It was as if nice, old Joe Biden was out on the street begging for votes when Kamala Harris walked by with a 50-pound handbag and slammed him on the head. He didn’t recover immediately and might or might not make a comeback, but the day was hers, a triumph for fraudulent bullying.
You know the actual facts, right? It was the second of two Democratic debates of 10 candidates each, and Harris, who had identified herself as the only black woman on the stage, said to Biden that she did not think he was a racist as she went on to make the case that he was a racist. She said he had conferred with racist senators and had opposed busing and that this was personal and hurt. She told Biden she knew a little girl who was beneficially bused to a mostly white school.
She was that girl.
The next day, her campaign staff put out a T-shirt with a picture of this sweet-looking child on the front, helping to verify speculation that her excellent performance was scripted. Biden’s clearly wasn’t.
He responded by saying he had been against the federal government dictating this decades-old busing burden but did not object to school districts making the decision, not entirely true. He soon announced his time was up. It would have been more interesting if homework permitted him to observe that Harris’s Jamaican father was an economics professor at Stanford and her Indian mother a physician, hardly desolation holding the child to the ground.
Polls said Harris bounced up and Biden slid down as the public reacted to what was considered the most dramatic event in the worrisome jibber-jabber of wannabe presidents. After the week’s final show was done, Harris’s staff said she favored returning the nation to busing. It would not hurt if she studied some additional polls, these taken when busing was going on. Neither whites nor blacks liked children being told to leave their schools for a ride to a place where they often felt lost and bothered to little educational avail.
Back in the days of busy busing, I had friends who moved into a house they could barely afford in a well-to-do suburb near Louisville, Ky. The purpose was for their children to go to some of the most highly ranked schools in the area. Then they learned their kids would spend a long time every day going back and forth to schools among the lowest ranked in the area. These people are not racists. They have spent years trying to help black people, but they did not like being ordered about by a federal government unconstitutionally deciding that skin color was basis enough to wreck their best laid plans for loved ones.
Busing didn’t work. People moved out of cities where they were subject to its familial intrusions, and more and more sent their children to private schools. Just as Biden was sneakily portrayed as a racist, they were called racists, but surveys suggest otherwise. Largely because so many whites and blacks still live in different neighborhoods, schools are not well-integrated, but all kinds of rescues, such as charter schools, have been devised. Going back to busing would mean our society had shamefully been fooled not just once, but twice.
Let’s don’t forget, in closing, how Harris objected to Biden negotiating with fellow senators who actually opposed him on many civil rights issues. Consider that talking and compromising with opponents was how one used to get things done in a democracy. Then consider Harris’s promise to diminish the ideal as president by enacting gun control laws all by herself if Congress does not go along.
One debate is one debate, and who knows what will happen as the campaigning goes on, but while Biden did not shine, Harris cast clouds over herself.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.