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Kamala Harris Focuses on Key Campaign Talking Points

Kamala Harris Focuses on Key Campaign Talking Points

Vice President Kamala Harris didn’t directly address the fallout from President Joe Biden’s poor performance during his live CNN Presidential Debate with former president Donald Trump over a week ago when she spoke during an interview at the 30th Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans Saturday evening. Nor did she address Biden’s sit-down conversation with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, who also served as a senior advisor to President Clinton, to dissuade the questions about his age and ability to continue as president the night before.

Instead, Harris played it safe, sticking to key talking points emphasizing women’s reproductive health as well as Black maternal wellbeing and reiterating Biden-Harris policies such as student loan relief and bringing the price of insulin down to a flat rate of $35. The exchange between the VP and Essence President/CEO Caroline Wanga began more conversationally, with the latter asking “Who is Kamala Harris” and being answered “the Vice President of the United States” to thunderous applause. As Harris ran down a list of other things she was, including a wife and good cook, she added, “And I am a fighter for the people; I care about the people.”

From there, the HBCU alum from Howard University spoke nostalgically about her parents meeting through their civil rights activities and growing up in a nurturing Oakland community where she was encouraged to have no personal boundaries and limitations as well as expected to continue “the responsibility to give and to serve” just as those who raised them had.  

When Wanga asked Harris to “tell us a little bit about what ‘consequential’ means at this time and why this consequential is very different than any other one we’ve had in recent history,” Harris snapped out of her trip down memory lane and got really serious about why this election was important, directly addressing what a second Donald Trump term would mean for the country and specifically those in the room.

“Caroline and to everybody here, this is probably the most significant election of our lifetime,” Harris said. “We have said it every four years, but this here one is it. We are looking at an election that will take place in 122 days (‘122,’ Wanga interjected for greater emphasis) where on one side you have the former president who is running to become president again who has openly talked about his admiration of dictators and his intention to be a dictator on day one, who has openly talked about his intention to weaponize the Department of Justice against his political enemies, who has talked about being proud of taking from the women of America a most fundamental right to make decisions about your own body.”

“And then last week, understand” she continued, “sadly the press has not been covering as much as they should in proportion to the seriousness of what just happened when the United States Supreme Court essentially told this individual who has been convicted of 34 felonies that he will be immune from essentially the activity he has told us he’s prepared to engage in if he gets back into the White House. Understand what we all know, in 122 days, we each have the power to decide what kind of country we want to live in. Understand what we know when there has been a full-on intentional attack against hard-fought, hard-won freedom and rights.”

Trump’s appointment of Supreme Court justices, shared Harris, was how Roe v. Wade was intentionally dismantled and reminded the crowd that a reelected Trump could continue to appoint such justices. One of the reasons she became a prosecutor she shared was highly personal and stemmed from learning that her best friend in high school was being molested by her stepfather and her family offering her refuge from that abuse. Although she never used the word “abortion,” Harris reminded the audience that the former president is “proud of the fact that our daughters will have fewer rights than their grandmothers.”

Harris’ genteel tone was in direct contrast to that of Congresswoman Maxine Waters whose panel with Congressional Black Caucus colleagues Chairman Steven Horsford, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Congressman Troy Carter, moderated by former CNN host and Louisiana native Don Lemon, preceded the VP’s conversation.

During that panel, Waters dismissed concerns about Biden’s age by referencing her own age. “We are now at a point and time where people are talking about Biden is too old; hell I’m older than Biden,” to thunderous applause, prompting the entire panel and the audience to stand.

While still on her feet, the long-serving Los Angeles congresswoman didn’t mince words about the character of the former president. “Trump has told you who he is. He defined himself,” she said. “He is a no-good, deplorable, lying despicable human being.”

She also added that his talk of an impending civil war should not be taken as an idle threat: “You know he means business because he is the one that led the invasion of the Capitol Jan. 6.”

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“Do we have to talk about the difference between these two? There ain’t gonna be no other Democratic candidate. It’s going to be Biden and you better know it,” she said before later adding, “He should have done better in the debate, but hell, he’s already starting to do better. Did you see the latest interview? And he gets stronger and he’s going to do better every day.”

At some point, Lemon even went into the audience to give the mic to Black-ish actress Jenifer Lewis, who also encouraged everyone present to vote.

Throughout the conversation, the other CBC members offered ample reasons why Black voters should continue their support of the Biden-Harris administration. As Waters vowed not to protect big banks and corporations as others in Congress had done, she vouched for Biden again. “I want you to know that for the rest of my years, and me and Biden gone live a long time,” she said, as she made a point about standing up for the Black community.

“We are going to win,” she said, confidently ending the session.

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