Kamala Harris in Iowa City: ‘Our fight is born out of what we know can be, unburdened by what has been’

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks on stage during a town hall style campaign event at the Iowa Memorial Union. Wednesday, April 10, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

What wasn’t said at Sen. Kamala Harris’ town hall-style campaign event at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday night was almost as interesting as what the 2020 presidential candidate did say. She never mentioned Donald Trump’s name or used the word “Republican.”

But the California Democrat wasn’t ignoring the impact of Trump’s actions or Republican policies.

“I think we all know we’re at an inflection point in the history of our country,” Harris said. “This is a moment in time that is requiring us each as individuals, and collectively, to look in a mirror and ask a question, that question being, ‘Who are we?’”

“And I think what we all know is that part of the answer to that question is we are better than this.”

Harris also talked about her belief that America is facing an inflection moment last year at Old Brick, when she campaigned for Deidre DeJear, then the Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of State and now the Iowa chair of Harris’ presidential campaign.

Although DeJear didn’t win, she did make history as the first black person to be a major party candidate for statewide office in Iowa. DeJear spoke before Harris took the stage on Wednesday night, introducing Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter, the speaker who introduced Harris.

“Kamala is a trailblazer, serving as the second African-American woman in history to be elected to the United States Senate,” said Porter, who also made history last year, as the first black person nominated to county-wide office by a major party. “And the first — I say the first — African-American and the first woman to serve as attorney general of the state of California.”

Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter intoduces Kamala Harris during an event at the Iowa Memorial Union. Wednesday, April 10, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Harris took the stage to an enthusiastic response from more than 900 people in the Main Lounge. She spoke for approximately 30 minutes, before taking questions from the audience.

In her speech, Harris focused on the need for speaking the truth and not just “in the context of truth versus untruth,” although “certainly we need to continue paying attention to that.”

“Right now in our country there are a lot of folks who are rightly feeling a great sense of distrust in their government and its institutions,” Harris said. “The relationship of trust is by its very nature a reciprocal relationship. And one of the most important ingredients in trust is truth.”

“But there’s a funny thing about truth — speaking truth can often make people quite uncomfortable,” she added.

But none of the truths Harris chose to highlight were likely to make those attending a Democratic candidate’s event uncomfortable.

Harris addressed nine topics when listing truths:

The need to acknowledge and confront bigotry

“If Charlottesville didn’t make it clear, if the Tree of Life Synagogue didn’t make it clear — racism, antisemitism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, these things are real in our country, they are real and born out of hate that has received new fuel over the last two years, and we must collectively know and we must speak out and stand up against it wherever it occurs,” Harris said.

“Anyone who is the subject of that hate must never be made to fight alone.”

Sen. Kamala Harris at the Iowa Memorial Union

Sen. Kamala Harris brought her 2020 presidential campaign to Iowa City on Wednesday night for a town hall-style event.“[W]e’re at an inflection point in the history of our country… a moment in time that is requiring us each as individuals, and collectively, to look in a mirror and ask a question… ‘Who are we?’” the California Democrat told the audience at the Iowa Memorial Union.

Posted by Little Village Mag on Thursday, April 11, 2019

Economic dysfunction

“The American economy is not working for working people,” Harris said. She explained, “In our country today, for almost half of American families, they are a $400 unexpected expense away from complete upheaval.”

According to the senator, a full-time, minimum-wage job doesn’t pay enough to cover the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in 99 percent of the counties in the U.S.

“These are the realities of America today,” she said.

To address those realities, Harris has proposed what she called “the most significant middle-class tax cut in generations.”

“For families that make less than $100,000 a year as a family, they will receive a tax credit of $6,000 a year that they would collect as $500 a month,” she said. “Which will represent all the difference of being able to get through the end of the month.”

Harris said she would pay for her program by repealing the tax cut President Trump signed into law in December.

During the question period, Harris also explained that as president, she would strongly support unions and the right of worker to organize. She would also raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Senator Kamala Harris answers questions during a town hall style campaign event at the Iowa Memorial Union. Wednesday, April 10, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village


“We are a society that pretends to care about education,” Harris said. “But not so much the education of other people’s children.”

She said it was important for people to realize “there are two groups of people who are raising our children: parents — often with grandparents, and aunties and uncles — and teachers. But we are not paying our teachers their value.”

Harris noted that on average, teachers are paid 10 percent less than other professionals with the same level of education. She has proposed a $315 billion program to provide federal matching funds to states to close that discrepancy.

“In Iowa, that teacher pay gap is $12,200 a year,” Harris said.

Health care

“It is immoral to perpetuate a system where people are denied access to health care, because of how much money is in their pocket,” Harris said.

The senator said health care should be considered a right, not a commodity, and that is why she supports “the goal of Medicare for All.”

Climate change

“Climate change is real,” Harris said. “Isn’t it kind of sad that I had to say that?”

“Isn’t it kind of sad because we know that there are supposed leaders in Washington D.C., who are playing games and in the pocket of big oil, and want to take us backward instead of recognizing that this represents the greatest existential threat to who we are as a species, and it is in large part caused because of human behavior that can be changed with not much change to human lifestyle?”

Harris said she supports the Green New Deal, because it creates a needed sense of urgency in combating climate change, and established timelines for achieving goals.

Senator Kamala Harris on stage during a town hall style campaign event at the Iowa Memorial Union. Wednesday, April 10, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Gun control

School children across the country are forced to undergo “active shooter drills” every year, Harris said, “because there are people in Washington D.C. who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice, which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”

Harris said she would implement “reasonable gun safety laws,” including universal background checks.

Reform of the criminal justice system

“In America today, there are families who sit down with their son, when he turns 12 years old, to have what is called ‘the talk,’” Harris said. “During which those mothers and fathers explain to their son, ‘Son, you may be stopped, you may be arrested, you may be chased, you may be shot, because of the color of your skin.’”

“And let’s speak truth, that we have a criminal justice system in our country that is in drastic need of reform, has in many ways been informed by bias, but can be informed in a way that we can be better. So that no young man — whatever his color — has to be in fear for his life.”

Intelligence and foreign affairs

“Russia interfered in the election of the president,” Harris said. Despite that, “we have a commander-in-chief that takes the word of the Russian president over the word of the American intelligence community on that issue.”

Harris pointed out the current commander-in-chief, whose name she never used, also has sided with the “North Korea dictator” and “a Saudi prince” instead of the American intelligence community.

“We can’t afford that kind of approach to our security and standing in the world,” she said.

Resisting ‘hate and division’

Harris called the final truth she listed “so fundamental.”

“There are so many powerful forces out there trying to sell hate and division among us,” she said. “I believe this is a truth that we should not only speak, but that we should know in our hearts and our souls. And that truth is this: the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us.”

Sen. Kamala Harris posing with audience members after her town hall meeting at IMU, April 10, 2019. — Zak Neuman/Little Village

But just recognizing these truths is not enough, Harris said. People must also act.

“This moment will pass, and this inflection moment will pass, and years from now our children and our grandchildren and others will look at us,” she said. “They will ask us, where were you at this inflection moment?”

The answer to that question should be about more than just how someone felt about the problems facing the country, Harris said.

“We will talk about what we did.”

“Let us fight,” Harris said. She explained, “our fight is born out of what we know can be, unburdened by what has been. Our fight is a fight that is born out of love of country and knowing we are better than this.”

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