Debates, round two: what did you think?

Deadline: sooner is better than later – What did you think of the second round of debates? Who tackled the issues head-on and who ducked? Who said what you wanted to hear and whose ideas came up short? Who do you think should drop out now?

What you can do:

Tell the candidates your opinions. If we want the best possible candidates, we need to tell them – and keep telling them – what we want, including what we like and what we don’t like in what we’re hearing from them.

To refresh your recollection, here are the candidates who debated each night, in alphabetical order:

  • Night 1, Tuesday, July 30: Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, John Hickenlooper, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson
  • Night 2, Wednesday, July 31: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Andrew Yang

We’ve made it easy for you to contact the candidates. Click on their names in the alphabetical list below to get to their campaign websites, which have ways you can contact them. Or contact them on Facebook or twitter. Tell your friends to speak up, too.

And leave a comment on this article to let US know what you think!

Fantastic, and not-so-fantastic, candidates, and where to find them (candidates’ names are links to their campaign websites):

Photo of July 30 debate watch party by IEB Governance Committee member Linh Nguyen

and furthermore … Debates, round two

Deadline: through July 31, and after – Ah, those good old innocent days of the first Democratic Presidential debates, before part of our country was telling another part to go back where they came from. But seriously folks, a few things have changed since the first set of debates, so we’ve updated our Primary Primer for you. Whether you have a favorite candidate or not, check out where the candidates stand on the big issues, and get in touch with the candidates if you want them to say more or if you don’t like what they’re saying. This is the time for us to make our voices heard, while everything is still up in the air.

What you can do:

Let’s call (or email, or tweet, or your platform of choice) the candidates on it:

Step one: Check out their positions.

Politico has this guide to the issues, searchable by candidate, issue or category. (Caveat: the site says it’s current as of July 17, but it still lists Eric Swalwell, who bowed out on July 8). You can also check the candidates’ websites to see what they say about your key issues. Scroll down to the end of this article for links to all of the candidates’ websites and social media. A tip: the easier an issue is to find on a candidate’s site, and the more detail the site devotes to it, the more important that issue is to the candidate.

Step two: Tell the candidates what you think.

To say what we all know: Candidates have been known to change their positions based on pressure. Are you pleased with the priority they’re giving your top issues and what they’re saying? Thank them. Have they failed to address an issue? Demand that they address it, and tell them what you hope they’ll say. Have they taken a position you don’t like? Tell them. Especially tell the candidates if their position, or lack of a position, makes the difference between you supporting them, opposing them, or considering supporting someone else. After all, it’s all about getting your vote!

We’ve made it easy for you to contact the candidates. Click on their names in the list below to get to their campaign websites, which have ways you can contact them; we also list their campaigns’ facebook pages and twitter accounts. And try this cool tool from Indivisible National: you record a video telling the presidential candidates what you want to hear from the debate stage, and they’ll format and subtitle it and send you a link that you can spread by email and on your social media. Tell your friends to speak up, too!

Step three: Tune in: watch the debates.

The schedule for Round Two:

  • Night 1, Tuesday, July 30, 5 PM Pacific Time: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan, & Marianne Williamson
  • Night 2, Wednesday, July 31, 5 PM Pacific Time: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, & Jay Inslee

Watch the debates with us! We’re co-hosting a Big Screen Democratic Debate Watch Party from 5 to 8 PM both nights at Spats in Berkeley, along with our friends from the East Bay Activist Alliance and Berkeley Democratic Club.

Or on the first night only, Tues. July 30, watch at Everett & Jones, Jack London Square, 126 Broadway, Oakland. This event is hosted by Oakland/East Bay Coordinated GOTV (Get Out the Vote) Team, and co-hosted by Swing Left, Commit to Flip Blue, and others.  Doors open at 4 PM. RSVP here but please note that RSVP’ing doesn’t guarantee you a seat. FREE.

Don’t want to go out? CNN is hosting the debates this time, and they’ll stream live on CNN.com, CNN apps for iOS and Android, and on the CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android TV. Invite friends over and have your own debate watch party! Here’s a great resource from Indy National.

Want to watch/re-watch all or part of the first set of debates? You can see the first night here and the second night here.

Fantastic, and not-so-fantastic, candidates, and where to find them (candidates’ names are links to their campaign websites):

Graphic, Lincoln – Douglas, by XKCD

Make the candidates speak out

Deadline: through June 26, and even after – Do you have a favorite Presidential candidate yet? Do you know where the candidates stand on the big issues – and if you do, do you know it from their own statements?

