AUSTIN, Texas - Democrats don’t seem ready to move past arguing about Joe Biden’s lengthy political record, particularly on civil rights, after the first round of presidential debates showed the fragile nature of being perceived as an early front-runner in the 2020 race.
The former vice president is facing criticism from the two black candidates in the contest — Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who aired his public grievance Sunday at the same time the party’s chairman came to Biden’s defense.
The Democratic nominee “really needs to be someone who can talk openly and honestly about race with vulnerability,” Booker told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” That person must have the ability to “call this country to common ground, to reconciliation. I’m not sure if Vice President Biden is up to that task.”
Biden was pressed by Harris during Thursday night’s debate over his stance on busing. The former Delaware senator defended his lengthy career and cited his commitment to civil rights.
To Democratic leader Tom Perez, “Biden’s overall record on civil rights is clear. And the Democratic Party’s overall record on civil rights is clear.” He said on “Fox News Sunday” that the White House candidates “want you to look at the totality of what they’ve done in their career. The totality of voting rights,” holding police department accountable, fighting for equal pay for women and other issues.
“On this score, Vice President Biden and other Democrats have been leading the charge,” Perez said.
For Booker, however, Biden has shown “an inability to talk candidly about the mistakes he made, about things he could’ve done better.” Booker has criticized Biden’s record of working with Democratic segregationist senators on non-race issues.
“We have one destiny in this nation and right now the vice president to me is not doing a good job at bringing folks together,” Booker said. “In fact, and I’ve heard this from people all around the country, he’s causing a lot of frustration and even pain with his words.”
Perez said voters will look at “the totality of everybody’s record,” and that “the reality is every single Democrat running for president on the issue of civil rights is so far ahead of where this president is.”