The sounds of chanting, clapping, and presidential candidates pitching why they are running and what they can offer as the president of the United States of America filled the 2019 California Democratic Convention held May 31 through June 2 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California.
Demonstrations gathered outside the Moscone Center where Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s team chanted slogans against the US policy of regime change war, and “We want Tulsi!” Professional sex workers and anti-circumcision activists in fake-bloody trousers protested while holding signs that read “This is my body,” reminding attendees that these are serious issues, and this is San Francisco.
Of the 14 presidential candidates who campaigned at the convention, a few also hosted their own political events at smaller gatherings.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, a daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, was hosted by a long-time Harris supporter Ashok Bhatt, a former member of the California Water Commission.
Harris, while addressing a small gathering at New Delhi restaurant on Saturday, June 1, touched on several issues and talked about “speaking truth.” She said we must all speak out and never be left to fight alone. On the issues of rising racism, sexism, and xenophobia she said these are born out of hate and are issues that we have been facing in the past two years.
California-native Harris, sharing her agenda if elected as the president, said she would work on teachers’ pay, equal pay for men and women, and gun safety laws, and in a stern tone spoke about issuing an executive order as the US president. She said she would give the US Congress 100 days to get their act together, and if they fail she will take executive action.
“What I would do is put in a requirement for anyone who sells more than five guns a year, they are required to do background checks when they sell those guns. I will require for any gun dealer that breaks the law, the ATF take their license,” said Harris.
Bhatt on hosting Harris told indica, “I support her always, and she is more concerned about education rather than sending people to jail. She is more interested in making equal paychecks and healthcare.”
Bhatt is hopeful that if Harris is elected, she can bring in comprehensive immigration reform, while other candidates just offer lip service. Bhatt said he has been supporting Harris for the past 30 years and knew her when he was a state water commissioner.
“We have shared common causes for the public,” he said, showing his confidence in Harris “Mark it up, many people can talk about anything and polls go up and down and whatever matters, she is in the front four of the presidential race.” According to the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination Polling data aggregated by www.realclearpolitics.com Harris is in fourth behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, in third.
But not all Indians agreed with Bhatt at the conference, where people were chanting in favor of Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard. Her campaign has been against the US regime change wars policy and received frequent applause when highlighted this issue.
“The most important job the president has is commander-in-chief, and I have served twice in the Middle East [brought applause from the audience] and 6 years on foreign affairs, and I know the importance of our national security and I know the cost of war. I have seen it firsthand,” said Congresswoman Gabbard, a converted Hindu. “A war that can destroy our country and our future. As your president, I will end our long-standing foreign policy of carrying out these costly regime change wars.”
As president and commander-in-chief, Gabbard said, she would invest the trillions of dollars wasted on wars in programs and the needs of the American people with truly affordable housing.
Gabbard, who was born in American Samoa, said she will bring a soldier principle to the White House, restoring the value of integrity and respect to the presidency.
“I ask you to join me, in this spirit of putting service before self, to stand up against the forces of greed and corruption,” she said.
Talking to indica Gabbard said, “I am feeling great to see the support out here from people across California for our campaign and the message I am delivering: putting the people and putting service above self, making sure that our government supports the people.”
Gabbard-supporter Yogi Chugh told indica at the convention, “At this moment it is unclear who will be the frontrunner, but what I am most excited about is the activism and the engagement. The South Asians have a chance to play.”
Adding, he said, “There is tremendous momentum, and what I am seeing now is that the migrant story is getting a little bit comfortable. We are beginning to recognize that investment in America and its politics is vital not only for ourself but our children as well.”
Abhay Dewan, a young convention attendee, when asked who he would be supporting, said, “I think the field is wide open, the primary is a year from now and it’s early in the race. Even in the primary last time, the candidate who stood out was Kamala Harris, someone who has a lot of experience. So does Gabbard and Joe Biden, too. I want to hear what they have to offer before I decide to vote.”
Another young man, Ajaib Gill of Bakersfield, California, held a poster of Daraka Larimore-Hall, vice chairman of the California Democratic Party who lost his bid for the party’s chair to labor leader Rusty Hicks. Gill told indica, “Our party is not moving forward with issues that affect the people. Rent control, Medical for All, enough though it’s a progressive state, and income inequality issue is plaguing America today.”
“I am supporting Bernie (Sanders) and not Kamala because he is the only candidate who is going to make income inequality number one issue. He is progressive,” Gill said.
Tanya Singh, a delegate from Riverside, California, said she cannot support Gabbard when the congresswoman from Hawaii took the stage on Saturday, in the General Hall session. Singh said: “Oh that is Tulsi, and she supports Modi and I don’t like Modi.”
Meanwhile, at the convention, a drama occurred when an animal-rights protester jumped on stage and grabbed a microphone from Harris during MoveOn’s Big Ideas Forum on Saturday when the California senator was asked by the event’s moderator to address the gender-pay-gap issue. Harris immediately moved off stage and appeared puzzled but remained calm as the protester grabbed the mic from her hand.
“We were protesting just a few minutes ago asking for your attention to a much bigger idea …,” the man said, as the moderator tried to intervene.
As the man resisted leaving the stage, Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, jumped in and wrestled the microphone from the protester. The protestor was removed from the event and not charged.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in his speech, emphasized that we’ve got to be thinking not just about ourselves but future generations.
“We will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign.”