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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "busing"

Kamala collapse: CNN poll has Harris down to five percent

Westlake Legal Group kh-4 Kamala collapse: CNN poll has Harris down to five percent The Blog poll medicare for all kamala harris Elizabeth Warren CNN busing biden Bernie Sanders

This is an outlier but it ain’t *that* much of an outlier. No other survey tracked by RCP has had Harris as low as five percent nationally, but she’s been in single digits all month and has dipped as low as seven percent at least once. Her trajectory since the big surge after the first debate and the exchange with Joe Biden about busing has been a straight downward-sloping line, from a high of 15.2 percent in the RCP average on July 6 to 7.4 percent now.

That is, she’s lost more than half of her support in about six weeks. She’s actually lower in the polls now than she was all spring.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. If she engineered one big surge for herself with a great debate, presumably she can do it again. The counterpoint to that, though, is that as Democratic voters become more familiar with the candidates it becomes harder to make a strong impression on them with one standout moment on television. Harris surged after the first debate because, for many Dems, that was their very first look at her. What are they going to see at the next debate that they didn’t see at the last one, when Tulsi Gabbard gutted Harris for her record as California AG, to rehabilitate their opinion of Harris?

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She’s lost 12 points(!) since CNN’s June survey, more than two-thirds of her support at the time. Harris is now fourth among nonwhite voters, the group she’s hoping will propel her to the nomination, scarcely ahead of Beto O’Rourke. Remember when she sneered after the last debate that Gabbard attacked her because she’s a top-tier candidate and Gabbard isn’t? If CNN is right, not only is she no longer a top-tier candidate, it’s actually easy at the moment to imagine Gabbard passing her in national surveys, however briefly.

I confess, I don’t get it. As effective as Gabbard’s attack was, it wasn’t so devastating that it singlehandedly knocked 12 points off of Harris’s national support overnight. The ratings for the debate weren’t even that high, so how many Democratic voters even saw the exchange? Something more has caused people to lose interest. Does she need to go back to attacking Biden on racial issues? Figure out a position on health care and stick to it for more than eight seconds? I’m mystified.

This is a good poll for Grandpa Joe, who’s up seven points from the same June survey that showed Harris’s surge. Clearly some of the voters who momentarily abandoned him for her have drifted back into his column. Still, his lead seems fragile: The attacks on him have driven his favorable rating all the way down from 54/22 in January 2018 to 34/38 now, according to a new NBC poll. Media coverage of him has obsessed over his habit of misstatements and whether they prove that he’s, ahem, “lost a step,” with even some Democratic apparatchiks starting to fret about it. He hasn’t been attacked explicitly over his age yet but that’s doubtless going to come eventually from one or more of the younger candidates, as Dem voters are concerned about it. It’s too useful a weapon to leave it on the table.

In fact, if you believe YouGov’s numbers, likable ol’ Joe isn’t even the most popular Democrat in the race anymore:

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The sense one gets from the smart set is that Warren’s the real favorite in the race at this point despite Biden’s polling lead. Partly that’s because she’s the only candidate in the field whose support has grown steadily in the past three months and partly it’s because the most compelling reason to nominate Biden is out of his own control. He’s the electable one, we’re told repeatedly: His wife stressed that point in unusually stark terms while campaigning yesterday in New Hampshire (“You may like another candidate better, but you have to look at who is going to win”) and Biden himself stresses it in his new campaign ad below per the polling figures highlighted near the beginning of the spot. The thing about electability, though, is that it’s only true until it isn’t. If Warren continues to climb, perceptions of Biden’s electoral strength will disappear gradually; if she ends up pulling off a win or two in the early states, what’s left of those perceptions will disappear suddenly. And remember, she has yet to share a debate stage with Biden. Via the luck of the draw, they’ve ended up in separate groups for each of the first two debates. That’ll likely change next month and Dems will finally have a chance to size them up side by side. How will that work out for Sleepy Joe?

The post Kamala collapse: CNN poll has Harris down to five percent appeared first on Hot Air.

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Second Democratic debate live thread: Biden-geddon

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Last night’s round one of the debate was hard to predict. Would the natural rivals, Bernie and Warren on the one hand and Buttigieg and Beto on the other, go toe-to-toe? (Nope.) Would the moderates, like John Delaney and Tim Ryan, pile on the progressives? (Yep.) Would Marianne Williamson cast a spell stealing the souls of everyone watching and encasing them in a magic crystal, to be freed only after America has safely elected her president? (Yes indeed.)

Tonight’s round two, at 8 p.m. ET on CNN, is more straightforward. The plan for nearly everyone onstage: Get Biden. Hit him high, hit him low, but hit him hard.

