Liberal Democrats Ruled the Debates. Will Moderates Regain Their Voices? – The New York Times

Her Senate colleague, Michael Bennet of Colorado, was somewhat more forceful on Thursday night, warning in an urgent tone that Mr. Sanders would do away with private insurance entirely. Yet some of his higher-profile competitors in the race, including Ms. Warren and Ms. Harris, have backed the Sanders legislation.

Most telling was the Democrats’ leftward turn on perhaps the most explosive issue of the Trump era.

Asked by moderators if they favored decriminalizing unauthorized border-crossing, and treating it as a civil offense, nearly all of the candidates who debated on Thursday night raised their hands in agreement — including, seemingly, Mr. Biden.

“That criminalization, that is the basis for family separation,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. “You do away with that, it’s no longer possible.”

For some candidates like Mr. Buttigieg, who has positioned himself as a liberal reformer but by no means a strident activist, embracing the most ambitious progressive policy plans may be a matter of strategic necessity in the primary. Unless they appease the Democratic Party’s activist base, they reason, they could be squeezed to the point of irrelevance between Mr. Biden, the campaign’s avatar of moderation, and more combative rivals on the far left.

Yet for policy-minded moderates and other Democrats fixated above all on defeating Mr. Trump, the debates raised an unsettling prospect — that with Mr. Biden as an unsteady standard-bearer, the forces of electoral and ideological pragmatism could be overwhelmed in the primary by the demands of the rising left, and the candidates who embrace them.

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