Courtesy of Joe Biden via Flickr under BY-NC-SA 2.0

Vice President Joe Biden shocked many when he announced Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate despite the two’s previous debate clashes. While Harris and Biden appeared to be the best of friends at the DNC nomination and on the campaign trail, her past statements on his racial voting record remain valid and something that America shouldn’t overlook just because she now chooses to align herself with him.

During their first debate together, Harris attacked the vice president’s voting record saying while she does not believe Biden is a racist, his past comments on segregationists he served with in Congress were hurtful and that Biden went as far as to work with them to oppose bussing. She ended her statement by saying that she herself was integrated into public schools through bussing. Harris was right to say Biden’s past comments on segregationists were hurtful. In June 2019, Biden held an Iowa event where he recalled the civility of James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge, two senators that heavily opposed desegregation when in office. Biden said that while he disagreed with these men and is no longer friends with them, he touted his ability to compromise with segregationists, referring to them as the opposition rather than the enemy, as opposed to today’s levels of partisanship. It is also worth noting that in 2010, Vice President Biden gave a eulogy for West Virginia Senator Robert Bryd, who led a 150 member chapter of the Klu Klux Klan as well as filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act for 14 hours. In his eulogy, Biden called Bryd a mentor, guide and friend. Biden’s praise and respect, while not on the actions of these men but on their reputations and character, raises understandable concern from Harris and should not be acceptable. 

Biden should not have respect for those that segregated America; there is nothing civil about them, nor should he be referring to them as mentors. Equality after the Civil Rights Act was non-negotiable and not something to be compromised on; those men were the enemies to freedom, not the opposition. Americans shouldn’t be impressed with Biden for merely compromising with the enemy, and having Harris as his running mate doesn’t rectify his racially insensitive behavior.  

Biden, at the time, did not only compromise with segregationists, but he also worked with them to oppose bussing, which was the vehicle by which American schools were racially integrated, as Harris stated again in their second debate together. Harris also pointed out that had the segregationists Biden worked with gotten their way, Barack Obama would not have been in the position to nominate Biden for the title he now holds and that the vice president still fails to acknowledge that he was wrong to take his position.

In 1972, Biden originally ran for the U.S. Senate on a platform of desegregating schools, but after narrowly winning, he then flip-flopped his position to appeal to his mostly white constituents. In 1973, Biden then sponsored a bill barring the federal government from defunding schools that stayed segregated. This bill was passed with bipartisan support going beyond bussing. In 1975, Biden co-authored a bill that barred federal courts from ordering bussing plans unless the courts found discriminatory intent. This bill failed, but was designed to complicate and slow down the process of racially integrating schools. To wrongfully justify his stance on school integration, Biden, in 1977, said he did not want his kids growing up in a racial jungle. Biden has argued he is for school bussing, just not the federal mandate of it. However, Biden’s spokesman, Bill Ruso, has contradicted this by saying Biden has never thought bussing was a good way to integrate schools and said it would not achieve equal opportunity. In 1977, The Civil Rights Commission described Biden’s work as stymieing school integration, and federal data has shown that bussing does narrow racial achievement and equal opportunity gaps. Biden’s approach to segregation was different from his colleagues where rather than relying on racial obscenities, he tried to implement a systemic, less apparent version of separate but equal.

Senator Kamala Harris was right to bring the morally repugnant past of Joe Biden into question. Joe Biden advanced the agenda of segregationists and led the charge against racially integrated schools and he needs to be held accountable. Yet now, she campaigns for Biden, which calls into question how important her own values are. Those that worked with and praised segregationists on character do not represent the morals this country presently holds and have no place in leading it. The American people were reminded of Joe Biden’s past by Senator Harris, and it’s not something they should quickly forget.