Many of the candidates, to our dismay, haven’t taken a stand or enunciated a plan on some of the major issues facing us: climate change, endless war, women’s or LGBTQ+ rights, and more. We know: you’d probably vote for Godzilla over the Current Occupant. But we’re betting you’d rather make a more refined decision.


What you can do:

Let’s call (or email, or tweet, or your platform of choice) them on it.

Step one: Check what they say – or don’t say.

Below you’ll find a list of some of our top priorities – not meant to be exclusive! – and a list of the candidates’ websites. Do some cross-referencing. Start with your own favorite candidate, if you have one, and move on to others from there: What do the candidates say about your key issues, in how much detail, and how easy is it to find? A general rule for candidates’ sites: the easier something is to find on a site, the more important it is to the candidate.

Step two: Tell the candidates what you think.

To say what we all know: Candidates have been known to change their positions based on pressure. Are you pleased with the priority they’re giving your issues and what they’re saying? Thank them. Have they failed to address an issue? Demand that they address it, and tell them what you hope they’ll say. Have they taken a position you don’t like? Tell them. Especially tell the candidates if their position, or lack of a position, makes the difference between you supporting them, opposing them, or considering supporting someone else. After all, it’s all about getting your vote!

We’ve made it easy for you to contact the candidates. Click on their names in the list below to get to their campaign websites, which have ways you can contact them; we also list their campaigns’ facebook pages and twitter accounts.

Step three: Get your friends involved.

Got friends who don’t like the Current Occupant? Of course you do! Invite them to join you in the research. Encourage each other to speak up. You don’t even have to favor the same candidate to all support the work of pushing the candidates to take positions you want on the issues you care about.

And use your own social media. Try this cool tool from Indivisible National: you record a video telling the presidential candidates what you want to hear from the debate stage, and they’ll format and subtitle it and send you a link that you can spread by email and on your social media.

Step four: Let us know how it’s going!

We’d like to know who you’ve contacted on what issues, and if you hear back from them. Email us at info@indivisibleeb.org


Our (non-exclusive) list of priority issues, in alphabetical order:

  • Climate change
  • Cybersecurity
  • Economic justice
  • Education
  • Election security
  • Endless war
  • Healthcare
  • Immigration
  • Impeachment
  • Incarceration
  • Judiciary
  • LGBTQ+ rights
  • Reproductive rights
  • Science and technology
  • Social justice
  • Voters’ rights
  • Women’s rights


The
candidates, in alphabetical order (their names are links to their campaign websites).

 

Graphic “Debate picture” by Blok Glo

 

 

Clap back at the wall

Deadline: February 15, 2019 and keep going – Clap if you can hear me, and tell our Members of Congress to keep it up: No wall, no use of military funds for the wall, no further immigrant detention and border militarization, no bargaining to keep the government open.

Leader Dearest talked and talked and the message was: if you aren’t nice to me about the Wall and immigration, I’m gonna keep on tantrumming. Yeah, nope. We want our Members of Congress to keep right on standing up to him: no funding for the wall, no militarizing the border or jailing more immigrants. No more separating families.

What to do:

Please thank our senators for their votes against the wall, and ask them to continue to vote against all additional funding for ICE, CBP, or wall construction; stronger accountability for DHS; and restricting the administration’s ability to use its transfer and reprogramming authority to treat DHS funding as a slush fund to increase detention programs and invest in ineffective and inhumane policies.

On the front lines, Representative Barbara Lee is on the bipartisan committee that is in charge of writing the Dept. of Homeland Security bill to avert another shutdown. The committee has a deadline of February 15. And Senator Kamala Harris is one of the original cosponsors of a new bill, the ‘‘Restrictions Against Illegitimate Declarations for Emergency Re-appropriations Act of 2019’’ (‘‘RAIDER Act of 2019’’), which would block the administration from using military funds to build the wall without Congressional authorization.

What to say:

To Senator Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for opposing funding for the border wall and for cosponsoring the RAIDER Act of 2019. I hope she’ll continue to oppose all additional funding for ICE, CBP, wall construction, or any form of border militarization.

To Sen. Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein for opposing funding for the border wall. I hope she’ll continue to oppose all additional funding for ICE, CBP, wall construction, or any form of border militarization.

