacy, by the woman herself.
Joy Reid said the big test for Harris was whether she could translate all that was impressive about her and deliver a "compelling and resonant" retail political speech. She did all that and more. She didn't just launch a campaign, she sparked a movement. The GOP is already so scared they're desperately reminding people that she's ... from California. Oh, please, Kamala, just hurt 'em.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work. His co-adaptation of "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins is playing NOW at Pioneer Square's Cafe Nordo. All Wonketters welcome.