One week after announcing her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Kamala Harris formally kicked off her campaign for the White House in a packed hometown rally with a simple message: America is better than what President Donald Trump has made of it.
“The American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before,” Harris, a first-term senator from California, told the estimated 20,000-person crowd in front of Oakland City Hall. “We must answer a fundamental question: who are we as Americans? So, let’s answer that question—to the world, to each other, right here, right now.”
“America, we are better than this.”
In the speech, Harris’ first since announcing her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the former state attorney general and prosecutor embraced universal health insurance coverage, criminal justice reform, and working-class tax cuts, “paid for by reversing this administration’s gifts to big corporations and the top one-percent.”
Beyond policy prescriptions on climate change and student debt that are in step with the rest of the declared field of Democratic candidates, Harris leaned into her history as a criminal prosecutor, painting the Trump administration as bent on turning Americans against each other.
“We have leaders who lie, bully, attack a free press, and undermine our democratic institutions,” Harris said. “We’ve had children in cages crying for their mothers and fathers. We have leaders who attack public schools and vilify public school teachers. That’s not our America.”
The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris worked in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and was eventually elected San Francisco’s district attorney. Her campaign slogan, “For the People,” is a nod to her time as a young prosecutor, when Harris would introduce herself in a courtroom as “Kamala Harris, for The People.”
“The last couple of years, ‘For the People’ has meant fighting to hold this Administration accountable, and in that battle, I’ve seen the spirit of the American people,” Harris said. “We’ve won, and we’ve lost—but we’ve never stopped fighting.”
In response to Harris’ speech, Republican National Committee spokesperson Michael Ahrens dismissed the California Democrat’s platform as “totally out-of-step with most Americans.” But Harris has already proved a potentially formidable candidate in the party’s primary. In the first 24 hours of her campaign, Harris raised a staggering $1.5 million in direct contributions from more than 38,000 individual donors—tying a one-day record set in 2016 by potential opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders.