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Race was a hot-button issue at Tuesday's Democratic debate, with candidates asked to respond to what many have condemned as racist and divisive rhetoric by President Trump.

Driving the news: Author Marianne Williamson had her crystalizing moment with her answers on how to heal racial divides in the U.S., earning huge rounds of applause after proposing $200 billion to $500 billion in reparations for the descendants of slaves and condemning the state of water quality in Flint, Michigan.

"Flint is the tip of the iceberg. I was in Denmark, South Carolina, where there is a lot of talk about it being the next Flint. We have an administration that has gutted the Clean Water Act. We have communities particularly communities of color and disadvantaged communities all over this country who are suffering from environmental injustice. I assure you, I lived in Grosse Pointe, what happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe. This is part of the dark underbelly of American society. The racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we're having here tonight, if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days."
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke

O'Rourke, who recently spoke about revelations that his own ancestors were slave owners, stated: "The legacy of slavery, and segregation, and Jim Crow and suppression is alive and well in every aspect of the economy and in the country today."

  • The Texas Democrat said he will work to address racial disparities in education and health care, in addition to supporting Rep. Sheila Jackson's (D-Texas) reparations bill.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar

When asked about Trump voters who "prioritize the economy over the president's bigotry," Klobuchar responded: "There are people that voted for Donald Trump before that aren't racist... But I don't think anyone can justify what this president is doing. "

  • Klobuchar added that she will seek to improve economic opportunities for African American communities, whom she says are "the ones that have been most hurt by what we've seen in the last decades."
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper touted his record on race in Colorado, emphasizing his work in police reform, education reform and affordable housing.

  • "You have to deliver a vision like that for the whole country," he said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren

When asked about how she would combat the rise of white supremacy, Warren stated: "We need to call out white supremacy for what it is: domestic terrorism."

  • She specifically highlighted her education plan, which would increases Pell Grants and "level the playing field" by allocating $50 billion toward historically black colleges and universities.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Having recently dealt with backlash in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana, over an officer-involved shooting, Buttigieg said:

  • "Systemic racism has touched every part of American life, from housing, to health, to home ownership. If you walk into an emergency room and you are black, your reports of pain will be taken less seriously. If you apply for a job and you are black, you are less likely to be called just because of the name on the resume. It's why I have proposed we do everything from investing in historically red line neighborhoods, to build black wealth in home ownership, to supporting entrepreneurship for black Americans."
Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders said does not in favor of cash payments to descendants of slaves, but does support Rep. Jim Clyburn's bill that he said focuses "big time" on rebuilding communities suffering from racial disparities. He also emphasized his own "Thurgood Marshall Plan," which would seek to end continued segregation in America's public schools.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.