To Rep. Lee (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. Lee for opposing funding for the border wall. I’m asking her to continue to vote against all additional funding for ICE, CBP, or wall construction. I hope she’ll also support stronger accountability for DHS. And we need to keep the administration from using its transfer and reprogramming authority as a way to treat DHS as a slush fund to increase inhumane detention programs. And I hope she will do everything possible on the bipartisan committee to keep the government open without giving into the administration’s demands for this kind of funding.

IEB members at Kamala Harris’ Kickoff

Sunday, January 27, 2019 was a beautiful day in the East Bay, and Indivisible East Bay held its monthly All Members Meeting. Oh, and also – Senator Kamala Harris kicked off her Presidential campaign in her native Oakland. Several IEB members skipped the AMM for the historic event; we bring you their impressions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A preliminary note: So far, IEB’s only position in the Democratic primary is that we will support whoever wins it and do all we can to elect a new president in 2020. If you are interested in participating in a discussion about how we engage with the primary with that as our ultimate goal, please add your email to this list and we will contact you sometime in the coming months about next steps. We are also committed to creating an environment in which our members feel comfortable supporting the primary candidate of their choice regardless of what we do as an organization.

As all agreed, it was a massive crowd – news reports estimated 20,000, which all attendees agreed seemed extremely low. Unfortunately, entry to the event was apparently poorly organized, with huge lines thronging the streets near Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza, so people reported waiting for a couple of hours. (The good news, as one said, was that the delay meant they only got to listen to Kamala’s speech, and not any of the warmup acts!)

On the other hand, IEB Governance Committee member and Senator Team co-lead Amelia Cass had a different experience:

Due to IEB’s relationship with the senator’s Congressional office, I was invited to the rally by her campaign. I see this as a good sign that the senator respects our organization and is interested in appealing to IEB and the rest of the Indivisible movement, and so we have a great chance for us to influence both our own representative and the national discourse. (And as a side benefit for me, I got to watch the rally from the “VIP” section behind the stage, standing just two people over from, as it happened, Rep. Barbara Lee.)

Despite the delays, everyone agreed that the crowds were happy and enthusiastic and the mood, electric. “Clearly a sense of history in the making,” as one IEB-er put it. All reports noted the diversity of the “deliciously Oaklandish” crowd: “So many moms with their kids.” “The racial, age, and gender diversity was obvious, but there were also clearly lots of non-binary and queer folk.”

At least one IEB-er appreciated Harris’ comment that she was born just a few blocks from the rally site, which he understood as an indirect swipe at the outrageous birther conspiracy that has already sprung up against her. As the press has reported, she never mentioned Trump by name, but almost every sentence was directed at him. “The crowd went WILD when Harris said a hostile power was infecting the White House like malware,” as one IEB-er put it. As for policy: Harris began with criminal justice reform and her experience taking on corporations, corruption, and criminals “for the people” of California as Attorney General – perhaps a little surprising since those are also the aspects of her career as a prosecutor that have faced the most criticism (though some have pointed out that both then and now, she has been held to a different standard as a Black woman). She also discussed Medicare for All, legal status and a path to citizenship, election security, and nuclear proliferation. The biggest applause for a policy item was probably her promise to act on climate change “based on science fact, not science fiction,” with her call for a “middle class tax cut” to be paid for by repealing the tax scam a close runner-up. 

Still, although Harris’ speech incorporated many of IEB’s priority policy areas, it was light on commitments to take specific actions. And she did not come across, like some of her rivals, as bursting with big new ideas about how to make our country better. But what it lacked there, it made up in moral force and smart and determined personality. And toward the end of her speech, she turned to an Obama-style theme of a united America familiar to anyone who has heard her speak over the last few years, but with new nuance and thoughtfulness about the meaning and implications of unity that, in Amelia’s words, “I think our movement would do well to consider during a contentious primary.” Although some of those attending the event – including Amelia – say they “weren’t persuaded to vote for her,” they were all impressed. “I think she’d make a formidable opponent,” summarized one IEB-er.

Top photo: Crowd on 14th Street waiting for Kamala Harris, with view of video showing the crowd in the Plaza.

Photographs by Jonathan Zingman and Nancy Latham

Briefing memo for meeting with Sen. Harris, Nov. 2018

On November 30, 2018, a delegation from Indivisible East Bay visited with Senator Kamala Harris’s staffers Julie Chavez Rodrigues and Daniel Chen. As we do before all our visits with our Senators, we prepared a briefing letter on all the issues we wanted to discuss, including extensive background research. This meeting concerned the following topics:

  • Asylum seekers
  • ICE/CBP abuses and DHS appropriations
  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Climate change, including carbon pricing
  • Poverty reduction
  • Abuses of the intelligence agencies
  • Cabinet order
  • Digital privacy
  • Criminal justice reform and the First Step Act
  • Judicial nominations
  • Campaign finance reform
  • New blue house
  • Town hall

You can read the entire memo here.