The line-up:

Joe Biden
Kamala Harris
Cory Booker
Julian Castro
Kirsten Gillibrand
Tulsi Gabbard
Bill de Blasio
Andew Yang
Jay Inslee
Michael Bennet

Harris is going to take her best shot at Biden, knowing that expectations are high after her breakout performance in the first debate. She pulled some black voters away from Grandpa Joe — temporarily — with the exchange about busing last month. She’s coming after him again, this time probably for his criminal justice bill, to try to further persuade those voters that he’s no friend to black Americans.

Cory Booker’s coming for him too. Spartacus is a desperate man, a marginal candidate to date who somehow needs to elbow past Biden *and* Harris to get black voters’ attention. He’s going to come at Biden for his record on race even more insistently tonight than she will in hopes of finally making his mark. Odds are good, in fact, that the main takeaway from viewers four hours from now will be annoyance that Booker kept interrupting in order to muscle in on the big Biden/Harris rematch.

Gillibrand? Yep, attacking Biden is probably also her best bet. She’s at risk of not qualifying for the third debate; if she doesn’t do something to jumpstart her campaign tonight, she might not have another chance. Landing a roundhouse to the despised centrist Biden’s chin is likely the easiest way to ingratiate herself to progressives.

How about Julian Castro? He had a strong debate last month, winning an exchange on immigration with Beto O’Rourke, but got nothing from it in the polls. He’s in Gillibrand’s boat, needing some immediate buzz. Nothing would do that as efficiently as proving that he’s a more effective left-wing attack dog against Biden than the more celebrated Harris or Booker are.

As for Grandpa Joe himself, he knows it’s coming. He and his campaign have spent the past two weeks all but daring Booker and Harris to come at him. He’s hit Booker hard for the Newark PD’s poor civil-rights record and scoffed at Harris’s fantasyland proposals for how to pay for Medicare for All. Harris got away unscathed in the first debate; he needs to make sure that doesn’t happen tonight. And he needs to look and sound nimble in sparring: A recurring criticism of his stumbling defense from Harris’s busing attack in the first debate was that he looked his age, seemingly caught off-guard. There’ll be no whiny excuses tonight if he stumbles again that Harris desecrated his son’s memory by criticizing him or whatever. Biden needs to prove he’s up to the task. If not, Trump might be taunting him as “low energy” before the debate’s even over.

The dark horse in tonight’s line-up, by the way, is Tulsi Gabbard, whom regular readers know has been landing hard jabs at Kamala Harris. You might think Harris and Gabbard would be more likely to be allies against Biden than Biden and Gabbard would be likely to be allies against Harris. Harris and Gabbard are each a bit further left than Joe, each women of color, each much younger than the former VP, each relatively new to Congress. But for whatever reason, Gabbard has singled her out, including and especially for the bad faith she showed in questioning Biden’s racial bona fides in the first debate. Gabbard might be an attack dog for Biden onstage tonight. And if she is, the theories of why she’s allied herself with him will be flying tomorrow.

CNN is livestreaming the debate on its website (no cable login required) in case you’re away from a television set. The commentariat is preparing for another lackluster Biden performancer, which would throw some new uncertainty into the race tomorrow, but … what if he has a great debate? He’s already back up to a big lead in polling. He could put a chokehold on the race tonight if he embarrasses Harris and Booker. In lieu of an exit question, read this column by Steve Chapman challenging the hypocritical wokeness being applied retroactively to Biden’s support for the Clinton-era crime bill. If crime were as bad now as it was then, argues Chapman, Harris and Booker both would have supported the legislation — especially Harris, a former AG.

The post Second Democratic debate live thread: Biden-geddon appeared first on Hot Air.

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Harris: Biden’s a revisionist on busing and I’m not gonna let him get away with it

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The Democrats’ internecine racism war continues apace, and Kamala Harris wants to stoke it even further. While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez trades shots with Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus, Harris once again went on the attack against Joe Biden over his previous opposition to forced busing. This morning, Harris told a radio audience that Biden’s engaging in “revisionist history,” even as Harris’ own position on the issue remains somewhat vague:

Sen. Kamala Harris is taking fresh aim at fellow 2020 hopeful Vice President Joe Biden over his remarks on busing in the first Democratic debate, calling his efforts to explain himself “revisionist history.”

“I’m not going to let us engage on a debate stage for who’s going to be the next president of the United States — I’m not going to allow us to engage in revisionist history,” Harris said in a taping of the popular New York-based syndicated radio program “The Breakfast Club,” which aired Friday morning.

“I can’t stand on that stage and allow certain conversations to be taking place,” Harris told the radio hosts.

When asked by host Charlamagne tha God if she’s for or against busing, Harris said she was for the federally mandated policy at the time.

Really? That would be yet another new position for Harris, who didn’t quite claim that policy in the debate with Biden last month. A few days later, Harris had backed all the way up to Biden’s professed position in the debate, which is that it’s not a valid option for federal intervention:

After a Democratic Party picnic Wednesday in West Des Moines, Harris was asked by reporters whether she supports federally mandated busing.

“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,” she responded.

