In Michigan, the heart of where Hillary Clinton lost her 2016 race, Sen. Kamala Harris delivered her strongest rebuke on “electability.” She called the preconceived notion that voters pick a nominee based on age, gender or race “short sighted” and “wrong.”
“Voters deserve better,” said Harris in a speech to the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the largest branch of the civil rights group in the country. “As a party, we can’t let ourselves be drawn into thinking in those boxes or falling into those assumptions. We cannot get dragged into simplistic narratives or yesterday’s politics.”
Delivering some of her sharpest remarks yet on race and party unity, Harris urged Democrats to focus on the commonalities between them. “Our party is not white or black, Hispanic or Asian, immigrant or indigenous. It is all of us. This is our party. This is the America we believe in.”
Harris is in the middle of a two-day swing through Detroit and its suburbs, marking a stretch for the Harris campaign to showcase her general election appeal. The California senator seeks to separate herself from former Vice President Joe Biden – and she is fueled by renewed energy after her viral questioning of Attorney General William Barr in the Senate committee hearing.
“The United States attorney general who lied to Congress and lied to you,” Harris said in describing Barr to the packed dining hall.
Harris said if elected president, she would lead a Department of Justice that would double the civil rights division and direct law enforcement to counter the rise of extremism in US.
Before the primarily African-American crowd, Harris argued the path for Democrats winning back the Midwest is not by just focusing on Trump voters, but the women and voters of color who turned out in 2018.
The latest CNN poll conducted by SSRS after Biden’s announcement showed him with a commanding lead over the field, with 39% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents saying he is their top choice for the nomination, across gender and race. The same poll showed Harris at 5% but leading the field at 23% among those polled when asked which candidate they’d most like to hear more about.
Harris, marking a new level of confrontation with Trump, said the President has given new fuel to the “old forms of hate.” She called the recent Poway synagogue shooting in California and the Louisiana church burnings, among other incidents, “terrorism.”
“As President, I won’t feed it, I won’t ignore it, and I won’t tolerate it,” said Harris.
Harris also said the right to vote “is under attack.” She said impact of voter suppression was already felt in 2018. “And let’s say this loud and clear – without voter suppression: Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia. Andrew Gillum is the governor of Florida.”
On Monday, Harris will veer into Detroit’s majority-white suburbs, with a stop at a Dearborn, Michigan, public school. She will also hold a town hall with teachers, back in Detroit. With educators, a campaign aide says Harris will highlight her teacher pay proposal. Her plan would bump teacher pay on average by $13,500 per teacher to close the wage gap between teachers and other similar professions.
The Michigan swing showcases the Harris campaign strategy for her path to the nomination and beyond – holding the 2016 Hillary Clinton voters and energizing suburban women and African-American voters.
The campaign aide says Harris’ Michigan swing focuses on how Democrats’ electoral viability in 2020 lies with voters of color and women.
The Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration estimates show nationally, black voters did drop in 2016 as compared to 2012, by 690,000, a statistically significant national shift. In Michigan, the number dipped by 11,000. Given the margin of error in the Census data, at least in Michigan, that is not a statistically meaningful change. But the national number is statistically significant.
Throughout her campaign, Harris has leaned into the black vote, making frequent stops at historically black colleges and universities, from Texas to South Carolina. And her teacher pay plan points out women are the majority of public school teachers.
A campaign aide says after Harris’ questioning of Barr during this week’s hearing, fund-raising was “doing well,” characterizing it as a “Barr bump” and reminding Democrats how tough Harris would be in a match up against Trump.
This swing, says the aide, will further remind Democrats that “Harris is the best candidate to defeat Trump in key swing states, including Michigan.”