Joe Biden’s record on school desegregation busing, explained

By: P.R. Lockhart,  Vox
July 3, 2019

Biden says his stance on busing isn’t controversial. His critics disagree.

Speaking to Vox on June 28, an adviser to the Biden campaign argued that Biden’s comments had been misconstrued to suggest that he opposed busing in its entirety, when he actually only opposed federal enforcement of busing in certain districts.

That same day, addressing the renewed controversy over his busing record since the debates, Biden told the audience during an appearance at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention in Chicago, “I want to be absolutely clear about my record and position on racial justice. I never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.”

But for some, that claim is simply a distinction without a difference. “He wasn’t just a silent supporter of anti-busing, he was out there crafting bills,” Noliwe Rooks, a professor of Africana studies and director of American studies at Cornell University, told EdWeek recently. “As a standalone, [his opposition to busing] probably wasn’t going to be that big a deal. But when you put that in tandem with his more recent comments about these white segregationists, it’s a problem.”

While questions about Biden’s record on busing continue to circulate in the news, it’s still unclear if the issue will actually resonate with voters in general, or Biden’s base of black support in particular. Polling in the aftermath of the debates have shown Biden’s numbers fall with black voters, as Harris has surged, but it will take time to see if these numbers show any sort of lasting change to either candidate’s support.

But one thing that does seem apparent is that Biden’s primary opponents see weakness in this part of his record, especially when coupled with the controversy over Biden’s recent comments about segregationist senators and his role in the passage of the 1994 crime bill. At times, discussion of Biden’s lead in primary polling has treated his campaign as if it was unstoppable. Harris showed at the first debate that he can be bruised

Professor Noliwe Rooks