Asked to clarify whether she supports federally mandated busing, she replied, “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”

That’s what Biden’s position was and is, too. So who’s the revisionist? It certainly seems to be Harris, who told Iowa voters one thing and The Breakfast Club something else entirely.

The difference is presumably because busing sells in the urban cores, where decades of progressive leadership — and busing itself — has created a disastrous educational climate. It doesn’t sell in the very areas where busing would need to find students to swap, and it ignores the core problems of inner-city economics and the lack of resources for local schools that the white-flight reaction to busing in the 196os and 1970s exacerbated and accelerated. Harris tiptoed around that because, as I wrote in my column at The Week, the sudden focus on busing threatens all the gains Democrats made in 2018 and perhaps much more:

What might be more important is where busing would be unpopular today. One major if unintended consequence of forced busing was an acceleration of “white flight,” as parents opted out by moving their families from the cities to the suburbs. Not only did the outflow of more affluent families, including black and Hispanic families, starve school districts of children to bus into those schools, it also drove capital and a large part of the urban tax base out with them, along with the resources to address failing schools.

As those school districts exist today, busing wouldn’t solve the problem — much as it didn’t in the 1970s. To get the influx of enough non-minority students into those schools to make a meaningful impact on the de facto segregation left behind as a consequence of white flight, a Democratic administration would have to get the students from the suburbs. It would also take the Supreme Court overturning its precedent in Milliken v. Bradley, which limited busing to within school districts, but numerically the suburbs would be the only source for busing exchanges on the scale needed.

Therein lies the 2020 risk. Cohen mentions a number of losing issues bandied by Democrats in the past few weeks, but none of them are as potentially explosive as busing. Slavery reparations are hypothetical at best, and none of its small number of advocates have any realistic suggestions as to how it would work. Medicare-for-all might be more developed as a policy, but at least thus far it’s being sold as only an indirect change to the way health care gets reimbursed. Busing, however, sends a clear and unequivocal message to suburban voters: Democrats plan to send their children far from home for their education, again.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley did a good job quantifying Democratic gains in the suburbs in 2018’s midterms. It certainly looked as though Trump fatigue had hit these key districts, and that suburban voters wanted a return to normalcy. If Democrats want to keep debating on whether to force their children to attend schools 50 miles away in failing districts, though, those same voters — who elected Trump in 2016 — are going to have a rapid change of heart.

That might be true even in the first-ring suburbs where Democrats already had an advantage:

Democrats went into the midterms with a 56/27 advantage in “dense suburban” House districts and came out the other side with a 68/15 lead. The fears of a new era of busing would likely hit those districts harder and could give Trump and the GOP more momentum — and permanently make Democrats a party whose appeal is limited strictly to urban cores. That would not only lose the presidency, it would likely hand back the House and put the Senate out of reach.

The Milliken precedent is instructive in this debate. It essentially limited busing to Biden’s professed position, although that was hugely controversial at the time. Among its other alleged flaws, it made school districts superior to states in terms of addressing school assignments, which would be an obvious route to attack it if the situation arose again. School districts can bus with Milliken, but states and the federal government can’t force students across district lines — and it’s the districts themselves that have become indirectly segregated now, not just schools, thanks to demographics within those district boundaries.

If Harris plans on federal intervention to impose busing, her administration would have challenge Milliken in order to move students not just out of failing schools but failing school districts. That would require an abandonment of stare decisis worship from Democrats, who have been holding that line to protect Roe v Wade and especially Casey v Planned Parenthood. It would require judicial activism on a scale only dimly hinted at in Democratic fever dreams during the confirmation hearings of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

In terms of electoral impact, Harris’ obsession with reviving the busing debate has much more potential to derail Democrats than Ocasio-Cortez’ nonsensical race-card-tossing at Pelosi. Trump has a wide opening to attack Democrats on this point and remind suburban voters of just how much social engineering Harris and others plan to do with their children.

The post Harris: Biden’s a revisionist on busing and I’m not gonna let him get away with it appeared first on Hot Air.

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Tulsi Gabbard takes it to Kamala Harris again: Accusing Biden of racism was a “very underhanded” political ploy

Westlake Legal Group tg-1 Tulsi Gabbard takes it to Kamala Harris again: Accusing Biden of racism was a “very underhanded” political ploy underhanded tulsi gabbard The Blog racism ploy kamala harris Joe Biden debate busing

A follow-up to yesterday’s post. Normally politicians are less restrained on Twitter than they are in interviews. Gabbard is the opposite: The language she uses in the clip below about Harris’s busing stunt at the debate is stronger than the language she used on social media. Harris was “very underhanded,” she says, picking a fight with Biden “to try to get herself attention, to move herself up in the polls.”

Which is surprisingly raw. Annnnnnnnnd exactly correct.

But Harris’s ploy worked!

According to a new Morning Consult poll, Joe Biden is losing black voters’ support after his performance on the debate stage.