 

At Netroots Nation with Thousands of Other Progressives: Feeling our Grassroots Power

By Nancy Latham

Netroots Visual Recording, by Nancy Latham
Visual recording

At the beginning of August, I traveled to New Orleans with thousands of other activists to attend the 2018 annual Netroots Nation conference. Each day we chose from approximately a gajillion panels and trainings. At the panels we learned about how to build diverse coalitions, what it means to bring race and class narratives together, why we’ve been thinking about GOTV (Get Out the Vote) in the wrong way – and so much more. The trainings covered everything anyone would want to know about organizing and building power, from attracting volunteers to planning protests to messaging (and way more that I have forgotten).

Netroots, photo by Nancy Latham
Hidden Figures: How Women of Color are Making History in the Midterms, a panel discussion featuring women of color who are leading the way to progressive victories in key states

After drinking from a firehose of knowledge during the day, we flocked each night to the massive hall with its stage draped in lush curtains to hear keynote speeches by Democratic Party luminaries like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, and rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cynthia Nixon, and Chokwe Lumumba. (Fun fact: I learned there that the cool people call Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “AOC.”) The crowd was thrilled that no one there was heeding any centrist hand-wringing about moving too far to the Left. As speaker after speaker exhorted us to be bold in centering racial justice and economic justice and – for God’s sake – to stop apologizing for our party’s foundational principles, each was met with thundering applause.

Echoing the GOTV trainings that warned us about progressive voters who stay home when they are uninspired by Democrats’ lack of boldness, AOC reminded us that “swing voters don’t vote for the person who is moderate enough, the person who is most timid, the person who backs down from their starting point – the swing voter votes for authenticity.” And Bill de Blasio shouted to a cheering crowd: “This is an extraordinary moment. … We have to see ourselves as authors of an emerging majority. … Progressives: it’s our time!”

It sure feels like it’s our time. Since the dark days right after the 2016 election, we have been organizing our hearts out, building our power – and it’s working. People who just a year ago might have been nervous to lead with social justice messages are now proudly proclaiming those values. “Let’s speak truth,” Kamala Harris said. “That if it wasn’t clear before Charlottesville, it is clear now – racism is real in this country, and we need to deal with that. Sexism is real in this country; let’s deal with it. Anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia are real in this country; let’s deal with it.” These sentiments flowed throughout every speech – because the activists have demanded it. And we have told elected officials and those seeking office that we would work for them – we would mobilize to get out the vote and we would have their backs on the issues. They know they need us, so they are listening to us.

It was so refreshing to have racial justice front and center. While some of the coverage of the conference suggested that the message was “screw the white working class Trump voters – we’re done with them,” that was not what I heard at all. Rather, we are fighting for everyone devastated by decades of stagnating median wages and skyrocketing inequality. As AOC says, we “fight for social economic, and racial justice for all working class Americans.” We have to be honest and forthright about that – we can be true to our values, inspire our base, and do the right thing for everyone no matter who they voted for, all at the same time. As we return to our principles of equity and justice, Obama-Trump voters may come home to the Democratic Party.

And even among our progressive brethren, we were pushed to do better. On the last night, the Black Ass Caucus took the stage, claimed space, and challenged Netroots leadership and everyone in the audience to see the ways in which people of color were still being marginalized. While the protest stretched many in the audience outside their comfort zones (me included), we were grateful to be called out: asked to live up to our principles more authentically. To see the whole protest, go here – and I encourage you to watch it a few times.

Ultimately, what is very clear is that it is not only morally wrong, but strategically unsound, to moderate our focus on the issues that will galvanize our base: people of color, young people, and white progressives. As the math shows, if we stick with our base and inspire them, we don’t need to worry about scaring off voters who will vote only for centrists. And as grassroots organizers, we need to keep doing what we’re doing: mobilizing, proudly proclaiming and reaffirming our progressive values, holding elected officials accountable, and owning our power.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governing Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

Photos by Nancy Latham

REUNITE Immigrant Families

In a July 17, 2018 press conference, Senator Kamala Harris, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), introduced a comprehensive bill to reunite immigrant families ripped apart by the administration’s disastrous policies. Senator Harris’s press release reports that the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act:

