Elizabeth Warren asks something many of us have been wondering for months

Throughout Tuesday night’s debate, the self-styled moderates repeatedly took aim at the two most popular candidates on stage - Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) - insisting their policy ideas were “unrealistic,” “radical” and unpopular.

If there was a ringleader for this cranky band of defeatists, it was former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), who spent much of his time in Congress deregulating big banks and much of his stage time Tuesday attacking “Medicare for All,” a Green New Deal and a wealth tax on the richest Americans. 

After 90 minutes, Warren seemed to have had enough. When Delaney attacked Warren for “fairy-tale economics,” Warren delivered the most devastating line of the night.

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

The crowd was feeling it, too. Warren’s zinger was met with cheers.

For a brief moment, Delaney’s Wikipedia bio was edited to state that he was killed in the exchange. (This was a joke. Delaney survived ― barely.) 

It’s hard to pass laws that change the country for the better. But much of what the moderate candidates on stage were arguing ― Delaney, along with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) ― simply wasn’t any more realistic than what the more unapologetic progressives were pitching. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) blocked every piece of President Barack Obama’s agenda he could. He refused to even hold a hearing on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Republicans are not likely to reward Democrats with votes if Democrats pre-emptively tone down their ambition. They’re going to oppose the agenda of any Democratic president, just as they opposed the agenda of the last Democratic president, a moderate.

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July 2019 Democratic debate
Workers get the stage ready for the Democratic primary debate hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez speaks ahead of the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez speaks ahead of the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Crews prepare the stage for the second Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates debate in the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Democratic Debate 2019 live updates: Night 1 of the debates is underway (ABC News)
Democratic Debate 2019 live updates: Candidates pivot to immigration and border crossings (ABC News)
As with the first debates, 10 Democrats will appear on the first night while the other 10 will appear on the second night.
As with the first debates, 10 Democrats will appear on the first night while the other 10 will appear on the second night.
From left, Marianne Williamson, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
From left, Marianne Williamson, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke spekas as former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper listens during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg listens during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Author Marianne Williamson speaks during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper watches as former Maryland Rep. John Delaney speaks during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Bernie Sanders Invokes Donald Trump’s “Racism And Xenophobia” At Democratic Debate
Democratic presidential hopefuls (L-R) US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders and US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren relax during a commercial break in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls (L-R) US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders and US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren relax during a commercial break in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls (L-R) US author and writer Marianne Williamson and US Representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district Tim Ryan participate in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Democratic presidential hopeful US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders looks on after participating in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., takes notes during a break in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Marianne Williamson participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke gives a thumbs up during a break in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Marianne Williamson and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. talk during a break in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Democratic presidential hopeful US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders delivers his closing statement during the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren delivers her closing statement in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar delivers her closing statement during the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders leaves the stage after the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders (L) and US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren hug after participating in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls (fromL) US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren hugs US author and writer Marianne Williamson next to US Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg after participating in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders greets audience members after the first night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
From left, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg talk after the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren leaves the stage after the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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You could see this delusion clearly in Delaney’s attack on Warren’s wealth tax. He claimed he agreed with Warren about the need to raise taxes on the rich but insisted that raising the capital gains tax ― the tax on stocks, bonds and financial investments ― was a more “realistic solution” than applying a new wealth tax targeting the very rich.

In 2017, Republicans passed more than $1 trillion in tax cuts overwhelmingly devoted to the rich. Every Republican in Congress has signed a pledge to never raise taxes, ever. They aren’t going to support a tax hike on rich people in any form.

Warren and Sanders are betting that a bolder agenda will get more popular support than a tepid one, and they’re hoping to leverage this popularity against Republicans. They might be right and they might be wrong. But Medicare for All and a Green New Deal are no less realistic than claiming McConnell will reach across the aisle to raise taxes on millionaires if you just do it the right way. The hard part isn’t the agenda, it’s the votes in the Senate and on the Supreme Court. 

“We can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else,” Warren said. “And we can’t ask other people to vote for a candidate we don’t believe in. Democrats win when we figure out what is right and we get out there and fight for it.”

Warren’s wealth tax would apply to people with a personal net worth of at least $50 million. Delaney, a former financial services executive, has a net worth of $65 million. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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