Senator Kamala Harris has a reputation for sharp questioning, but her presidential campaign has until now languished in the shadows. All that changed with her standout performance in the second Democratic debate.
The first round of the Democratic debates have been and gone, and the top contenders for the 2020 presidency are beginning to break away from the pack, not least Senator Kamala Harris, whose spectacular takedown of former Vice President Joe Biden earned her a six-point bump in the race to supersede Donald Trump in the White House.
The former Californian attorney general, who is of Jamaican and Indian heritage, opened up about her own experience of racial segregation when challenging Biden over his opposition to federally mandated busing in the 1970s, leaving the nation in no doubt who could take on President of the United States on the ultimate debate stage.
As the race for the White House ramps up, Harris has spoken out about her decision to share her emotional story of bussing. In an interview with CBS News, the Senator responded to criticism that she served the Biden a “low blow” in the debates, even as she was widely viewed as the winner of the Democratic debates.
“It was about just speaking truth and as I’ve said many times, I have a great deal of respect for Joe Biden,” Harris told CBS News. “He has served our country over many years in a very noble way, but he and I disagree on that.”
The confrontation came after Harris deftly injected a discussion about reparations for slavery. Turning to Biden, Harris challenged the former vice president over his voting record on civil rights, when it emerged that he had opposed government-mandated efforts to improve integration by bussing Black students to desegregated schools.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” she began. “And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe – and it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
“It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing. There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day,” she continued.
Then came the blow: “That little girl was me.”
Speaking to CBS News, Harris explained that discussion around the Biden confrontation must focus on the longstanding legacy of segregation, rather than centre the conversation on her debate tactics.
“My purpose in raising my experience was to really just make sure that in this conversation we are appreciating the impact on real people of policies that have been pushed in the history of our country way back when and the affect even today,” she said.
“The point that I was making is, had those senators, those segregationists, had their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate today,” she said. “I would certainly not be a top contender to be president of the United States.”
Harris went on to assert that confronting the frontrunner of the Democratic primaries was not simply an attack on Biden’s voting record, but an essential discussion over views and policies that had far-reaching consequences for Black Americans.
“The impact of their work was very real and it is something that when we are discussing an issue of race has to be appreciated, which is this is not just an intellectual or academic discussion,” she continued. “The history of race in our country had a real impact on real people.”
As far as mic drop moments go, Harris’ story has not only captured the attention of the audience, but the whole nation. With the momentum from this debate, it could carry her ahead in the race to the White House.