The poll was conducted among 16,599 individuals and found that Biden’s overall support dropped by seven points. His support among black voters dropped by eight points.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris is rising in the polls. Since the first round of debates, Harris gained eight points, surpassing Elizabeth Warren to be the third-highest polling Democrat in the race.

Harris is at 14 percent in that poll, good for third place, but in the RCP average she’s now risen all the way to second, a smidge ahead of Bernie Sanders. Her busing attack on Biden is already one of the most successful debate gambits in modern political history, potentially even more influential to this race than Chris Christie’s takedown of Marco Rubio at the New Hampshire debate in 2016 was.

It’s worth watching past the Gabbard snippet in the clip below to see CBS analyst Ed O’Keefe make one fair point and one dopey one in response. The dopey one is him attempting to correct Gabbard by reminding her that Harris didn’t call Biden a racist at the debate, that specifically said she doesn’t think he’s racist. But that’s what made the attack so underhanded, to borrow Gabbard’s word. What Harris did would be like turning to O’Keefe on air and saying, “I want you to know, Ed, that *I* don’t think you beat your wife.” To raise the subject at all is to imply that there’s a doubt about it and that opinions about it might reasonably differ. And needless to say, when Harris noted that she didn’t share the opinion that Biden was racist, that wasn’t her vouching for him because she’s a friend or whatever. That was her not wanting to go too far with her attack and risk leveling a charge which most Dems would scoff at and hold against her, potentially damaging her candidacy. Telling Biden that he’s not a racist wasn’t done for his benefit, it was done for hers. That’s Gabbard’s entire point about how sneaky the attack was. Harris didn’t even have the guts to own her accusation, preferring to insinuate it and then pretend innocence afterward.

O’Keefe’s fair point is that Harris might not be the only candidate guilty of a political ploy here. Gabbard’s decision to white-knight for Biden on this topic is surprising since, as I said yesterday, they’re not natural allies. Is she attacking Harris because she’s genuinely irked or is she working an angle of her own? A Twitter pal suggested that she’s eyeing the VP slot, which at first seemed ludicrous to me and seems less ludicrous the more I think of it. If Biden is the nominee, he’ll come under intense pressure to balance the ticket in every way. An old white centrist man needs a young minority progressive woman running mate — and there are only two people in the race who fit that bill. (Stacey Abrams isn’t in but also fits it.) I think Harris would be the heavy favorite by dint of her Senate and AG credentials, but the surprise busing attack on Biden has thrown that into doubt. I don’t think that alone has spoiled her chances of being the pick, but the further up the polls she climbs, the more tempted she’ll be to go for the throat by doubling and tripling down on “Joe’s a racist” attacks. At some point Biden will take it personally and will rule her out as a VP pick. Which will leave just one person available, assuming he decides that Abrams just doesn’t have enough experience yet to be number two on a national ticket.

And whaddaya know, here’s Gabbard proving that she’s willing and able to attack Biden’s enemies on his behalf, as any VP nominee would be expected to do. Hmmmm.

Would centrist Democratic establishmentarians really tolerate Gabbard as a running mate, though? She’s very young, just 38 (seven years younger than Abrams), has only six years in Congress, and holds foreign policy views that are way out of whack with the interventionist centrist consensus. I don’t think Biden could get away with choosing her. But she seems intent on making the matter interesting.

The post Tulsi Gabbard takes it to Kamala Harris again: Accusing Biden of racism was a “very underhanded” political ploy appeared first on Hot Air.

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Cohen: Democrats need to stop “embracing losing issues”

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I should start by saying that the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen may wind up being one of the more dangerous people in the country, at least if you happen to be Donald Trump or a member of the Senate GOP majority. Why? Because he’s running around preaching common sense to the Democrats and if we’re not careful, they may start listening. In a column this week, he’s sounding the alarm over something I was just pointing out earlier today. The Democratic candidates for the 2020 nomination (along with many of their overly enthusiastic colleagues in Congress) are loudly and proudly embracing a bunch of ideas that enjoy a bipartisan lack of support among the voting public.

The bevy of Democrats running for president seems determined to test my silent vow never to vote Republican, especially for President Trump. The truth is that I cannot imagine that happening, but I can imagine entering the voting booth with about a colonoscopy level of enthusiasm. Please, can we get this over with?

At the moment, the party is squabbling over what is called forced busing to achieve school desegregation. It seems the party has forgotten that, with the possible exception of the Civil War draft, no program has been more hated by working-class Democrats — more whites than blacks, but plenty of blacks as well.

Cohen starts off with busing, which he correctly identifies as one of the biggest electoral losers you could name. He describes the move by Kamala Harris to revive this issue has having been greeted on Fox News “with the delirium usually reserved for striking oil in one’s own backyard.” But busing wasn’t the only thing on Cohen’s mind.

From there he points out that Democrats are lining up behind reparations for slavery. The author describes this as “a noble idea” but one with nowhere near the popular support to make it happen. (There’s only been sporadic polling on this question, but the general consensus seems to be that there’s less than 30% support for cash reparations.) But wait… there’s more!

