COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidates hit pause on their feuds Monday as they walked shoulder-to-shoulder through the streets of South Carolina’s capital to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and rally around their push to defeat President Donald Trump this fall.
The truce was illustrated when Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren shook hands at Zion Baptist Church, then linked arms as they marched with the other candidates later.
It was a gesture that didn’t materialize last week on a debate stage where the leading progressive candidates sparred over whether Sanders once privately said a woman couldn’t be president. Warren declined to shake his outstretched hand after that.
“This is THE handshake,” said presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii.
For a few hours at least, the squabbling among the hopefuls over who is best positioned to defeat Trump gave way to a united condemnation of how they perceive he has handled America’s racial divide.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said there aren’t “’many sides’ to blame when one side is the Ku Klux Klan,” referencing Trump’s comments following a deadly 2017 clash between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Vir.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has said he decided to run in 2020 following the violence in Charlottesville, said Trump has “given oxygen” to racism. Warren pledged to work toward what she characterized as a more tolerant society. Sanders encouraged the crowd to follow King’s legacy and “stand together.”
In his rally speech, California businessman Tom Steyer referenced the tension between Warren and Sanders while dropping a reference in a previous debate to Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg’s high-dollar fundraisers.
“This is not the time for the people who are running with each other to bicker with each other or complain. It’s not a time for wine caves and old stories and old videos,” he said. “This is a time where we have a job: Beat Mr. Trump.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the lone remaining black candidate in the race, said progress made during the Civil Rights Movement has been stymied by Trump.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., marched and attended a prayer service in South Carolina but left for Iowa before the speaking program began.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., pausing in front of the monument and the wreaths to pay their respects.
In the closing days before the first votes are cast in the Democratic presidential contest, the party’s leading hopefuls split their time between the early voting states of South Carolina and Iowa at events honoring King.
Some the candidates traveled to Des Moines for the Brown and Black Forum, recognized as one of the nation’s oldest minority-focused presidential candidate events.
Traditionally a debate, the event in recent years has been more of a one-on-one candidate forum.
Tech businessman Andrew Yang is on a 17-day bus tour of Iowa and planned to remain there.