JUNE 1, 2019
CALIFORNIA – Senator Kamala Harris used her home state’s Democratic convention to deliver one of her sharpest critiques to date of President Donald Trump’s policies and performance in office.
“We need to begin impeachment proceedings and we need a new commander-in-chief,” Harris said Saturday to thunderous applause. “We’ve seen how this president has lied to divide. It’s a pathological failure of leadership.”
Kamala Harris speaks during the California Democrats 2019 State Convention.
Harris was the first of 14 Democratic presidential hopefuls who converged on San Francisco this weekend to speak at the California Democratic Party convention. All the front-runners except former Vice President Joe Biden, and some of the also-rans, are taking part in the biggest single gathering of candidates so far, seeking an advantage in a state set to play a pivotal role early in the 2020 race.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts drew roars and stole some of Harris’s thunder as she outlined her transformative platform and vowed not to settle for incremental change.
“When I lead the Democratic Party, we will be a party of moral clarity, a party of courage, and a party with a backbone,” she said, touting her plans for a wealth tax on ultra-millionaires, universal child care, and to cancel student debt. “The rich and powerful aren’t giving up anything without a fight.”
California is the biggest single prize in the party’s race to the nomination, and it’s taken on added significance for 2020. The state moved its primary to the Super Tuesday round of voting on March 3, joining at least 13 other states after votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. In 2016, the California primary was held in June.
The state’s prominence gives it special significance for Harris. A home-state win could vault her into front-runner status, while a poor showing could be a devastating blow.
Warren, former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, among other candidates, followed Harris onto the podium early Saturday. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was scheduled to speak on Sunday.
Harris said Trump is “deregulating and deconstructing our government and our democracy’’ while distracting the country with inflammatory tweets and demands for a border wall with Mexico. With each candidate limited to seven minutes on stage — a form of political speed-dating — Harris called on Democratic activists to join the campaign against Trump, which she called “a fight for truth itself.’’
Harris also tore into Trump’s trade fight with China and his threat to impose escalating tariffs on Mexico if it won’t halt the flow of undocumented immigrants across the U.S. border, saying the moves hurt regular Americans.
“I like to call it Trump’s trade tax,’’ she said. “His trade tax is taking $1.4 billion out of working people’s pockets every month.”
Warren, meanwhile, delivered a thinly veiled swipe at Biden, who was in Ohio to speak at a dinner being held by Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.S.
“Some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges,’’ Warren said. “If they dream at all, they dream small. Some say if we’d all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small ideas is over.”
Warren appeared to be responding to Biden’s prediction last month in New Hampshire that once Trump leaves office, Republicans will experience an “epiphany” and work with Democrats toward a legislative consensus.
“The thing that will fundamentally change with Donald Trump out of the White House, not a joke, is you will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends,” Biden said. The comment was mocked by many liberals.
O’Rourke, from the Texas border city of El Paso, began his remarks in Spanish. He touted his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, which came within 3 percentage points of defeating incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, and took credit for the Democratic mobilization that helped them wrest multiple GOP House seats.
“I led the largest grassroots effort in the history of the state,” he said.
Hickenlooper, meanwhile, was booed when he said, as he has elsewhere previously, that “socialism is not the answer.”
As the boos cascaded through the hall for almost a full minute, Hickenlooper broke from his prepared remarks to ad lib, ‘‘If we’re not careful, we’re going to wind up reelecting the worst president in the history of the United States.’’
‘No Going Back’
Buttigieg also appeared to be aiming jabs at the absent Biden.
Trump “wins if we look too much like Washington,” he said. “He wins if we look like more of the same. Which means that the riskiest thing we could do is try to play it safe. There’s no going back to normal right now.”
Booker decried gun violence including the latest mass shooting in the U.S., in which 12 people were killed Friday in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“It is time for us as a nation not to normalize the violence and the carnage of gun violence,” he said. “It is time that we come together and stand together and take a fight to” the National Rifle Association.
In an interview Friday on Spanish-language program “Noticias Telemundo,” Harris said that if elected, she would end funding for private detention centers, which she said profit from people’s incarceration. Private prisons, said Harris, “are creating conditions that are unlivable and immoral for the people who are in those detention facilities. We recently had six children who have died in custody and that has to end.”
Many of the Democrats also appeared Saturday at a policy forum in San Francisco for MoveOn, the progressive advocacy organization.
“Let me be absolutely clear. With the Trump administration sending 10,000 troops to confront Iran, I will do everything in my power to stop that war,” Sanders said at the MoveOn forum.
Activists at the convention distributed anti-Biden fliers, featuring quotes in which Biden praised Vice President Mike Pence and defended billionaires.
Meanwhile, calls of “impeach” rang out in the hall as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat whose district is in San Francisco, recounted Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s refusal to exonerate Trump from criminal culpability.
“I told you this was like coming home for me,’’ Pelosi said in response.