Cohen touches on the Medicare for All ideas being floated by the candidates, with a particular focus on plans that would basically end private or employer-provided health insurance. The latter polls roughly as well as smallpox, leading him to describe this race as quickly turning into one that “even Trump could win.”

Cohen leaves out a few other decisively unpopular positions such as late-term abortions, gun bans, and free health care for illegal aliens, but you get the idea. They’re pushing in all their chips on a hand full of cards distinct majorities (or in some cases, at least pluralities) don’t want to see. And they can only ride that pony so far before it collapses beneath them. The problem is, they still have months to go and multiple debates. By the time we get to the September battle, don’t be shocked if you hear Bernie Sanders proposing a new law mandating that all American flags be sold with a can of lighter fluid attached just in case you want to burn it on the way home from the store.

The problem here is that we don’t want the Democratic candidates to suddenly start listening to Cohen and begin talking sensibly. That would ruin the whole circus and tarnish Trump’s chances at a second term. So if you see any of these candidates out on the campaign trail this summer and notice a copy of the Washington Post laying around near their tour bus, try to sneak it out of the parking lot and throw it away.

The post Cohen: Democrats need to stop “embracing losing issues” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Strange alliances: Tulsi Gabbard slams Kamala Harris for leveling a “false accusation” of racism at Joe Biden

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Team Harris will say (and has said) that there was no accusation of racism aimed at Biden at the last debate, that in fact Harris began her spiel about busing by saying to him specifically, “I do not believe you are a racist.” But that’s nonsense. That was Harris’s sly way of having her cake and eating it too, simultaneously avoiding calling Biden a racist while suggesting that the matter is in enough doubt that one might rightly hold an opinion on either side of it. It’s a debate, see, and what was suddenly being debated was whether the VP to the first black president might just have enough of a problem with black people that he’d need Kamala Harris to vouch for him publicly.

And of course, the point of the exchange was to appeal to black voters. Harris might not think Biden’s a racist, but if that exchange on busing convinced the black Democrats who were watching that there’s a question mark over Uncle Joe’s head — at least enough of one to make them take a hard look at Harris as an alternative — then, hey.

See why Philip Klein calls her the most “cynical and dishonest” member of the Democratic field? She’s constantly trying to have it both ways. Biden’s not a racist — but he sort of is. She supports Medicare for All — but also sees a place for private insurance. She’s for busing in the name of integrating schools — but just as an option, which makes her position on the issue no different from Uncle Joe’s.

Tulsi Gabbard’s already had enough of her BS:

I’m fascinated that she’s jumping into this on Biden’s side because they’re not natural allies ideologically. She’s running a niche candidacy, broadly progressive but distinguished by her very dovish foreign policy views (which sometimes bleed over into apologetics for the likes of Bashar Assad). Biden’s running as a moderate who voted for war in Iraq and who served as VP in an administration that backed adventurism in Libya, among other places. They’re not simpatico, and Biden is sufficiently loathed by left-wingers, a.k.a. would-be Tulsi voters, that Gabbard may be costing herself some goodwill by riding to his defense against Harris. So why’s she doing it? What stake does she have in this spat between him and Harris?

This isn’t the first time she’s jabbed at Harris for questioning Biden’s racial views either:

Why’s she riding to Biden’s rescue? I wonder if Gabbard’s already concluded that her candidacy is doomed and now is the time to align herself with whom she thinks is most likely to be the nominee, expecting that’ll pay off with a cabinet position later. Her support is potentially valuable to Biden, both among anti-war voters and as one of the two minority women candidates running. That’s what makes her rebuke to Harris potentially potent, in fact: She’s implicitly challenging the moral authority Harris claims to enjoy on racial issues as the lone black woman running. But … if Gabbard’s behaving strategically, why would she throw in with Biden after he performed so badly at the last debate? He’s never looked *less* likely to be the nominee than he does right now. And Gabbard had a good debate herself last time. If there’s any ultra-longshot whom you’d think might have a breakout moment at the next one, propelling her upwards in polling, it’s her. She doesn’t have a reason yet to completely write off her own chances.

Is she thinking she can peel off some of Harris’s voters by attacking her? If so, is complaining about “false accusations” of racism the way to do that?

My sense of Gabbard is that she’s not a calculating politician at all, actually. I think she shows her cards and lets the chips fall where they may. Maybe she really is genuinely annoyed to see Harris demagoging Biden on race in bad faith and feels obliged to speak up. To the extent there’s a calculation here, it may be as simple as Gabbard wanting to highlight her own commitment to bipartisanship. It’s fine for Democrats to work with Republicans for the common good, she’s saying, just as it was fine for Biden to work with segregationists to the same end. Gabbard’s a “bring everyone together” candidate. Harris is not, although all Democrats running this year naturally claim to be.

