Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls talked about immigration, racism, and Christian hypocrisy on migrant children, among other others issues during the second Democratic debate.
The second debate was held Thursday evening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida and hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
The candidates featured former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson, Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, businessman Andrew Yang, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
Going into the debate, Biden was leading the crowded field. For example, a RealClearPolitics averaging of polls accessed Thursday had former vice president at 32 percent, well ahead of second place Sen. Sanders at 16 percent and third place Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 12.8 percent.
Biden also led in FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement scorecard with 91 points. Behind him was Sen. Harris at 69 points and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey at 57.
Biden was the focus of attacks from other candidates, including Harris, who objected to Biden’s past objection to the federal government mandated busing to help desegregate schools.
“I do not believe that you are a racist,” Harris told Biden, but then added that “it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States Senators who built their reputations and careers on segregation of race in this country.”
“You also worked with them to oppose busing. And there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Biden responded that he believed Harris gave a “mischaracterization” of his views, saying that he believed it was best left to the local government to support or oppose.
“If you want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I’m happy to do that. I was a public defender,” added Biden, who championed his work with former President Barack Obama.
“That is where the federal government must step in,” Harris countered, receiving much applause for her rebuttal. “That’s why we have the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act.”
“That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act, that’s why we need to pass the ERA, because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.”
Harris also had one of the most cheered lines of the evening. After many of the candidates were talking over each other, Harris declared “America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we are going to put food on their table.”
Mayor Buttigieg also spoke about racial issues, noting that his town of South Bend recently experienced a police-involved shooting that remains under investigation.
“My community is in anguish right now,” said Buttigieg, who explained that he could not take a side on the issue until the investigation into the shooting was completed.
“I could walk you through all of the things that we have done as a community. All of the steps that we took from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. And when I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”
Buttigieg also talked about immigration, being the first candidate that night to mention faith and his belief that the Trump administration’s treatment of migrant children while professing to be Christians makes them hypocritical.
“The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion,” stated Buttigieg. “We should call out hypocrisy when we see it.”
“For a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hand of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”
Hickenlooper referred to the current administration’s family separation policy as “kidnapping,” calling the policy and the news of children being put in cages “unbelievable.”
Williamson agreed with Hickenlooper, adding that she considered the treatment of the migrant children to be “collective child abuse,” saying that when a government does the separations “it doesn’t make it less of a crime.”
Four Democratic candidates either did not qualify or entered the race too late to be featured in the debates: Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam, and former Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, according to CNN.