A response to comments that Kamala Harris made about Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign used a stock photo of a Kenyan woman on his release of his proposed Douglas Plan to address racial inequality, was probably the most tense moment of last night’s Democratic debate in Atlanta.
“The Democratic nominee has got to be someone who has the experience of connecting with all of who we are, as the diversity of the American people,” Harris said in her comments earlier this week. A dig at Buttigieg’s low poll numbers among African-Americans.
Asked about it again last night, Harris said, “I was asked a question that related to a stock photograph that his campaign published. But, listen, I think that it really speaks to a larger issue, and I’ll speak to the larger issue. I believe that the mayor has made apologies for that. The larger issue is that for too long I think candidates have taken for granted constituencies that have been the backbone of the Democratic Party and have overlooked those constituencies and have — you know, they show up when it’s, you know, close to election time and show up in a black church and want to get the vote, but just haven’t been there before. … And I’m running for president because I believe that we have to have leadership in this country who has worked with and have the experience of working with all folks. And we’ve got to re-create the Obama coalition to win. And that means about women, that’s people of color, that’s our LGBTQ community, that’s working people, that’s our labor unions. But that is how we are going to win this election, and I intend to win.”
Buttigieg, who easily risked looking smug in his response responded quickly and sincerely, ” “My response is, I completely agree. And I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don’t yet know me. And before I share what’s in my plans, let me talk about what’s in my heart and why this is so important. As mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low income, for eight years, I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of a community where far too many people live with the consequences of racial inequity that has built-up over centuries but been compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory.”
“I care about this because my faith teaches me that salvation has to do with how I make myself useful to those who have been excluded, marginalized, and cast aside and oppressed in society,” Buttigieg added. “And I care about this because, while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here. Wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day, even if they are nothing like me in their experience.”
Watch the exchange below.