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Harris dominated Thursday’s presidential debate

The California senator and former prosecutor was tough, poised and passionate as she took on America’s most perilous and intractable problem: Race. 

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. | AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

She broke out of the pack. She’s not going back.

Before Thursday’s debate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris was averaging at 7% in national polls, coming in fourth in the massive field for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to Real Clear Politics.

Former Vice President and Senator Joe Biden was leading with a 32% average.

Harris dominated the nationally televised debate. She did it on the back of the ultra-establishment front-runner.

It’s too soon to predict the nominee. But Harris’ savvy moves put her in serious play.

The California senator and former prosecutor was tough, poised and passionate as she took on America’s most perilous and intractable problem: Race.

And she showed she could take on the big boys and win.

Harris hijacked a discussion with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is grappling with the fallout from a police-involved shooting of a black man in his city.

She pivoted to Biden.

“I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” she told Biden.

“But I also believe, and it is personal, and it was actually 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. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.”

Biden looked down at the podium. Shaken.

Perhaps he was silently exclaiming, “Don’t you know who I am? The political heir to the first black president? How dare you question me, you ungrateful wretch!”

What he actually said: “It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board.”

Harris pushed. “But do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?” she asked him. “Do you agree?”

“I did not oppose busing in America,” Biden replied. “What I opposed was busing ordered by the Department of Education.”

Harris wasn’t having it. “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,” Harris replied. “And that little girl was me.”

Biden touted his civil rights record, his support of the Equal Rights Amendment, and “extending the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.”

Then, stopping abruptly with, “anyway, my time is up.”

Many Democrats have bought the outdated and offensive assumption that Democrats need another old white man to beat the old white man in the White House.

Biden, so it goes, or another septuagenarian, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, are best positioned to take on Trump.

Harris blew that canard up.

Her take-charge prosecution of Biden’s record on race could erode his support from African Americans and other voters of color — vital to any Democratic nominee.

Harris was the only black woman on stage. She dominated. For centuries, we have survived and thrived because we take charge in the most perilous times.

In my mind’s eye, I spied those accomplished hands firmly planted on rounded hips. I could see those eyes narrow, and roll.

Biden is a stand-in for all those white men of a certain age who believe their accomplishments, alliances and privilege always put them first.

“Wait your turn, they tell us. We’ll take care of you.”

Gentlemen, your time may not be up quite yet, but it’s coming soon.

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