THE ideological divisions gripping the Democratic Party have intensified as potential presidents – along with a few complete nobodies – battled over health care, immigration and race.

Ex-VP Joe Biden was repeatedly forced to defend his decades-old political record against pointed attacks from his younger rivals, who claimed that his eight-year relationship with Barack Obama was not reason enough to earn the Democratic nomination.

The strongest attacks on Biden in the second presidential debate came from Kamala Harris, who said that his willingness to work with segregationists in the US Senate during the 1970s could have had dramatic consequences on the surge of minority candidates in political office.

She said that it could have prevented her and fellow presidential candidate Cory Booker, both of whom are black, from becoming senators.

“Had those segregationists had their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States Senate, and Barack Obama would not have been in a position to nominate Biden to become vice president,” she said.


HE repeatedly leaned on his relationship with Obama of course.

“We’re talking about things that occurred a long, long time ago,” he said. “Everybody’s talking about how terrible I am on these issues. Barack Obama knew who I was.”

The dynamic showcased the challenges ahead for Biden and his party as Democrats seek to rebuild the young and multiracial coalition that helped Obama win two presidential elections.

In Detroit, a city where Democrats desperately need strong minority turnout to beat President Donald Trump next year, Biden repeatedly clashed with the two black candidates in the race, as well as the only candidate of Mexican heritage, Julian Castro, all of whom are more than two decades younger.

Anticipating a rough night, Biden greeted Harris onstage by quipping, “Go easy on me, kid.”

At the same time, polls show Biden has far more support from minority voters than his challengers, especially in the crucial early voting state of South Carolina.

Booker, who at times adopted the position of peacemaker, also took Biden to task over criminal justice issues and his role in passing a crime bill while a Delaware senator in the 1990s.

When Biden fought back by criticising Booker’s tenure as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, before becoming a New Jersey senator, Booker shot back: “You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavour.”


FOR Democrats, the internal fight, while common to almost every primary cycle, is one many would rather avoid, favouring instead a focus on defeating Trump.

Several candidates said they thought Trump should be impeached and others called him a racist. “The first thing I am going to do is Clorox the Oval Office,” Kirsten Gillibrand said.


THERE were also tense exchanges on immigration that pitted Biden against former Obama housing secretary Castro, the only Latino candidate in the race.

Biden suggested that some of his rivals favour immigration laws that are far too forgiving.

Castro, for example, would decriminalise illegal border crossings. “People should have to get in line. That’s the problem,” Biden said.

Castro shot back: “It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one has not.”

While the first primary votes are six months away, there is a sense of urgency for the lower-tier candidates to break out.

More than half the field could be blocked from the next round of debate if they fail to reach new polling and fundraising thresholds implemented by the Democratic National Committee.

The dire stakes have forced many Democrats to turn against one another in recent weeks.

But their common focus was how they characterised Trump’s impact on American life. Washington governor Jay Inslee was particularly blunt. “We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House,” he said.