On Tuesday evening, viewers of CNN were transported into an alternate timeline where Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Ted Cruz debated in a battle of ideas over one vital political topic – healthcare.

If you thought very, very hard you might have even convinced yourself that you had gone back in time to an election that never came to pass – when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were nowhere to be seen and Senator Sanders only had to defeat tea party Republican Ted Cruz.

Quite frankly, Cruz didn’t make it too difficult. Besides feeling the need to defend the ACA when he clearly would rather replace it entirely with single-payer, Sanders held his own admirably and managed to spin each legitimate criticism of Obamacare into a plea for more government healthcare, rather than less.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz struggled to appear sympathetic to the plight of regular Americans – even telling one “congratulations on your struggle” with Multiple Sclerosis. Without the constraints of the Republican party primary, Cruz was able to morph into his true form – a tea party Republican who feels anything “government” is suspect. As such, Cruz had a hard time advocating for any healthcare system at all when it was clear he wanted the free market to handle the entire thing.

That is really what this debate came down to: do we want the government handling our healthcare, or do we want to go back to the free market system where innocent Americans can and are denied healthcare because they are perceived as a bad business decision?

Ted Cruz attempted to dance around this issue throughout the debate, knowing that now that Americans could not be denied coverage under Obamacare, that would not be a feature of which they would ever want to let go. Instead, Cruz repeatedly said that any plan he helped craft wouldn’t “cancel” anyone’s coverage – but he ignored the issue of denying coverage to ill Americans.

The issue here is that you cannot feasibly require that insurance companies must cover everyone who needs healthcare while not also requiring all Americans – whether they want it or not – to buy into the healthcare system. One mandate begets another – and Ted Cruz has said more than once that he is opposed to all Obamacare mandates.

Highlights for Senator Sanders included a moment when he confronted a business-owner who owned 5 Fantastic Sam franchise businesses but would not hire more than 50 employees in order to avoid the healthcare mandate. Rather than trying to win her support, Sanders told the woman that it was her responsibility to provide healthcare to her employees.

Not doing so was a disservice to her dozens of hard-working employees, as well as an unfair competitive advantage against companies who were doing the right thing and covering their employees. It wasn’t what this business-owner wanted to hear, but it was the right thing to say.

There was also another golden moment when Sanders squabbled with Cruz about the term “access,” saying that consumers could have “access” to healthcare all day, but if they can’t afford it, the access is useless. The free market simply isn’t enough control to provide healthcare in an affordable, feasible way to the American public.

Here’s just a small clip of last night’s exchange:

Sydney Robinson is a political writer for the Ring of Fire Network. She has also appeared in political news videos for Ring of Fire. Sydney has a degree in English Literature from the University of West Florida, and has an active interest in politics, social justice, and environmental issues. She would love to hear from you on Twitter @SydneyMkay or via email at srobinson@ringoffireradio.com