  • Requires the DHS and HHS Secretaries to publish guidance describing how they will reunify families. This guidance must include how to ensure sustained, no-cost contact between parents and children, access to children by legal counsel and other advocates, and unannounced inspections by child welfare organizations.
  • Requires immediate reunification of children who remain separated from a parent and legal guardian.
  • Creates presumption of release on recognizance, parole, or bond for parents of separated children.
  • Restores the Family Case Management Program.
  • Creates presumption that parents will not be deported until their child’s immigration proceeding is over or the child turns 18.
  • Prohibits DHS from using information, including DNA information, obtained pursuant to this Act for immigration enforcement purposes.
  • Creates privacy protections around the use of DNA testing to establish familial relationships.
  • Requires the Attorney General, the DHS Secretary, and the HHS Secretary to establish the Office for Locating and Reuniting Children with Parents, an interagency office, to expedite and facilitate the reunification of children and parents separated after enter the U.S.
  • Redirects $50 million in appropriations from ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for the enforcement of this Act.

The last point is particularly important in light of Slate’s recent shocking disclosure of internal documents from the Office of Refugee Resettlement showing that

HHS plans to pay for child separation by reallocating money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which, according to its website, ‘provides a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.’ Per the documents, the process of transferring those HIV/AIDS funds has already begun.

Key points at the press conference included Senator Harris’s insistence that family reunification is not enough if it means family incarceration, as is apparently the administration’s desire. Sen. Cortez Masto pointed out that in other situations, non-detention case supervision and management programs have superlative proven track records. Both Senators Harris and Cortez Masto, career prosecutors before their elections, stated that the detention centers – which they had visited – were identical to jails and in no way places for families or children. Moreover, Sen. Cortez Masto pointed out, they are staffed by contractors, not employees of the government who (at least theoretically) have a mission to take care of and reunite families.

Watch video of the press conference here.

What you can do:

  • Thank Senator Harris for introducing the REUNITE Act. (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Tell Senator Feinstein to support the REUNITE Act. (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Spread the word! Promote the REUNITE Act on social media; tell your friends and family to contact their Senators.
  • Some things you can say:
    • Almost 2,600 children remain separated from their parents. I stand with @SenKamalaHarris – Congress must pass the REUNITE Act & safely reunite these children with their parents and guardians. #FamiliesBelongTogether
    • The US Government has committed a human rights abuse by separating children from their parents. I support @SenKamalaHarris’ REUNITE Act because every child needs their parent or guardian. #FamiliesBelongTogether
    • Family detention is not a solution to family separation which is why I support @SenKamalaHarris REUNITE Act to reunite families as soon as possible and not lock them in cages. #Familiesbelongtogether
  • Read what Senator Harris has to say on Twitter and Facebook and retweet/like and share

Some other things you can do:

  • Volunteer with or donate to Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC).
  • This great coalition of groups is raising bond funds to get detainees released before they’re moved from the West County Detention Facility to other locations far from their families and immigration lawyers.
  • This local fundraiser by El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.

Read our latest article on actions you can take to fight the administration’s war against immigrants. For more background on the family separation issue, please see our other earlier articles here and here

 

 

Keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court

We know, you don’t need a singing elf on a unicorn to get you to oppose a Supreme Court nominee with a record against abortion rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, and common sense gun safety – but we’re giving you one anyway!

singing elf on unicorn

Brett Kavanaugh, nominated not long after the Fourth of July (ain’t irony great), has a record that’s all of the above. He is a “textualist,” an “originalist,” like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the Constitution must somehow be interpreted according to its text alone as written and intended by the Founding (white male slave-owning) Fathers. But most troubling of all, Kavanaugh has said that a sitting President should be exempt from criminal investigation and questioning, including questioning by prosecutors and defense counsel. No wonder Trump chose him!

Whether Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court for generations to come (he’s only 53 years old) is up to the Senate, and they need to hear from you: please call Senators Feinstein (202) 224-3841 and Harris (202) 224-3553 and ask them to do everything they can to block this nominee who would gut Roe v. Wade and give someone like Trump even greater executive power.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He would be a threat to our rights, our environment, and our protections against a dangerous administration. I want Senator ____ to speak out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, and to vote against him, and to persuade other Senators to vote against him.

Other things you can do:

  • #SaveSCOTUS Phone Banking. Sign up for an Indivisible National virtual phone bank to help flip crucial Senate seats in November. Training provided. All info & sign up for July 15 & 16 banks here.
  • Text banking with Resistance Labs: this is a fantastic resource – if the text banking to fight the Kavanaugh nomination has not yet gone live, sign up to be alerted when it’s ready to go!

