CNN is to be commended for their sponsorship of the tax debate between Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last night. It was a serious, informative discussion about an important issue in Washington. Imagine that.

During the debate, Cruz did himself — and the Republican Party — a lot of good. He maintained a friendly, informative and nimble presence, effectively outlining the case that GOP tax reform is part of an overall economic plan, whereas Sanders’s call for tax increases for the rich appeared to be knee-jerk and punitive rather than part of a serious economic policy. And even though the mainstream media would never admit it, if there were ever a contest to determine who is the “thinking person’s” candidate, Cruz would beat Sanders by a mile.

I was surprised at how Sanders stuck to the same basic liberal platitudes of more taxes and more spending and the socialist call for free college. The debate showed just how limited Sanders’s range is as a politician. He has a few new socialist slogans but no real plans.

President Trump met with the Senate Finance Committee on Oct. 18 and discussed his tax proposal. (The Washington Post)

When Cruz asked Sanders, “since this is a tax debate, what is the difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes,” Sanders answered pointedly, “I don’t know the answer to that.” I thought Sanders would have been better prepared and had something new to say. But by essentially admitting that there was no difference between a socialist and a Democrat, Sanders made an important point — one that has been made clear since last November. And that is that the Democratic Party is in the middle of an astonishing lurch to the left. With Sanders as their standard-bearer, the Democrats are embracing his positions: more government activism, more government giveaways and the nanny state unleashed.

Regardless, the Republican Party was well represented by Cruz. Cruz generously noted that Sanders may have very well won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president last year had it not been for corruption within the Democratic National Committee. So, as Hillary Clinton fades into wacky conspiracies about a “cyber-9/11” costing her the election and is mostly silenced by her own history that disqualifies her from taking a powerful stand in the Harvey Weinstein saga, Sanders is the Democrats’ face and de facto leader. And Cruz effectively showed just how limiting that may be for the Democratic Party.

Cruz is a talented champion of conservative principles. He did a good job of highlighting the differences between the Sanders-style socialist model and the GOP’s pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. The dichotomy between low taxes and growth vs. high taxes and socialism could not have been made any clearer. The difference between the two is exactly what the next elections should be about if Trump’s antics don’t hijack the discussion and make 2018 and 2020 referendums on his character and behavior.