As for Trump's campaign of economic and political subversion of Venezuela, there was general support, with Sanders calling President Nicolas Maduro a "tyrant" and being criticized by Castro for not using the word "dictator." Sanders, who in the 1980s postured as a friend of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, said nothing about the long history of Yankee imperialist intervention throughout Latin America.
The other noteworthy feature of Thursday's debate was the effusive praise for the record of the Obama administration. Biden, of course, has made his role as vice president under Obama central to his campaign -- in large measure to divert attention from his long and thoroughly reactionary record in the US Senate.
In previous debates there had been some criticism of the Obama record, particularly on immigration, but in Houston, every candidate gave at least one shout-out to Obama and pledged to continue the "progress" supposedly made during his eight years in office. Typical was Elizabeth Warren, who said, "We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America and committed this country to health care for every human being."
In reality, Obamacare was a bonanza for the insurance companies, designed with their input and backed by the drug companies and for-profit hospital chains. It was part of an overall policy of favoring Wall Street at the expense of working people: Obama bailed out the banks, without a single CEO being prosecuted, and forced through the restructuring of the auto industry with a 50 percent wage cut for new-hires, setting the standard for the rise of new slave-wage empires like Amazon. His foreign policy extended the warmongering of the Bush administration, adding US intervention in Libya, Syria and Yemen to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
None of the candidates could address the fact that it was the eight years of Obama that made President Donald Trump possible. Hillary Clinton ran in 2016 as the continuator of the Obama administration, the candidate of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, and significant sections of working people either turned to Trump in despair or refused to vote at all.
The Biden campaign, still in the lead according to opinion polls, is based on re-running the 2016 campaign and hoping that Trump has sufficiently alienated voters in a handful of key Midwestern states. Sanders and Warren argue for a dose of "left" demagogy to win votes, knowing full well that the Democratic congressional leadership and the ruling class as a whole will torpedo their reformist proposals.
At the end of the day, no matter who was nominated, what would a future Democratic Party administration look like? It would be right-wing, pursuing the specific foreign policy obsessions of the Democratic wing of the ruling elite, directed against Russia and elevating the danger of war with a nuclear-armed antagonist.
None of the candidates calls for sweeping cuts in the massive military budget or challenges the role of America as the global military superpower, entitled to deploy its forces to every continent.
None is willing to deal with the reality that no serious improvements can be made in living standards and social services for the masses of working people without taking control of the wealth that has been created by labor, but which is now in the hands of the ruling elite.
Neither Sanders nor any of the others calls for confiscating the wealth of the billionaires -- not Warren's "two percent" tax, which would never be collected -- and taking control of the banks and major industries, placing them under the democratic control of working people so they produce for the common good, not private profit.
The Democratic Party cannot be the vehicle for such policies. It is no alternative to the ultra-right politics of Trump and the fascistic movement he is seeking to build up.
The Democrats, no less than the Republicans, are a party of big business and American imperialism. The political task facing the working class is to break with the whole corporate-controlled two-party system and build an independent political movement based on a socialist and internationalist program.