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Senators Kamala Harris, Joe Biden clash at second Democratic debate

Biden had recently said, in an effort to portray himself as a unifier who can work with political rivals to get things done, that as a US senator he had even worked with those two senators to get things done. He has been under fire from his rivals since, one of whom had demanded he should apologize.

world Updated: Jun 28, 2019 22:53 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator for California Kamala Harris, whose father is black and mother Indian, went on to say she was among those who was bused, the practice of transporting students to schools outside their residential districts to end racial segregation in the 1970s and 80s.
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator for California Kamala Harris, whose father is black and mother Indian, went on to say she was among those who was bused, the practice of transporting students to schools outside their residential districts to end racial segregation in the 1970s and 80s.(AFP PHOTO.)
         

As a frontrunner with a double-digit lead in polls over all the others, former Vice-President Joe Biden went into Thursday’s Democratic debate wearing a large bulls-eye on his back. Many of his rivals went for him as expected, but Senator Kamala Harris scored the night’s most dramatic hit.

“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris started, looking at Biden, past Bernie Sanders who stood between them, but “it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations on the segregation of race and you worked with them to oppose busing.”

Biden had recently said, in an effort to portray himself as a unifier who can work with political rivals to get things done, that as a US senator he had even worked with those two senators to get things done. He has been under fire from his rivals since, one of whom had demanded he should apologize.

Harris, whose father is black and mother Indian, went on to say she was among those who was bused, the practice of transporting students to schools outside their residential districts to end racial segregation in the 1970s and 80s. “There was a little girl in California, who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.” Her campaign tweeted a picture of her from that time shortly afterwards.

Biden was prepared. He said that was a “mischaracterization” of his position on busing. And added, ““If we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I’m happy to say that I was a public defender, I didn’t become a prosecutor.” Harris has been attacked in her party for her record as a prosecutor in California, first as a district attorney and then as the state’s attorney general. She might have expected that and just looked away.

Will the exchange hurt Biden? He is very popular with African American Democrats, a constituency he has nursed for decades. His stint as President Barack Obama’s deputy has further enforced his hold. Harris is vying for the same constituency, as an African American.

Biden, who is 76, was also asked by another of his debate stage rivals, Congressman Eric Swalwell to step aside and let the next generation of Democrats take charge now, as he had himself said many years ago, making a case for himself. “I’m still holding on to that torch,” Biden said, with a smile.

The former vice-president is currently polling at 32% in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, 15.1 points ahead of Sanders, who is in second position. That makes him a target for everyone, and he helps them with his gaffes.

First Published: Jun 28, 2019 22:53 IST

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