While no longer the socialist sensation of 2016, in some ways Sanders is a better candidate. This time around, he’s making inroads among African-Americans and especially, Hispanics. Thus the redoubtable AOC, a symbol of youth, progressivism, and diversity among left–Democrats, has rallied to his side. All this keeps Warren from tacking toward the center. Were it otherwise, she would never have embraced a healthcare proposal which wasn’t her idea.

Her efforts to avoid this trap were palpable—by the end, her stations of the cross on single-payer became painful to watch. First, she cautiously ventured that there were multiple paths to universal coverage. Caught in the oversimplifications of debate, she then allowed that “I’m with Bernie.” But, unlike her many other policy proposals, she assiduously avoided the particulars. Pressed to specify how she would fund this phantasm without raising taxes on the middle class, she hewed to a formulaic recitation that overall costs to the middle class would go down, patently dodging the question while compromising her reputation as the unflinchingly candid master of detail.

Unsurprisingly, this proved unsustainable—as Buttigieg briskly established by nailing her in the third debate. Thus cornered, Warren eventually produced a 20-page white paper describing a $20.5 trillion plan to fund Medicare for All over a decade without raising taxes on the middle class.