The Democratic debate in Flint was a trip into a bizarre, Trump-free dimension

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Congratulations, CNN, Anderson, Hillary, and Bernie: You almost did it.

In a feat that previously seemed impossible, Sunday night's Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, went 109 minutes—nearly the entire event—without a mention of Donald J. Trump.

Since he announced his campaign in June, Trump has dominated the election cycle. At previous Democratic debates, the candidates regularly had to respond to his proposals and antics.


But on Sunday night, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders instead engaged in what was probably the most detailed policy dialogue of any debate so far this campaign—and Trump barely entered into it at all.

(Moderator Anderson Cooper ruined what could have been a 100% Trump-free debate when he noted that Trump vowed to make Clinton's emails a campaign issue. Then they started talking about polling.)


The debate began with an in-depth discussion of the water crisis in Flint and how to address lead water pipes in other cities. The candidates also discussed substantive differences on economic policy, like bailouts for the auto industry and the Export-Import Bank, with Clinton essentially arguing that the government should help American corporations if it means creating more jobs, and Sanders disagreeing.

Later, they talked about gun control, criminal justice, education, and religion. Things got testy at points, but the candidates' disagreements focused on substantive differences, not the personal attacks that have characterized recent Republican debates.

Sanders and Clinton noted the difference in tone. "We are going to invest a lot of money into mental health," Sanders said. "When you watch the (Republican) debates, you know why."

Some topics that didn't come up in Sunday night's debate:

  • Building walls
  • Deporting 11 million immigrants
  • Banning all Muslims from entering the country
  • Whether someone did or didn't disavow the KKK
  • "Small hands"

The first 109 minutes of the debate gave us a peek into another dimension where Donald Trump never ran for president. Savor it, friends—we'll be back in reality tomorrow.


Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.