The shorthand of contrast between Ro Khanna and Mike Honda in their congressional primary is that Khanna wants to debate and Honda does not.
To insiders, that makes sense. Khanna is quick on his feet. Honda is not. (And I know there is a League of Women Voters Forum in Fremont on May 3. It's not a debate).
The real question is what a full-throated debate would show. Increasingly, I'm coming to think it would reveal Khanna as the candidate of the future and Honda as the standard-bearer of the past.
I don't mean that Khanna, 37, a Wilson, Sonsini lawyer, is perfect. The centerpiece of his campaign -- that he is running because Congress is broken -- in some sense misses the mark with Honda.
It's not that Honda is a bad man or the lapdog of special interests. He is a very decent man who has been a loyal progressive vote. And Khanna, for all his skill at flattery, cannot suddenly fix Congress.
But the sensibilities of the 72-year-old congressman, who represents a Silicon Valley district that edges into the East Bay, are rooted in the past.
How can I know that? Well, for starters, I watched the video that is at the top of Honda's website. It opens with the story of the Japanese internment during World War II, when Honda was an infant.
Anyone who knows the history of San Jose's representation in Congress has to appreciate that video. After the war, the city's Japanese elders groomed future U.S. Rep. Norm Mineta, Mike Honda's patron, to avoid such an injustice again.
If you examine Honda's record, you know that some of his bravest acts have dealt with the past, like urging the Japanese to recognize the plight of Korean "comfort women.''
And yes, policy geeks can wrestle over the two men's records. They can debate whether Honda initiated a 2003 nanotechnology bill (Honda's people acknowledge that a Republican co-introduced the legislation).
They can fight over whether Khanna's pledge not to take PAC money obscures his allegiances to rich Silicon Valley folks (answer: he got money from many sources, but PACs are declining in importance).
The real difference is this: As the author of a book on entrepreneurs, Khanna is selling himself as a man who has thought carefully about issues like the fate of manufacturing, women in the workplace and the need to compete.
In politics, we ordinarily recoil at the attempt to banish an elder, particularly a good and progressive man like Honda.
In Silicon Valley, we know a very different imperative, one that Clayton Christensen articulated in his book, "The Innovator's Dilemma.'' It's the power of a disruptive idea.
Ro Khanna, an ambitious ex-Obama official, is that disruptive idea, a man willing to challenge an incumbent with a gold-plated name. We ignore disruptions at our peril.