Back when the Democratic primary still had more candidates than a shot of the debate stage could comfortably hold—including Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Jay Inslee, Eric Swalwell, Kirsten Gillibrand, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney, Michael Bennet, and even Marianne Williamson and Tulsi Gabbard—I remember thinking that whatever else might happen, this much at least was true: The Democratic Party had a deep bench of competent contenders. That seemed like good news, and so did this: The agendas most of these folks offered were considerably to the left of any I’d heard before. That, for someone on the left, was a stunning (and heartening) departure. So was the diversity: six women! Half a dozen candidates from minority groups! A handful of young candidates to choose from in a government that has been widely criticized as a gerontocracy! It was reassuring to see this wide a swath of Democrats agree on the problems the country faces, and downright inspiring, at times, to see how broad a consensus there was for bold action to solve them. The coalition many of these candidates were aiming to convince was young and alarmed, constrained by debt and health care costs and bigotry and desperate to do something about climate change.
It is jaw-dropping that not one but two leftist candidates made it to this point in the primaries. But maybe we assimilate progress too quickly, because having marveled at the diversity of that slate of candidates, I find it no less jaw-dropping that a primary process with that initial makeup is likely to yield Joe Biden as the person most likely to be the Democratic nominee.