There was a point in Wednesday night's debate/feeding frenzy, when Senator Michael Bennett reprimanded Democrats for spending too much time revisiting a 50-year-old fight over busing when many public schools were still segregated. It was such a striking moment of clarity in a miasma of recriminations and traducement that everyone on that stage should have stopped, applauded, him taken a breath, and gone forward with some sensibility and purpose. It didn't happen: it was a nice moment for Senator Bennett, but a terrible evening for the Democrats.
I understand the politics of it: Joe Biden is the frontrunner and thus everybody's target. In addition, fifty years in the public eye has left Mr. Biden with a plethora of assailable decisions and judgments. For his rivals to fail to atack them would be ludicrous. But it seemed that night that they were determined to attack the Joe Biden who served under Barack Obama for eight years, and by extension, to trash the 44th president—yes that 44th president—the one who enjoys an approval rating of more than 90% among democrats.
It was a sorry sight, unless you were a Republican being provided with ammunition for eliminating the ACA once and for all. To hear the candidates bash it, Obama's health care coup—his success when all others had failed—was something the democrats would have to apologize for when in fact most Americans yearn for the reasonable health care it provided.
And Kamala Harris, whose star began fading as soon as we learned how to say her name, played the role of George Costanza. You remember the Seinfeld episode in which George is insulted and spends days seeking revenge. Ms. Harris seemed to have spent her days between the first and second debates planning to ambush Mr. Biden, forgetting that her more limited public record flies in the face of her party's supposed standards. She may recover—there's time—but she opened herself to more scrutiny, and given her prosecutorial history, it may be more difficult than ever to make herself sound like a progressive politician.
Some thought that Tuesday night's group, sans Biden and Harris, were to be considered the "B" team, but that first group, whatever their inherent weaknesses—at least called out Donald Trump. It was left to the "A" team to denigrate the Democratic president who bailed us out of a recession while treating his position with honor.
Apparently there will be fewer participants in the next debate. Believe me, it's moot. On the second night there wasn't one participant other than Michael Bennett (whom most people do not consider a viable candidate) to understand that the fine print of someone's health care plan from 1969 is irrelevant to people like Trump and those who support him. Marianne Williamson said as much Tuesday night, but she was apparently too wacky for the A-team to listen to. She may not get another chance to educate them, but maybe they aren't educable to begin with.