As we touched on briefly in our morning post, Kamala Harris -- having hit Joe Biden hard in that flashy, planned exchange on Thursday -- has come out in favor of busing students, as a means of ending what she says amounts to modern day school segregation. A top aide on her campaign indicated that this was, in fact, her stance with a one-word answer on Twitter. Now here's a quote from the candidate herself. This is now officially a thing in the Democratic 2020 primary:
.@KamalaHarris: “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in [school]...need to put every effort, including busing, into play to de-segregate the schools...fed govt has a role & a responsibility to step up." pic.twitter.com/a7ujueP0Bu— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) June 30, 2019
Is there an actual plan on the table? No. But there's a feeling, which is what counts. Polling from the 1970's and 1990's suggests that Americans are not big fans, to put it mildly, of a policy that mandates the busing of students from one community into another one, for the stated purpose of integration. On one hand, with our country even farther removed from the dark days of Jim Crow, one might imagine that public opposition to this throwback policy would be just as strong today, if not stronger. On the other hand, if busing is identified as a new totem of wokeness, and if one party largely gets behind it, our current polarized and siloed political culture could produce polling results in which the public opinion breakdown is much closer. Tribal culture warriors will very frequently stick with the tribe, no matter how outlandish the issue or controversy du jour may be. But are progressives rallying around this concept in the same way they've embraced taxpayer-funded late-term abortion, free healthcare for illegal immigrants, and decriminalizing illegal border crossings? Not yet. Here's Bernie Sanders throwing ice water on the practical implications of the idea, even as he expresses some tepid support for the vague overall notion:
"Busing is certainly an option that is necessary in certain cases, but it is not optimal. Does anybody think it’s a good idea to put a kid on a bus, travel an hour to another school and to another neighborhood that he or she doesn’t know? That’s not the optimal. What is the optimal is to have great community schools which are integrated, that’s what I think most people want to see."
NPR did a report on the overwhelming demise of school busing in the 1980's and 1990's, finding that the inconvenience and disruption described by Bernie in the clip above proved quite unpopular with parents across the board. The All Things Considered report from 2016 quoted an expert on school busing who said that many parents of color ended up finding the arrangement unwieldy and impractical -- while even liberal white parents have opposed mandated busing "when push comes to shove:"
The tremendous amount of white flight that happens in cities like Boston, so there just simply aren't enough white students to go around to have meaningful school desegregation. This is true in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in New York. The other thing that happens is busing placed a tremendous burden on black students and on students of color. In most cases, they were the ones that were asked to travel to the suburbs, travel sometimes to hostile neighborhoods. For many parents, that simply isn't worth it after a number of years...White parents simply don't want to send their kids to schools with large numbers of African-American or Latino students — even if they consider themselves to be liberal in theory, or in the abstract, they are in favor of integration. When push comes to shove ... they oppose any sort of meaningful school integration.
The Los Angeles Times ran a piece over the weekend about how forced busing "tore LA apart" in the 1970s, while the Washington Post points out that Biden's position is more mainstream than Harris'. As many political observers are already noting on social media, if Democrats' eventual nominee has endorsed a revived forced busing platform (Kamala could conceivably mutter a few words about 'voluntary' programs, then try to drop the issue entirely in a general election setting), they seriously risk turning off many of the suburban and moderate voters who flocked to their candidates in 2018. Sure, a lot of college-educated women loathe Trump, but if the other party is going to cancel their healthcare coverage and mess with their kids' school districts, maybe Trump won't look quote so scary after all.
Team Trump certainly hopes busing becomes a hot topic in the primary, prodding certain candidates to corner themselves into taking highly unpopular positions, for fear of crossing the hard, angry Left. With the next debates nearly a month away, however, many Democrats are likely hoping that this question fades from top-of-mind relevance, so moderators don't push the field on their busing views. I'll leave you with another topic that could serve as the basis for a potential 'show-of-hands' question: