Sen. Kamala Harris now says she does not support federally mandated busing, putting her more in line with former Vice President Joe Biden’s position, which he attacked in the first round of Democrat debates.
During the second night of Democrat debates at the end of June, Harris squared off against Biden on the issue of race. Harris at first took issue with Biden’s recent praise of two senators who were segregationists, but she turned her criticism into an issue over busing as a means to integrate schools. Harris told the story of “a little girl in California” who benefited from federally mandated busing. In the 1970s, Biden opposed a federal mandate for busing.
“And that little girl was me,” Harris said. “So, I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.”
The moment helped Harris gain the praise of political pundits after the debate and may have caused part of Biden’s drop in the polls.
The attack, according to Politico, was “months in the making,” as her team relentlessly focused on ways to drag Biden. The reason to focus on Biden was not just because he was leading in the polls, but because he was leading with black voters. Harris’ team decided to try and make him appear at least somewhat racist.
Biden later said Harris’ remarks were “a mischaracterization of my position across the board,” NPR reported.
On Wednesday, in Iowa, Harris appeared to change her position supporting mandated busing by telling a crowd that busing should be a policy considered by individual school districts to help integrate students.
“I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools,” Harris said in response to a question about whether she supported federally mandated busing, the Associated Press reported.
Asked to clarify, Harris said, “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”
On Friday, Biden laughed at Harris’ position change during an interview with CNN host Chris Cuomo.
“It’s so easy to go back 30, 40, 50 years and take a context and take it completely out of context," Biden said, according to Fox News. "I get all this information about other people's past and what they've done and, you know, I'm just not gonna go there... we should be debating what we do from here."
“For example, this whole thing about race and busing,” he added. “Well, I think if you take a look, our positions aren't any different as we're finding out."
When Cuomo mentioned Harris’ position that busing should be “a tool” that can help integrate, Biden laughed, “Yeah, well, look at my record.”
The Washington Post took a look at Biden and Harris’ records, and found nuanced and subtle differences. Biden in the ‘70s thought quotas for minorities were a “racist concept.” He now says that he supported voluntary busing or court-ordered busing, and simply opposed federally mandated busing.
Harris previously supported federally mandated busing, but not today. They are essentially on the same page, which means Harris’ planned attack on Biden was simply for attention and not over any real policy disagreement.
This will likely hurt her in the next debate as Biden (or possibly other candidates looking to attack President Donald Trump instead of each other) points out her hypocrisy and cynicism.