These “debates” are to serious policy discussions as a kazoo is to an orchestra. You can say a kazoo is an instrument, and you can say that these truncated thoughts are proposals, but you’ll invite smirks.

This is not a slam on Democrats. The Republican “debates” in 2016 were no better. When a stage is sardined with candidates, there is no alternative to keeping answers short. If the voters had longer attention spans, we could arrange four or five nights of less manic encounters, which would give candidates the chance to explain themselves. But since we don’t, we have unedifying and demeaning soundbite pingpong matches.

It isn’t clear that they merit the intense media interest they generate. Must Joe Biden prove he’s not too old? Must Cory Booker “have a moment” after a lackluster first debate? Maybe. Then again, Donald Trump performed abysmally in the 2016 debates. He didn’t know the issues and made excruciating errors. His great skill, if you can call it that, was in lobbing juvenile taunts at his rivals. Yet he was acclaimed the winner by the viewers.

Several candidates this week stressed that the Democratic Party is veering too far to the left, which was refreshing, if probably futile. The undertow pulling the party left is very strong. As recently as 2009, the public option in health care was considered too extreme, which is why President Barack Obama omitted it. Now, it’s the moderate position compared with “Medicare for All,” which is endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Bill de Blasio, Julian Castro and, with some reservations, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg.

This seems like a good time to review what Canada’s single-payer health care system does and doesn’t do.

It’s true that all Canadian citizens and legal residents (though not immigrants there illegal) get “free” health care, but only in the sense that you don’t get a bill after seeing a doctor or visiting a hospital. Medical care is subsidized by taxes, but the price comes in another form as well — rationing. A 2018 report from the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, found that wait times between seeing a general practitioner and a specialist average 19.8 weeks. That’s the average.

Canada has the same modern medical technology that the U.S. offers, but Canadians must wait more than a month for a CT scan, more than 10 weeks for an MRI, and almost a month for an ultrasound.

Advocates respond that Canadians are happy with their system, and that’s fine. But Americans tend not to be so docile about delays. And in any case, the Democrats’ pretense that we can provide “Medicare for All” and receive the same level of care we’ve become accustomed to is applesauce. You want the Canadian system? Fine. Just know what you’re giving up.

Mona Charen is a senior fellow at

the Ethics and Public Policy Center.