I’m eager to see all three together onstage at the next debate to see if Gabbard goes on the attack there. It’d be in her interest to do so: Harris and Biden will be the most closely watched candidates of the 20, with everyone curious to see if Harris can win again. She’ll be body-checked this time. Gabbard has every incentive to do the checking, knowing how much attention it’ll bring her. The wrinkle is that there’s no guarantee that they’ll all be onstage together: Once again it’s the luck of the draw that’ll determine which of two different groups of 10 each candidate ends up in. CNN will be airing that draw live on July 18th, in fact, because we’re all in hell and politics is just a sports event now like the NBA draft lottery.

The post Strange alliances: Tulsi Gabbard slams Kamala Harris for leveling a “false accusation” of racism at Joe Biden appeared first on Hot Air.

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Biden: Atone on busing opposition? What for?

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That’s a very good question about a very dumb and completely destructive issue — which Joe Biden knows only too well. After getting pounded by Kamala Harris over Biden’s previous opposition to busing in last week’s debate, the frontrunner has felt the heat from progressives to recant. At least thus far, Biden’s not caving … much, anyway:

Joe Biden on Thursday dismissed the school busing controversy between him and Kamala Harris as a dated issue that “99 percent” of Americans are unfamiliar with, while asserting he is still “way ahead” in the Democratic presidential campaign.

Describing himself as an “overwhelming supporter of civil rights and civil liberties,” he said, “My record stands for itself.”

“I don’t have to atone,” Biden told reporters after darting through an Independence Day parade in Iowa.

Imagine going on vacation in June 2019, as I did, and coming back two weeks later in 1974. When news outlets reported that busing became the hot issue from the second round of the first Democratic presidential debate, I half-expected to read about an argument between Jimmy Carter and Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Even by the time of the 1976 primaries, busing was such a political loser that it barely made a ripple in that cycle. No one supported busing by then except for extremist activists, and for good reason — it was a complete disaster.

Busing was a social experiment that might have had good intentions, but it ended up making matters exponentially worse. When parents were forced to comply with busing orders, they moved away — accelerating the “white flight” from urban areas that had already begun. That not only had the net effect of increasing segregation, it also stripped urban school districts of the tax base needed to fund better education. Like most social experiments, it ignored the obvious distortion in incentives and expected everyone to act in a static manner. The result of this utopian thinking was that it not only failed to solve the problem, it actually amplified and deepened it.

Biden’s old enough to remember why he opposed the policy when it was wreaking havoc on cities, and he’s smart enough to see the danger in it now. If the Democratic Party embraces busing in 2020, they’ll lose ground in every suburban district in America. It’s the single most destructive issue Democrats could possibly embrace — not even socialism would sell worse. If suburban parents conclude that a Democratic president would force them to send their kids on a one-hour bus ride to the worst-performing schools in the country where they have no control at all over the operation, they’ll re-elect Donald Trump in a landslide. Democrats’ precious House majority will also evaporate in that landslide too, along with any hope of recapturing the Senate and controlling the next Supreme Court nomination.

Even Kamala Harris might have started to rethink her plan to attack Biden over busing. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the wheels on Harris’s bus have gone ’round, at least a bit:

Sen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that busing students should be considered by school districts trying to desegregate their locations — not the federal mandate she appeared to support in pointedly criticizing rival Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden last week.

Harris had a breakthrough moment at the candidates’ first debate when she criticized Biden for his opposition to mandatory school busing when he was a senator in the 1970s. Harris said she benefited from busing as an elementary school student in Berkeley, California, in the early 1970s.

“That’s where the federal government must step in,” Harris said, looking at Biden and winning a burst of applause from the auditorium in Miami.

On Wednesday, though, Harris characterized busing as a choice local school districts have, not the responsibility of the federal government.

That retreat makes no sense whatsoever. Local school districts won’t have the political power to mandate busing, in part because they know it would drive students out of their control. Without a federal mandate that would force other students into the district, it won’t happen at all — and without a federal mandate, why would it be an issue in a presidential election? If Harris wants local school districts to use busing, she should run for a seat on her local school board.

Biden’s smarter than Harris, but that didn’t keep him from offering her a small face-saving sop:

Following an Associated Press report on Wednesday that Harris said busing students today should be “in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools.” Biden responded that Harris is “absolutely right.”

No, she’s absolutely wrong, and Biden should drive that point home. Harris wants to drive the Democratic bus off a cliff. If Biden can’t stop that, then he’s no party leader — he’s just along for the ride.

Meanwhile, Republicans should take this opportunity to push forward on a policy that really can improve educational opportunities for inner-city students: school choice, at least in districts with failing public schools. It’s a perfect counterpart to calls for busing, empowering parents rather than oppressing them, and educating students rather than hijacking them. If Trump wants a theme for 2020, school choice is far better ground on which to fight than health care.

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Kamala Harris Doesn’t Even Support the Policy She Savaged Biden for Not Supporting

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So what exactly was all that at the debate about?

