Here is what happened, roughly, at Wednesday’s debate, where a gathering of 10 candidates all better than President Trump argued to prove who was LEAST better.

LESTER HOLT: Good evening. Our one definite goal for tonight was to put as many people as humanly possible on this stage. That is why I am here with not one but TWO other moderators, Savannah Guthrie and José Díaz-Balart, but don’t worry, there will be more. Not everyone will be able to speak on every topic, although that will only SOMETIMES be because of time constraints.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Senator Warren, you have so many plans. And yet, the economy is doing well without any of your plans. Explain why your plans will not make the economy upset.

ELIZABETH WARREN: The economy is doing well? What are you, a large corporation? If I wanted something to turn out well only for a thin slice at the top, I would overcook a tray of brownies on Instagram Live.

GUTHRIE: Congressman O’Rourke, do you support a marginal individual tax rate of 70 percent on the very highest earners?

BETO O’ROURKE: One way to unite a large group of people is to have one guy slightly bother everyone, and for this reason, in pursuit of party unity, I am going to respond in Spanish! We can all agree that hearing more Spanish at a debate is a welcome thing! But I will go one step further and say that I am equally confident that we can todos agree that THIS was exactly how we wanted it to happen!

GUTHRIE: What was your answer to the question about marginal tax rates?

O’ROURKE: Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.

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GUTHRIE: Yes or no?

O’ROURKE: I believe that taxes should be fair.

HOLT: What about the pay gap for women?

JULIÁN CASTRO: Hello, everyone! I hope that after this debate, people will stop confusing me with my brother and start confusing my brother with me. We need to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and pay women what they deserve! Google me! I’m going to be having some breakout moments!

HOLT: Congresswoman Gabbard, what do you think about equal pay?

TULSI GABBARD: Let me be clear: I am a veteran. As president, I will invest hard-earned American dollars into things like a green economy, national security and good-paying jobs. This land is your land, this land is my land.

JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART: Mayor de Blasio, talk about income inequality.

BILL DE BLASIO: The country is full of money, but it is in the WRONG hands. The hands of a thin slice, up top, like a New York pizza.

WARREN: Please, everyone. You merely adopted hating corporations. I was born fighting corporations, molded by it, and I will not rest until they are broken by my hand.

DÍAZ-BALART: How about you, Congressman Delaney?

JOHN DELANEY: Hello, I’m Congressman John Delaney from the great state of Maryland. My strategy so far has been to whittle votes for myself by hand by meeting every single person in Iowa. I have been every place in Iowa that you can go, and some places you can’t, and met every person in Iowa that you can meet, and one or two times it turned out I had met a corn. My father was a union electrician. How about we double the earned-income tax credit, raise the minimum wage and create paid family leave? I know it’s not a revolution, but it seems like it could be a nice idea. When I am president, I will no longer speak exclusively to Iowans and will address a nation I assume has been foaming at the mouth for moderate solutions from me, John Delaney. “When,” not “if.”

HOLT: Now, let us all argue about health care! Show of hands, who would abolish private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?

[Warren and de Blasio raise hands.]

HOLT: Senator Klobuchar, I see you have not raised your hand. Do you agree with those who think that going too far too fast is going too far too fast?

AMY KLOBUCHAR: I sure do! Please, if you are watching from the Midwest, take this opportunity to feel more comfortable with me than my opponents. Big Pharma is bad.

HOLT: How about you, Congressman O’Rourke?

O’ROURKE: Let me tell you a story. Once, during my wanderings — my odyssey, if you will, and I certainly will — I was walking down a beautiful road, or camino, and I encountered someone whose story I thought would make a wonderful anecdote for a State of the Union address one day. And I will tell you that someone’s name. And it was an American name, a name shared by many dreamers —

HOLT: That’s your time, congressman.

O’ROURKE: I think women have the right to make choices about their own bodies! I believe in Medicare-for-all, unless of course you do not want Medicare, in which case only some would have it and everyone else would have something different!

DE BLASIO: EXCUSE ME! Hey! Are you saying that private insurance is working?

O’ROURKE: Not entirely!

DE BLASIO: Why are you defending it? Is private insurance your friend? Huh?

O’ROURKE: When they told me I would get to be at a debate, I did not think people there would interrupt my storytelling!

DELANEY: Excuse me, John Delaney here with a contribution I am sure people will welcome with enthusiasm, as they would all my contributions, if they only heard them! My father, a union electrician, loved his insurance.

HOLT: Congresswoman Gabbard?

GABBARD: Instead of thinking about this in terms of bills, I think we should address this in terms of platitudes. If Medicare-for-all is good, then we should do that. If something else is better, we should do that. What I do know is that nobody should get sick, from the redwood forests to the gulf stream waters.

