Advice for Biden on busing

Advice for Biden on busing
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE and I are about the same age (we were both born in 1942) and both got our start in national politics in the 1970s. Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, and I was elected to the U.S. House in 1978. We both represented a lot of middle-income white voters in swing states.

And we both had to walk a fine line on the very emotional issue of busing for school desegregation. 

Biden and I took different paths on the busing issue. He supported a constitutional amendment to end court-ordered busing, while I did not support an amendment or any anti-busing legislation. I understood the angst felt by many white constituents. But I could not side with them on this issue once I was sworn into office. 

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Busing became newly relevant when Biden was forced to address the issue at last Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate.

I have not endorsed any Democratic candidate for president this year, though I have been active in presidential politics for a very long time and would like to see Biden have a real shot at the nomination. I will not criticize Biden for the stand he took on this issue, but I do have some advice for him. 

When asked about his previous position on busing, Biden should consider saying the following:

“I was a young elected official when this issue come up more than 40 years ago. I was concerned about the angst of my white constituents when faced with this most emotional issue. I have spent my entire adult life committed to the struggle for civil rights, but I didn’t fully appreciate the harm my position was causing to my black constituents. I made a mistake and ask that the black community judge me on my entire record. 

 “If elected president, I commit to a strong policy of supporting measures to combat discrimination of every kind in America. I ask that a mistake I made more than 40 years ago not be held against me in 2020.”

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Politicians should be permitted to alter earlier positions as they learn more and mature in office.

As a young congressman from a conservative state, I did not support gay rights for the first part of my career. Once I moved into the House Democratic leadership, representatives of the gay community met with me and asked that I consider changing my position. I listened to them, studied the issues and decided they were right. I became a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and publicly supported civil unions. 

I was willing to say that my previous position was wrong. Joe Biden should do the same on the issue of busing and move on with the rest of his campaign. No politician should feel that he can never change a position once he learns more about an issue. Freezing a politician forever in time is not fair to him or the country. 

Martin Frost represented the 24th Congressional District of Texas from 1979 to 2005 and was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 1996 and 1998 cycles.