Kamala Harris is now changing her story. Instead of being in favor of mandatory busing (see my article here for what that is) as she signaled earlier, she’s now saying it should be available only as an “option.” That means leaving it up to local communities instead of forcing it at a federal level, which is exactly what Biden was arguing.

Compare her comments from a week ago to the latest ones.

And her comments yesterday.

Putting the clear flip-flop shown above aside, which is a big deal in its own right, some might say her newest position is still consistent overall because she would have supported the policy back when Biden opposed it in the 70s and 80s. That doesn’t hold water though because Harris says in the first statement that our schools are just as, if not more segregated today. If that’s true (it’s not), how could she possibly oppose busing for today’s students when she insisted it was tantamount to racism to oppose it decades back, a time when she asserts the problem was less serious? None of this makes any actual sense.

What it shows is just how politically brutal Harris is going to try to be. With her seeing a spike in the polls after the debates, she’ll only be emboldened now. While the first debates were heated, she’ll no doubt go even harder at Biden the next go around.

I just don’t think the former vice president is up for it.

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Wow: CNN poll shows Biden dropping 10 points, Harris climbing to second place after debates

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You realize what this means, don’t you?

For the first time in recorded history, the conventional wisdom on Twitter was … correct. Harris really did vault herself into the top tier with two impressive hours on TV. And Uncle Joe really did shoot himself in the foot with two bad ones.

There are no longer any certainties in political life in Trump era, including the certainty that the online chatterati is always, always wrong.

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Harris crushed the debates, with 41 percent saying she did the best job (Warren was second at 13 percent). She’s also now the candidate whom voters are most likely to want to hear more about. “Harris and Biden are now about even in support among self-identified Democrats, white voters, younger voters, nonwhite women and those who tuned in to watch the debates,” notes CNN, adding that “She outpaces him significantly among liberals and whites with college degrees.” The one bright spot for Uncle Joe? Ironically, it’s black voters:

I’m not sure that counts as a bright spot, actually. Thirty-six percent is worse than he tends to do with African-Americans in polling, and Harris is already in striking distance among the group after just one debate. How many of those black Biden supporters are still hanging around in the expectation that her performance last week was a fluke, ready to be convinced and jump ship for Team Kamala if she beats up Biden again at the second debate? The suspicion about Uncle Joe’s support has always been that it’s soft, based largely on name recognition. Now here’s a poll suggesting that that suspicion was correct.

Biden fans can console themselves with the fact that he’s still seen as the candidate with the best chance to beat Trump by a wide (30-point) margin. That’s no small thing when Dems are spoiling to find someone, anyone, who can end the Trump era for them. It’s also true that there have been several other post-debate polls and all of them have been better for Biden than this one. He did no worse than 28 percent in those and enjoyed double-digit leads in every one. If CNN’s data is right then the race has been upended and Biden’s at dire risk of entering the second debate in second or even third place. If the other polls are right, Biden’s still comfortably the frontrunner. Just not nearly as comfortably as before, and probably one more bad debate away from real trouble. If he doesn’t ace the next one, lord only knows how many rich donors will decide they no longer want to keep pumping money into his campaign tires to keep them inflated.

One more data point from the CNN crosstabs, just because:

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Fifty-six percent think it should be the government’s job to provide a national health insurance program for Americans, a significant number for Dems. But just 37 percent of that number wants private insurance flushed down the toilet, which means a mere 21 percent of all Americans are for a true Bernie-style Medicare for All plan.

Of course, if we pass on MFA for now and institute a public option instead, that public option will eventually undercut private insurance to the point that true MFA will become viable. Which means all we’re really debating given these numbers is whether to torch America’s private industry in a big bonfire up front or to wait until it’s creaky and starting to collapse on its own.

Exit question: What happened to Pete Buttigieg? He’s at zero percent among black voters and just four percent among Dems generally. That’s a not a fluke result either. All of the post-debate polls have Buttigieg between four and six percent overall. Not quite top tier anymore, assuming he ever was.

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Ten years after he became VP, news outlets decide Biden’s track record on busing is noteworthy

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The response here will be that “news outlets” didn’t decide anything. Kamala Harris decided that Biden’s track record on busing is noteworthy and made major national news by attacking him for it at the debate. And the only reason Harris attacked, she would say, is because Joe Biden decided to stupidly tout his cordial relations with segregationists like James Eastland as a young senator a few weeks earlier. Straight-line cause and effect: Biden made himself sound soft on segregation, Harris saw an opportunity in that and used his stance on busing to litigate the point, and the media simply followed up by looking into what Biden’s said about busing in the past. For instance, here’s NPR spelunking through its archives yesterday to find Biden circa 1975 in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban busing:

ENSOR: What about a constitutional amendment, I asked Biden. Isn’t that what you’re going to end up supporting if you want to stop court ordered busing too?

BIDEN: That would clearly do it. We are trying to figure out whether or not we can come up with an innovative piece of legislation which would limit the remedy and I don’t honestly don’t know whether we can come up with something constitutional. And if we can’t I will not in an attempt to eliminate busing violate the Constitution. I won’t do that. The only way if I’m going to go at it, I’m going to go at it through a constitutional amendment if it can’t be done through a piece of legislation.

Today it’s CNN that’s digging through its own tapes to find Biden saying in 1981 that busing is “the least effective remedy” to segregation:

But the 1981 CNN interview illustrates that Biden’s objections to busing to end segregation in schools were much broader than he casts them today.

“I happen to be one of those so-called people that are labeled as a liberal on civil rights, but oppose busing,” Biden said. “And I support the effort to curtail the ability of courts to bus.”

“What I have argued as one who grew up in the civil rights movement and ran for office as a public defender and a member of an active participant in civil rights cases, I have argued that the least effective remedy to be imposed is the busing remedy,” Biden said at another point in the interview.

Don’t blame NPR and CNN for making this newsworthy, blame Harris and ultimately Biden — or so the defense goes. But that’s too pat. For one thing, stories about Biden’s record on busing were trickling into the media long before he made his comments about Eastland a few weeks ago. Here’s WaPo in March serving notice to the political world that This Will Be An Issue. CNN was on the busing beat in April. Biden’s allies in Congress were being challenged about his record on busing in May. The subject has turned up in mainstream sites’ op-ed pages as well. And of course various progressive activists have been jabbing at him online over it for months, hoping to dent the centrist Biden’s support among Obama’s base of black voters.

The deeper question is why Biden’s record on busing and other racial issues, like the crime bill, weren’t “problematic” to the media when he was nominated for vice president in 2008. Overlooking racial politics that year might have been understandable, if not excusable, had the candidates been uniformly white. They were not, rather famously. Race was front and center in that year’s presidential election in a way that it had never been before in the entirety of American history. And Joe Biden ended up on the ballot of that election, on the winning side thanks to historic turnout among African-American voters. It would have been asking too much to ask the media to delve into Biden’s racial record after he’d already been named VP, as our very impartial press wasn’t about to create a headache for Obama en route to a likely victory. But what’s the excuse for not investigating Biden’s — and every other VP hopeful’s — civil-rights credentials in depth while the party’s first black nominee was mulling whom to choose as his running mate?

Did Team Obama, at least, do that investigation? Vice presidents are normally vetted within an inch of their lives before being selected. Presumably O and his team knew all about Biden’s view of busing, the crime bill, and so on and determined that they were collectively not so problematic that they should look elsewhere for a running mate. But the media was free to render a different verdict, as it’s now in the process of doing, and to challenge Obama aggressively on it. They didn’t. And it’s no mystery why.

I think the most charitable explanation for this oversight is simple laziness. They didn’t give Biden the kid-gloves treatment in 2008 because they were in the tank and determined not to make trouble for a historic Democratic nominee, one might say. They gave him the kid-gloves treatment because they don’t do much investigating themselves, even of their own archives. Even this year, it may be the case that most of the media reports about Biden’s history with busing have been spoonfed to them by rival campaigns like Sanders’s or Harris’s. The reason Uncle Joe didn’t get dinged for this a decade ago might be as simple as the RNC’s oppo team having either dropped the ball or concluded that there was little to be gained by feeding the press stories about Biden’s opposition to busing (a position overwhelmingly shared by Republicans). But again: If you prefer this theory, you’re stuck believing that the press is uninterested in doing the basics of its own job, even when there are potentially high-stakes consequences in a national election.

There is, I suppose, another possibility. Maybe America’s just woker now than it was in 2008, when it, uh, elected the first black president. Certainly the white progressive activist class is more influential and more ostentatiously woke than it was then, and our very impartial media pays a lot of attention to that class. So do candidates, which I suppose explains why Kamala Harris is claiming to be pro-busing even in 2019:

Here’s what national polls on busing look like, though, at least circa 1999:

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NPR notes that a Gallup poll taken in 1973, back when Biden was in full anti-busing swing, found that just five percent thought busing was the best way to achieve integration, including a mere nine percent of blacks. I think the partisan split would be *somewhat* more balanced today since the subject of busing is now largely academic and hyper-partisanship has encouraged people to support whatever it is that the other party opposes. But unquestionably, Biden’s position is still the position of a heavy majority. It’s probably also the position of a majority of the Democratic Party. But whether it’s the position of a majority of black Democrats is an open question. And in the end, black Democrats are the key to whether Biden or Harris is the frontrunner in this race.

Here’s a very cynical Cory Booker, the odd man out in the Biden/Harris battle for black voters, doing his best to muscle his way in. It is … quite a theory that Uncle Joe, the person in the race with the most obvious appeal to both working-class Rust Belt whites and southern black Obama voters, is the candidate who has a problem bringing people together while Kamala Harris is out there demanding that America relitigate busing.

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