Kamala Harris of California has been a U.S. senator for less than three weeks, but the prominent speaking role she was given at Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington showed her reputation as a rising star in a Democratic Party searching for a new generation of leaders.
“Even if you are not sitting in the White House, even if you are not a member of the United States Congress, even if you don’t run a big corporate Super PAC, you have the power,” she said in a defiant tone to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators whom she summoned to activism comparable to the civil rights era.
“This is at that moment in time for our country, when we are collectively looking in the mirror and with furrowed brow asking this question, who are we?” Harris said.
It was a bold performance for the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India who met as civil rights activists at the University of California-Berkeley and who is now embracing her role in the political opposition to President Donald Trump. She’s grilled Trump nominees at confirmation hearings and then told Saturday’s crowd that “fight we will do and fight we will win.”
“Let’s make today a beginning. Let’s buckle in because it’s going to be a bumpy ride and then let’s go back to Ohio and New York and Florida and California and let’s get to work,” Harris said.
Harris’ defiant stance toward Trump is a surefire political winner in her liberal state of California. Californians jammed eastbound planes to attend the Women’s March on Washington.
Donna Decker, a teacher from Nevada City, California, said she flew across the country, in part, to raise her spirits following the election.
“We in California hated how our votes were crushed because of the Electoral College system,” she said. “I am here to speak for everyone who felt their vote did not count.”
Shari Rusk said that her flight from Sacramento was “probably 96 percent women.”
“They were cheering and excited,” said Rusk, who attended the rally with her 11-year-old daughter, Lily Rose.
Katie Archbold, from San Francisco, said it seemed her entire flight was women going to the march. She said she was inspired by an older woman who told her about a suffragette march that overshadowed President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration to demand that he allow women the right to vote. She said support for women’s rights and Planned Parenthood was the issue of our time.
Many in the packed crowd couldn’t hear the speakers. Inching toward the stage was an exercise in futility. There were so many people at the event that the marchers could not march on the route that had been set aside; it was already filled with people.
But those who got close enough could see screens set up showing musicians and speakers including activist and director Michael Moore, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, told the crowd that Trump and his cabinet nominees are “dangerous for us and all of our families.”
Harris was the first among a few female Democratic senators to speak. Flanked on stage by other political figures, Harris said “we are tired as women of being relegated to simply being thought of as a particular constituency or demographic.”
“We’ve got our work cut out for us and it’s going to get harder before it gets easier,” she said. “I know we will rise to the challenge and I know we will keep fighting no matter what, because we’ve got the power,” she said.
McClatchy reporter Stuart Leavenworth contributed to this story.