Harris calls for a more “truthful and honest” discussion on race in the U.S.
“Growing up, my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us she couldn’t play with us because we were black” #DemDebate2 #DemocraticDebate2020
Democratic divisions over race, age and ideology surged into public view Thursday night as the party’s leading presidential contenders faced off in a fiery debate over who is best positioned to take on President Donald Trump.
The Democratic Party’s early front-runner, 76-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden, was forced to defend his record on race in the face of tough questions from California Sen. Kamala Harris, the only African American on stage. That was only after he defended his age after jabs from one of two millennial candidates in the prime-time clash.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, though she described Biden’s record of working with Republican segregationist senators on non-race issues as “hurtful.”
Clearly on defense, Biden called the Harris attack “a complete mischaracterization of my record.” He declared, “I ran because of civil rights.”
The debate marked an abrupt turning point in a Democratic primary in which candidates have largely tiptoed around each other, focusing instead on their shared desire to beat Trump. But the debate revealed just how deep the fissures are within the Democratic Party eight months before primary voting begins.
Thursday’s debate, like the one a night earlier, gave millions of Americans their first peek inside the Democrats’ unruly 2020 season.
The showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates — according to early polls, at least. Those are Biden, Sanders, Pete Buttigieg of Indiana and Harris. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who debated Wednesday night, is the fifth.
There are so many candidates lining up to take on Trump that they do not all fit on one debate stage — or even two. Twenty Democrats debated on national television this week in two waves of 10, while a handful more were left out altogether.
The level of diversity on display was unprecedented for a major political party in the United States. The field features six women, two African Americans, one Asian American and two men under 40, one of them openly gay.
Yet in the early days of the campaign, two white septuagenarians are leading the polls: Biden and Vermont Sen. Sanders.
Thursday’s slate of candidates — and the debate itself — highlighted the unprecedented diversity of the Democratic Party’s 2020 class.
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 37-year-old gay former military officer, is four decades younger than Sanders, and has been framing his candidacy as a call for generational change in his party. Harris is the only African American woman to qualify for the presidential debate stage. Any of the three women featured Thursday night would be the first ever elected president.
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