Democrats needed a good debate, but got a bad one

As reported by Politico 

The snarling incoherence of the latest Democratic presidential debate Tuesday evening made it painfully hard to follow. But in its own way, the encounter perfectly crystallized the twin strategic challenges facing the party.

The first strategic challenge is the problem of the impassioned plurality represented by frontrunner Bernie Sanders taking control of the party. He is on the verge of succeeding in this goal even as ample evidence remains that he is out of step with a majority of Democrats on both ideology and on practical questions of how to win the 2020 election or to govern afterward.

The evening was defined by peevish exchanges, raised voices, feeble attempts at humor, complaints about fairness in being allowed to speak, and extended passages of cross-talk in which moderators utterly lost control of the debate and it was impossible even to understand what was being said. The noise was hardly conducive to a sustained or intelligible argument about whether Sanders is the strongest nominee or the one most representative of the views and temper of the party.

The evening offered limited opportunities—were these possibly enough?—for six Democrats not named Sanders to revive their candidacies with last-stand moments to emerge as the main alternative to the self-described democratic socialist for the balance of the nomination contest. This last-stand is especially urgent for former Vice President Joe Biden, who repeated his vows to win the South Carolina primary on the strength of his connection with African-American voters.

The second strategic challenge is to convey what most Democrats regard as the gravity of the case against President Donald Trump. Much of the debate seemed divorced from the present moment, as the president in the wake of his impeachment acquittal has embarked on a so-called Revenge Tour. He has sought to purge the executive branch of perceived enemies, drawn protests from the Justice Department for his raucous commentary in ongoing criminal cases, and criticized Supreme Court justices by name.

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But excesses that congressional Democrats and liberal commentators have called an historic assault on rule of law got mentioned only glancingly by the candidates, who trained their fire on each other while mostly retrieving familiar lines of argument against Trump.

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