JAY INSLEE: I would like to state that companies should not deny a woman coverage for exercising her right to choose! I am the only one on this stage who passed a law protecting that right! You bet! I am out here, doing the most, fighting for women.

KLOBUCHAR: I would like to state that I am a woman, and so are two other people on this stage, and I just don’t think it’s correct that Governor Inslee has done the most. Can he possibly have?

HOLT: Show of hands, who would sign back on to the Iran deal? Everyone but Senator Booker, I see.

CORY BOOKER: Yes. Instead of the Iran deal, I would sign on to something better!

KLOBUCHAR: I only raised my hand because I did not know that was an option!

[A commercial break. The moderators have now magically transformed into Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd, and the effort involved in making this happen has caused the sound to stop working. This hullabaloo devours several precious minutes. Two petals fall from a rose John Delaney is holding, and he sighs, quietly, to himself.]

CHUCK TODD: Boy, was this awkward, because this was a serious question about gun violence.

WARREN: I think we should treat gun violence like the epidemic it is and apply research to it! It is a public health crisis!

TODD: Why do you all want to confiscate guns? Why are you grabbing guns? When you come to seize the guns from people’s cold, dead hands, what will you say to them, Beto O’Rourke?

O’ROURKE: I will say I once met a young person who opened my eyes to what is possible in this country. Her name was —

RACHEL MADDOW: Candidates, what will you do about Mitch McConnell and climate change? Consider as you respond whether this afterthought of a question coming 70 minutes into the debate is a metaphor.

INSLEE: Mitch McConnell is a devastating force that threatens to sink all our coastal cities and replace the country we love with an arid wasteland in which nothing moves and nothing grows. We will have to build a sea wall around Mitch McConnell.

DELANEY: Anyone who promises a way of dealing with Mitch before 2050 is offering an impossible pipe dream! We need real solutions, not impossible promises.

BOOKER: As for me, yo, yo also habla español.

TODD: Is the president above the law?

DELANEY: The average voter in Iowa doesn’t care about impeachment, and I can say that for a fact because I’ve spoken to every average voter in Iowa. That was my whole campaign strategy. Are there other states? Please tell me what I should do next. My campaign strategy is starting to collapse.

O’ROURKE: Let me tell you a story. There’s a very beautiful painting in the Capitol by John Trumbull of George Washington resigning his commission. And when I was there on my travels, I met that man in that painting, and he said to me, “I think impeachment makes sense.” And that man’s name was George.

TODD: Rapid-fire. What is the greatest threat the country faces?

DELANEY: What if there were a new, more dangerous type of bee no one had been told about but me? Would you listen to me then?


GABBARD: Just the concept of nuclear war, the threat that that has, the nearness that that has …

KLOBUCHAR: The president’s bathrobe, in which he makes all foreign policy at 5 a.m., especially about Iran.

WARREN: Corporations!

CASTRO: People confusing people for other people.

DE BLASIO: Corpo — what am I saying? Russia!

O’ROURKE: There is an ancient curse that I learned about during my travels, my peregrinations, if you will, and I will. The woman who told me about it was named Maria, and Maria told me that if I used her in an anecdote, I would be forced to speak only in anecdotes until the day that I, myself, was used by someone else in an anecdote. *turns to the others, hopefully* And what lesson does what Maria said carry for all of us today? Climate change.

TODD: Closing statements. That is me sharing the country’s greatest threat and also moving us into our final portion.

DELANEY: I am just a man standing on a debate stage asking America to settle for me. Am I inspiring? No. Do I fill people with enthusiasm? Well, I have some sign spinners outside the venue! Am I from a large state? No. Is my name recognition enormous? Again, no. Will I be coming to a “but” soon? I sure hope so! But:

DE BLASIO: I am here to fight for the heart and soul of the party, and I never run from a fight, except for the public housing fight.

TIM RYAN: There is no worse feeling than not being heard. Believe me, I know. I’ve experienced that feeling throughout this debate. Hello, I’m Tim Ryan, and I also have been here.

KLOBUCHAR: In conclusion, Amy for America! Can’t wait to come back tomorrow and really make an impression.

CASTRO: If you like what you saw tonight, please, Google me and not Joaquin!

O’ROURKE: *disappears into a cursed lamp*

GABBARD: I heard years ago that America needed proven, veteran leadership. Well, I am a proven veteran, and I am here to lead. In conclusion, green economy and good-paying jobs from sea to shining sea.

WARREN: Thank you for having me here. We all know who the real winner was in this debate: corporations. They are the only real winners at all events, because the system is broken! But I have a plan to stop them. I kind of wish I had been in the other debate.

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