Written by Stacey Solie
Sen. Kamala Harris of California officially kicked off her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday at an outdoor rally where she warned that the nation and the world were at “an inflection point” in history and called on all Americans to “speak truth about what’s happening” in the Trump era.
Before a crowd that her advisers estimated at more than 20,000 people, Harris threaded together a biography from her years in the Bay Area with her work as a prosecutor and a senator, and set those details against a broader populist vision about “running to be president of the people, by the people and for all people.”
Harris, 54, who became the second black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate when she took office in 2017, has joined an increasingly crowded field of Democratic candidates that lacks a front-runner. The pack is the most diverse in history, with Harris among four women serving in the Senate or House who are running for the Democratic nomination.
In her remarks and at other recent events, she stressed unity and fighting for people, and her support for policies that are popular among Democrats, like “Medicare for all” and combating climate change. But she also laid out a vision of America and cast the 2020 election as a historic one.
“We are at an inflection point in the history of our world,” she said at the rally in downtown Oakland. “We are at an inflection point 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. And we are here at this moment in time because we must answer a fundamental question: Who are we? Who are we as Americans?”
“When we have leaders who bully and attack a free press and undermine our democratic institutions, that’s not our America,” she said. “When white supremacists march and murder in Charlottesville or massacre innocent worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, that’s not our America. When we have children in cages crying for their mothers and fathers, don’t you dare call that border security, that’s a human rights abuse!”
Harris spoke of an America where “we welcome refugees” and denounced President Donald Trump’s border wall plan as a “medieval vanity project.”
Harris also pledged: “If I have the honor of being your president I will tell you this: I am not perfect. Lord knows, I am not perfect. But I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity. And I will tell the truth.”
Among those at the rally were Lyndsey Schlax, 38, a school administrator, who attended with her husband and two sons. “I’ve been a big fan of Kamala for a long time,” said Schlax, who wore a “Phenomenal Woman” T-shirt that she said was produced by a relative of Harris’. “I like how she’s not afraid to be strong.”
Violet Sinnarkar, 20, from San Jose, a junior at the University of California-Berkeley, said many people she knew on campus were not fans of Harris. “They think she’s a cop,” Sinnarkar said about Harris’ years as district attorney of San Francisco and some past remarks praising law enforcement. But Sinnarkar said she came with an open mind: “I’m here to hear what she has to say.”
While Harris’ work as a prosecutor has drawn some criticism, she sought to frame her record as focused on helping regular people. “In my whole life, I’ve only had one client: the people. And fighting for the people meant fighting on behalf of survivors of sexual assault. A fight not just against predators, but a fight against silence and stigma,” she said.