The Sen. Kamala Harris talk at CAA Take Action Day ended up being the most attended of the many conversations and panels on Thursday that ranged from immigration and the environment to politics, politics, politics. It was standing-room only as the 224-seat theater became a fire marshal’s nightmare. People lined the entrance and walls and sat on the stairs. CAA employees were asked to give up their seats and go into the overflow room.
Guests in attendance included director Gary Ross, comedian Kathy Griffin and Richard Dreyfuss. Referring to the current political environment, Harris told an attentive audience: “I’m referring to this as the post-11/8 era. We don’t have the Senate. We don’t have the House. We don’t have the White House … we need to fight.”
Harris spoke about immigration issues, affordable healthcare and her first few days in her new job. She jumped from her California Attorney General post to become a U.S. senator in November, filling the chair vacated by retiring Barbara Boxer, who spoke earlier at the CAA event.
“I’ve been approaching Republicans [who are] known as folks who want to work across party lines from everything from criminal justice reform to environment and immigration,” Harris said. “We have talked about bringing a group of Republicans to California.” She said that many of them have never met “a dreamer,” which now is a euphemism for “undocumented” people. “The disconnect isn’t in the ideology … they don’t know who these kids are.”
Asked about House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who kept saying, “this is what I believe” rather than “this is what I know” — and how to connect to politicians who think like him, Harris said she’d use the same philosophy as her friends in businesses who think about “What is the return on the investment?” She said that kind of thinking could apply, for instance, to criminal justice reform and that educating these people when they get out is less expensive than having them go back into the system. We should never abandon the conversation about what is right, what is just and what is fair.”
Asked about what people can do to take action, Harris said: “I would urge you to do a few things. Pay attention to the 2018 election in terms of the Senate. We don’t want to lose those seats … know that you may have to support someone that you do not agree with fully, but it’s about keeping our numbers.” She suggested supporting nonprofits that are involved in immigration, working with refugees and getting involved in other states’ elections.
“It’s your activism and your voice and passion fueling this,” Harris said. “Everything you’re doing matters, is being heard and it’s making a difference.” She ended by quoting Coretta Scott King, saying, “The fight for civil rights must be fought and won for each generation.” She explained that “the gains we make will be incremental. Do not despair. Do not feel overwhelmed and throw up your hands.”