Now this was more like it.
The Democrats on display on Night 2 of this week’s mega-debate on NBC were noisy and argumentative, grasping and abrasive, passionate and eloquent. This was the Democratic Party in all its glory.
If the chaos and cacophony did not always make for a pretty picture in this two-hour, televised debate Thursday night on NBC (and MSNBC and Telemundo), then that's OK, because this is what Democrats do. They argue. They jab the air with index fingers, they get angry, and they make faces.
Thursday night's stage at Miami's Arsht Center for the Performing Arts was nothing if not diverse -- men, women, white, black, young, old, gay and straight, plus two outliers who provided the evening's “what are they doing here?” moments.
These were author Marianne Williamson, a writer of New Age inspirational bestsellers who vowed to “harness love for political purposes” to defeat Donald Trump, and Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur and investor who thinks giving away $1,000 a month to every American over the age of 18, compliments of the U.S. Treasury, will solve America's problems.
They both came across as clueless kooks, each possessing a snowball's chance in hell of ever gaining traction in this campaign.
The same can be said for some of the lesser-knowns and also-rans on the stage Friday night. One of these was California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who proposed that the federal government buy back every assault weapon in private hands in the United States. This has about as much chance of happening as Andrew Yang’s thousand-dollar giveaway.
At one point, Swalwell, 38, insisted that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg respond to a racially charged police shooting in the Indiana city earlier this month by firing the city's police chief. Buttigieg attempted to explain rationally why he cannot do that at the present time. But Swalwell was evidently intent on keeping the NBC News cameras trained on himself so he hammered away, and came across like a bullying, irrational, blithering idiot in the process.
Swalwell took direct aim at the two oldest candidates on the stage -- Joe Biden, 76, and Bernie Sanders, 77 -- when he repeatedly called for Democrats to embrace a candidate from a younger generation. If Swalwell intends to be that younger candidate, then no thanks.
On the other hand, if the party needs a younger standard bearer, Mayor Pete, 37, made a great showing Thursday night. In various remarks and reactions during the debate, he showed himself to be cool under fire, and honest about the complexities of the shooting incident that is roiling his city.
He openly admitted that he does not know all the answers. And unlike the other candidates onstage in Miami, he presented no plans, promises or pie-in-the-sky programs that everyone who watched this debate knew full well will never be undertaken.
Buttigieg was one of the night's big winners. And so was Kamala Harris. She seized the high ground early in the debate during one particularly tumultuous moment when just about everyone onstage was yelling at once. “America does not want to witness a food fight!” Harris declared. “They want to know how we're going to put food on the table!”
Her remarks silenced the room, and left a lasting impression that she was the only grownup in a room full of children -- at least for the moment.
Harris also confronted Biden -- considered the party's frontrunner for the nomination -- on his long history in the U.S. Senate, which included instances where he had to bargain with older senators from the South who had been segregationists. She accused Biden of voting against busing as a means of integrating public schools.
Her attacks scored points for her, but not necessarily because her accusations were accurate. They could have been easily explained away, but Biden did not succeed in explaining them. Instead, her attacks put Biden on the defensive. He looked sincerely flummoxed -- which was likely his opponent's aim in attacking him directly.
Possibly the biggest loser of the night was New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whose strategy going into the debate seemed to be to scream louder and longer than everybody else in repeated attempts to command attention and seize the spotlight.
These incidents, in which she aggressively talked out of turn and hogged airtime that was not hers to hog, made her look like a teenager given to throwing repeated tantrums.
While the fireworks at Thursday night's debate made Wednesday night's debate seem calm by comparison, Thursday night's event was nevertheless a slog to sit through. So many promises of trillions of taxpayer dollars to be devoted to paying college tuitions and student debts and buying back guns and giving away thousands of dollars -- the whole thing just didn't add up.
While there were some standout performers and moments in Thursday night's debate, the overall picture was one of candidates unglued.