 

Senator Harris Town Hall in Sacramento

IEB members who made the trek to Senator Kamala Harris’ Sacramento town hall on April 5 were rewarded with a lively session covering a broad range of issues. Members of the packed audience challenged Harris with questions that were sometimes supportive but more often critical, and overall she deftly replied to the queries.

On holding law enforcement to account

Senator Harris entered to a standing ovation. In her opening remarks, she spoke first about Stephon Clark, the local man killed in his grandmother’s backyard by police who allegedly mistook his cell phone for a weapon. Of note, Clark’s grandmother was in the audience.

The Senator used the Clark incident as a segue to a more general discussion of the history of police violence, dating back to the civil rights protests of the 1950’s and 60’s. She then spoke about how, as California’s attorney general, she had worked to address issues of police bias and accountability. In contrast, she noted that the current U.S. Department of Justice is “led by someone who wants to take us back” to a darker time.

Although Harris helped institute police bias training in California, it clearly hasn’t solved the problem. Acknowledging this lack of success, she spoke strongly about the “profound responsibility” of law enforcement “to give all members of the community dignity.”

The police shooting context lent a somber tone to Harris’ remarks around the adage: “as goes California, so goes the nation.” But she found hope in our response to that shooting and to the other injustices we face, many of them coming directly from Washington, D.C. The main theme throughout the discussion was “fighting for the best of who we are as a country.”

Immigration, the courts, and the power of resistance

When asked what she would say to the DREAMers who watched Congress fail to act to protect them, she told them to “keep on leading.” The DREAMers, she said, “believe that if they are seen and if their stories are heard, it will matter. They believe in our democracy.”

In response to the question of an organizer who has been leading protests outside Representative Tom McClintock’s district office regarding what to do about “counter-protesters trying to stir up trouble,” Harris said:

Speaking truth often invites people who don’t like to hear that truth to try and suppress you, and we can never be suppressed… And take a look around this room right now and hold on to the belief that you have a lot people supporting you even if you don’t see them at that moment… There are more of us.

Appropriately for a recent addition to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris spoke several times about the vital role the courts play in our government. Asked about the outsized influence of money in politics, specifically Citizens United v. FEC, she discussed the issue and then also pointed out the importance of several other Supreme Court decisions — including ones on collective bargaining, Brown vs. Board of Education, and the recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

Asked about DACA, Harris spoke of the importance of lower federal courts as a defense against the extreme positions of this administration. So far, these courts have successfully prevented the administration from rescinding DACA protections.

Toward the end of the town hall a heckler interrupted to criticize Harris for her leadership in the Democratic effort to attach the DREAM Act to a must-pass government spending bill. The heckler asserted that doing so prioritized one group of people over another. The Senator rejected this characterization, saying that the attachment was needed because “the approach this administration has taken is not just, it is not fair, it is not about giving people due process or equal opportunities.”

Senator Harris Town Hall April 2018

Areas for improvement

Overall, IEB members found several of the Senator’s answers incomplete, unclear or unsatisfactory. We plan to follow-up with her on these and other matters:

  • Harris talked about “reevaluating” Social Security and other expensive government programs. While she acknowledged we had to keep “our promises,” IEB would like to get more specifics as to her intentions here and to provide our suggestions for how to raise revenue.
  • We’d also like to discuss Harris’ remarks about “smart” allocation of national security resources. For example, she co-sponsored S.1414 – the SHIPS Act, which mandated that the Navy build up its fleet to an arbitrary 355 ships, a number that forward-thinking military experts have questioned. More generally, she has voted for bills that, in our view, astronomically increase military spending. We’d like to get more clarity on her national security priorities.
  • Near the end of the Town Hall the president of the California Urban Partnership (C.U.P.) asked Sen. Harris what will be done to ensure that the marijuana industry successfully transitions to a legal business — and not become “another cotton or sugar or tobacco where [Black people] work for free, where we do all of the jail time, but reap none of the benefits.” Sen. Harris agreed work was needed here and promised to follow up — but did not offer any specifics. We at IEB plan also want to follow up here — both with Sen. Harris and the C.U.P.

The Senator asked the audience to continue to find common ground and to build coalitions to fight for our values. She urged us to march and shout and speak up and organize. Finally, she said “thank you” for all the work we’ve done so far — and the town hall was adjourned.

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