'Let's do this'

Kamala Harris declares 2020 presidential run, invoking powerful political forebears and a message of unity

(L to R) Martin Luther King Jr; Kamala Harris declares a 2020 presidential run; Shirley Chisolm. (Getty Images)

Kamala Harris has officially launched her presidential campaign for 2020, and she means to do it standing on the shoulders of giants.

The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, 54-year-old Harris launched her campaign for the White House on Monday – America’s Martin Luther King Jr Day holiday.

The announcement was made on Good Morning America and coincided with the release of a campaign video, in which the California senator and the state’s former attorney general, made an appeal to voters: “Let’s do this, together. Let’s claim our future. For ourselves, for our children, and for our country.”

Her campaign, with the slogan “Kamala Harris For The People,” will be formally launched on Sunday at a rally in Oakland, California, the city where she was born and began her legal career. Her first video emphasizes “truth, justice, decency and equality” as the cornerstones of her vision for leadership and for the nation.

Making her announcement on Martin Luther King Jr Day, Harris spoke of how active her parents were in the civil rights movement, and about King as an inspiration. “The thing about Dr. King that always inspires me is that he was aspirational. He was aspirational like our country is aspirational. We know that we’ve not yet reached those ideals. But our strength is that we fight to reach those ideals,” the senator said. “So today, the day we celebrate Dr. King, is a very special day for all of us as Americans and I’m honored to be able to make my announcement on the day we commemorate him.”

For those with longer memories, it was also immediately apparent Harris’ logo was a strong nod to Shirley Chisholm, the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president in a major political party, in 1972.

The red and yellow design invokes the campaign buttons used more than 50 years ago by Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress. Chisholm campaigned with the slogan “unbought and unbossed.”

Confirming the design was a deliberate recognition, campaign spokesperson Kirsten Allen told the Guardian: “Shirley Chisholm’s activism, advocacy and willingness to persistently remind the nation of the work to be done on behalf of it’s people is an enduring legacy that lives on in the Senator and to honor that legacy in her own campaign for President was a no-brainer.”

Harris has broken her share of barriers, too, as the first African American and first woman to be elected San Francisco district attorney in 2003 and state attorney general in 2010.

In 2016, she became the second black woman and first south-Asian woman elected to the Senate.

The New York Times’s Astead W. Herndon writes that she stands to be one of — if not the — “most viable black women to ever run for president,” while noting that her announcement video borrowed language from “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the 1900 song and poem long referred to as America’s “black national anthem.”

Although she is characterized as a legal reformer, critics have raised concerns about her prosecutorial record in the run-up to her declaration, citing a dramatic increase in California’s prison population during her years in office.

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, law professor Lara Bazelon drilled down on Harris’s record, argued that she had fallen often on “the wrong side of history” and suggesting that “if Kamala Harris wants people who care about dismantling mass incarceration and correcting miscarriages of justice to vote for her, she needs to radically break with her past.”

Harris joining two other prominent senators who have announced candidacies, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Watch Senator Kamala Harris’s announcement and interview on Good Morning America below:

Read the full story at The Guardian and The New York Times.

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