Two Democrats Debated and the People of Flint Won

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Tonight, something unusual happened in Flint, Michigan. The traveling circus that is the presidential campaign rolled into town—the Secret Service, satellite trucks, press corps, hordes of fans. But at the Democratic presidential debate, it was ordinary residents who managed to hold the spotlight:

Sunday night’s debate was a powerful reminder of the purposes of politics. It was held in a city already devastated by the loss of jobs, and now victim to catastrophic failures of governance at every level. As local residents stepped up to ask their own questions of the candidates, they spelled out the stakes of this election in deeply personal terms, grounding the debates over abstract principles in the questions with which their communities are struggling.

You can read the rest of my take on the debate, and the whole Politics & Policy team liveblog, here.