Vice President Harris warns Service Employees, nation of Trump threats to rights, freedoms

By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer

Philadelphia, PA (PAI) — In some of her sharpest words ever on the campaign trail, Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris warned the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — and, by extension, the country — of the threat to rights and freedoms from a White House takeover by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Harris ended her 20-minute address on May 21 with that warning to the 3,500 union delegates meeting at their convention in Philadelphia. Her speech was repeatedly interrupted by chants of “Four more years!” And she urged the union to get out in the streets to defend the country.

Historically, vice presidential nominees, including incumbents, have been used as “attack dogs” in both presidential and off-year campaigns. Two Republican examples: Vice President  Spiro Agnew blasted the media as “nattering nabobs of negativism” in 1970 and Republican vice presidential nominee Bob Dole, a badly wounded World War II veteran, called it and other conflicts “Democrat wars” in a 1976 debate.

Given Trump’s track record, and his “I’ll be a dictator on day one” statement, Harris went further.

Before discussing the impact of a Trump triumph this fall, Harris ran through a long list of accomplishments for workers by Democratic President Joe Biden. They included better pay for home health care workers, a $15 hourly minimum wage for federal contractor employees, mandatory nurse-patient ratios at nursing homes that get Medicaid money, and more job safety enforcement. All those matter to SEIU. The White House posted the entire speech on YouTube.

Inside the hall, Harris did not directly cite Trump’s incitement and direction of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but used tough words — including a reference to Trump’s use the day before in a tweet of the Nazi-associated word “reich”— to outline the threat to democracy he poses. Adolf Hitler called his reign “The 1,000-year Reich.”

In doing so, Harris returned to the reason a reluctant Biden entered the presidential race in early 2020, and that he has repeated since. Indeed, when Biden launched this year’s presidential bid, also in Philadelphia, he again cast it as a defense of democracy. It’s a major Biden campaign theme.

“We are here today because we are clear-eyed about the stakes of this moment,” she declared. “Across our nation, we see full-on attacks on hard-won, hard-fought freedoms and rights.”

The rights under attack the vice president listed were “The freedom to vote, the freedom to organize, the freedom to be safe from the horror of gun violence, the freedom from hate and bigotry, the freedom to love whom you love openly and with pride, and the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body and not have our government tell her what to do.”

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