Harris:Midterms a Fight for the Best 10/21 10:39
HOPKINS, S.C. (AP) -- Declaring this midterm election year an "inflection
point" in American history, Kamala Harris came Friday to South Carolina to tell
Democrats that the way out of Donald Trump's America is through the ballot box.
The California senator may have been referring to Nov. 6 elections, but her
surroundings --- the state that hosts the first Southern presidential primary
--- also carried the air of another election year: 2020.
Harris demurred when asked about her looming decision on a White House bid.
Still, she brought a message that could transition easily should she join what
is expected to be a crowded Democratic presidential field.
"This is a moment that is really requiring us as a country, as individuals
to look in the mirror and to collectively answer a question: Who are we?" she
said, later adding, "This is a moment in time that is requiring us to fight for
the best of who we are."
She bemoaned GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, blasted the
Republican tax law as a giveaway to the rich and skewered unnamed interests
trying to sow "hatred and division" in America. But the former prosecutor
invoked the language of the legal profession to "reject the premise" that the
U.S. is as divided as it often appears.
"The vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us.
... Let's speak that truth," she told party activists who later serenaded her
with "Happy Birthday." Harris turns 54 on Saturday.
It delighted the Democratic partisans Harris greeted at get-out-the-vote
rallies and a campaign phone bank, particularly women who said they were
looking for a younger nominee to do what Hillary Clinton could not in 2016.
"She's fresh, she's new --- and she has the optimism, the youth, the vigor,"
said Denise Scotti-Smith, a Democratic precinct captain in the upstate town of
Harris is among several potential Democratic presidential contenders in the
state this week. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on Friday finished a two-day swing
that included stops around Columbia and in Charleston. Vermont Sen. Bernie
Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016, is scheduled to be in
the state Saturday. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was here Thursday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned for South Carolina Democrats last
South Carolina has proven critical in Democratic politics, offering the
first opportunity for would-be president to face a significant number of black
voters. Harris and Booker are the only two black Democratic senators. (South
Carolina's Tim Scott is the Senate's lone black Republican.) .
The state helped propel both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to the 2008
and 2016 nominations, respectively.
Harris acknowledged the importance of black voters in South Carolina and
Democratic politics generally. The senator compared current national tensions
to the civil rights era, describing her parents as active in that movement. She
quipped that voters "can honor the ancestors with absentee ballots," rather
than waiting until Election Day.
Yet she seemed to carefully calibrate her message to a wide audience.
"Leaders should be able to see all of the people who we represent and see
them equally," she told reporters, later adding regardless of race or
geography, "some of the issues are the same issues, because frankly the values
are the same, and the challenges are the same for families, especially working
That offered some contrast to Booker, who at multiple stops Thursday
emphasized his personal and political ties within the black community.
Harris did not bring up her recent appearances --- and Booker's --- on the
national stage during the Senate Judiciary Committee's consideration of Supreme
Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
But several women thanked her for how she handled Christine Blasey Ford's
allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. Harris said from the outset
she believed Ford's account that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high
school. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusation.
Bridgette Watson, 33, shed tears as she met with Harris. "I just appreciate
so much that she treated Dr. Ford with respect," Watson told The Associated
Press afterward, describing herself as a sexual assault survivor. "The way she
addressed her was empowering for women who have never told their stories. ... I
didn't tell mine until this year."
Harris said she has experienced many such encounters since the
Ford-Kavanaugh hearings, despite Kavanaugh's eventual confirmation. "People who
might have said hello (to me) are now telling (me) their story," she said.
Other don't share details, Harris added, "but they are communicating 1,000
words without explicitly saying it."
At a black church in Columbia, two white Harris backers, Susan Riordan, 54,
and Katy Beverly, 46, noted the racial mix of the crowd, arguing that it shows
Harris can build a wide coalition.
Riordan noted an obvious comparison to the last time Democrats nominated a
first-term senator that drew similar crowds. "There's a reason that Barack
Obama ran only two years into office," she said. "Once you get into Washington,
you get twisted by Washington."
So, Riordan said: "It's time. This is her time."