Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) broadcast a populist message focused around a desire for greater racial and economic justice in the U.S. on Tuesday night, just an hour before President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
“Let’s fight for an America where the economy works for working people ― an America where health care and education are fundamental rights, not a privilege for the wealthy few,” she said.
Speaking for only seven minutes on Facebook Live, Harris broached topics including health care, housing, education, wage stagnation, immigration, gun violence, the 2017 Republican tax bill, deregulation and Trump’s travel ban.
“We also need our leaders to speak truth about the threat of climate change, about our broken criminal justice system, about our weakened position in the world and about the realities of racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia and transphobia,” she said.
On what would have been the 24th birthday of Trayvon Martin ― the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, sparking mass protests and outrage ― Harris spoke of “an America where no mother or father has to teach their son that people may stop him or kill him because of the color of his skin ― and where no parent has to send their child to school with a bulletproof backpack.”
Harris deliberately set herself apart from the president, predicting that Trump would deliver a speech Tuesday night that “seeks to score political points by driving us apart.”
“The strength of our union has never been found in the walls we build,” she said. “It’s in our diversity and our unity, and that is our power.”
“When you hear claims that our problems would all be solved if we just built a wall on our southern border, don’t forget the babies ripped from their parents’ arms and the refugees fleeing violence and abuse who are being turned away,” she said.
The Republican National Committee criticized Harris’ Tuesday comments in a statement sent to HuffPost, describing her as “blinded by her opposition to President Trump.”
″[B]efore he can speak about his bipartisan agenda at the State of the Union, she tried to advance her divisive leftist agenda of government-run health care, higher taxes, and open borders,” RNC spokesman Steve Guest said in a statement.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is scheduled to deliver the Democrats’ rebuttal immediately after Trump’s address, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who will provide his own response to Trump for the third straight year.
Since Harris told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she was running for president last month, she has pulled off the most successful campaign rollout of any Democratic hopeful this cycle, in the eyes of many political operatives. Within 24 hours, she raised $1.5 million. Over the next week, she appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” presented her policy views during a CNN town hall, paid a visit to some of her sorority sisters in South Carolina and stood in front of more than 20,000 people at a rally in her hometown of Oakland, California.
I believe we are at an inflection point in the history of our nation. It’s a moment where we must answer a fundamental question: Who are we? What is the state of our union? Sen. Kamala Harris
This month, Harris plans to keep campaigning with stops in each of the first four states to hold a Democratic nominating contest ― Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina ― according to her press secretary.
Harris has said her State of the Union guest will be Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, a California mother of three whose home was destroyed by the Thomas Fire in 2017. More recently, her family faced a crisis of another sort when it went about a month without a paycheck during the partial government shutdown, which affected her and her husband. (They are both air traffic controllers.)
“She is the definition of resilience and I’m proud to have her here with me,” Harris said earlier Tuesday.
Tuesday night, Harris preached a message of unity.
“I believe we are at an inflection point in the history of our nation,” Harris said. “It’s a moment where we must answer a fundamental question: Who are we? What is the state of our union?”
“As Americans, we have so much more in common than what separates us,” she added.
This post has been updated to include a statement from the Republican National Committee.