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Moralizing in Sin City

The Democrats made a spectacle of themselves, attacking Mike Bloomberg with a vigor that will stand them well if they ever get to turn their attention to President Trump.

The candidates during the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
The candidates during the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday.Erin Schaff/The New York Times

When I grew up in Malden, we thought Medford was pretty nice.

I mean, it was no Melrose, but it wasn’t bad.

Tony Lucci’s in Medford Square was arguably the best sporting goods shop in the world.

When Malden kids would say Lee Chisholm’s was a really good store, too, guys from Medford would wave their hands dismissively and say, “Gettouttahere.”

As the years went by, Medford seemed to get a little richer while Malden got a little poorer.

But nobody I know from Malden begrudges that. It’s the next town over. Good for them.

Things change, and money changes everything.

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Which is why it was pretty amusing to watch all the Democrats beat up Mike Bloomberg, of the Medford Bloombergs, for being too rich.

They did this, ironically enough, in Las Vegas, where, more than any other city in the world, your self-worth is measured exclusively by your monetary worth.

If they wanted to go after him on his enthusiastic embrace of patting down every Black guy in Brooklyn, or his habit of signing nondisclosure agreements with women, good luck to them. But trying to buy the election?

The spectacle of millionaire politicians chiding a billionaire politician is like getting hammered at Caesar’s Palace on the free casino booze and telling the guy on the stool next to you that he might want to go easy on the sauce.

Bloomberg’s self-funding his campaign is only slightly more ridiculous and offensive than the rest of them begging donors for money. Bernie Sanders holds himself out as the most honorable of them, because he takes money only from little people, not millionaires.

Given our electoral system, all politicians at the highest echelons are bought and sold, just at different levels.

Besides, disproportionately taking money from the little people is government policy. It’s called taxes.

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If all the Democratic candidates would sign a pledge saying they wouldn’t take any political money from anybody and, furthermore, resolve that campaigns be shrunk down to a few weeks or months, as is done in every other sane democracy, then I might say they had a point. Otherwise, they’re all just whistling past the graveyard, moralizing in Sin City.

If you’re someone who thinks Donald Trump needs to be sent packing, watching the Democrats attack one another like 14-year-olds fighting over the remote was depressing indeed.

Whoever came up with that debate format, with the candidates raising their hands like schoolkids who had to go to the bathroom, must have a dark sense of humor or have gone to Catholic school. All night, the candidates sounded like tweens fighting to be heard at the cafeteria table.

We’re told these debates are democracy, in real time.

Looks more like democracy on borrowed time, because if these clowns don’t get their act together, say hello to four more years of Orange Chaos.

Many post-mortems scored the food fight squarely for Liz Warren. That’s probably true, if you look at these debates as prize fights, where candidates score with verbal jabs and counterpunches.

Warren certainly got off the zinger of the night, referencing Bloomberg’s reported inappropriate behavior by saying, “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

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Bada bing.

The debates, ostensibly, are meant to help voters figure out who is of presidential timber. You’re supposed to see who you like more, but I came away from Wednesday’s “debate” liking all the candidates less. Hard to say how this is playing in Peoria, though I’m guessing a lot of people in Peoria were watching the Blackhawks-Rangers game instead.

The polls say Sanders is leading what is still a crowded field. But it looked like most of the other candidates were more interested in bloodying Bloomberg than taking down the Bern.

Next time, it will be somebody else’s turn. Because in the world of cannibalistic politics, the meal only ends when there is just one diner left.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.