Campaign season is upon us again. Not for next year’s midterm elections, mind you — for the 2020 presidential race.
For the past 6 months, it’s been all quiet on the Democratic front as the party continues to reel from the indignity of losing one of the most easily-winnable elections in recent memory. The party has split its time fighting against some of the more inhumane policy proposals of the Trump administration on one front while attempting to strike the right messaging balance that can appeal to liberals, neoliberals, and progressives.
The rollout of the new Democratic messaging strategy was, to put it mildly, not a success. The party continues to turn a deaf ear to the policy proposals of the more progressive elements of its base, intent on recapturing a swath of voters (the fabled “blue-collar Rust Belter”) that hasn’t reliably voted Democrat in nearly 40 years.
And there is no one person more emblematic of Democrats’ knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory than the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring: John Delaney.
Don’t feel too badly if you haven’t heard of John Delaney; nobody else has, either. Delaney, who represents Maryland’s 6th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, seems to recognize as much, which is ostensibly why he penned an Op-Ed in the Washington Post that served more as a biography than a coherent list of platform planks on key issues.
So the million-dollar question: What is John Delaney all about?
Given his eagerness to throw his hat in the ring, one would assume Delaney has crafted myriad policy proposals that can cure what currently ails America. The important thing is that he’s got his finger on the pulse of what the Democratic Party needs post-Bernie Sanders; I’m sure Delaney learned from Hillary’s failure in last year’s election, and maybe he’s the perfect guy to bring the Democratic Party back from the brink.
What’s that, Los Angeles Times? Delaney is a “politically moderate banking entrepreneur […] worth roughly $90 million and is one of the House’s wealthiest members”?
[Hangs head, shoulders slump]
Well, we can’t automatically disqualify someone from consideration just because they’ve made money — there’s nothing wrong with succeeding within the capitalist system. Let’s judge Mr. Delaney on the merits of his policy proposals, shall we?
As it turns out, Delaney’s website doesn’t appear to have a section outlining his policy proposals — there’s a “Bio” section and a “What’s Next” section, which is just a reprint of his Washington Post Op-Ed. Not for nothing, but if you’re a candidate nobody has heard of, it would behoove you to give people something to get excited about or, at the very least, something to discuss when weighing the merits of your presidential bid.
Here is what I could glean from my trek through the extended hagiography of John Delaney, The Man Who Would Be President.
He’s Proud of His Bipartisanship
Delaney believes that “our government is hamstrung by excessive partisanship,” but never fear: our man has “been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress.”
Three problems I can think of, here. The first two are messaging issues; our government is not hamstrung by excessive partisanship — our country is hamstrung by excessive partisanship. And calling yourself an “innovative” legislator when the job you do has been done in exactly the same way since the 1700s is nonsense. The third problem is the largest: Delaney touting his bipartisanship as though that’s still an attractive quality.
Here’s the thing: bipartisanship is dead, and will continue to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Republicans have sacrificed good faith and a spirit of cooperation on the altar of tax cuts and limited government; not only that, but the GOP and Democrats have collectively moved away from the center (the GOP has, of course, moved much further to the right than Democrats have moved left.) Therefore, Delaney’s claim of “bipartisanship” effectively means “I will gladly compromise my values in service of Doing Deals.” As Hillary already demonstrated, that approach is a non-starter.
His Platform Planks Are Woefully Thin
Here are Delaney’s primary objectives regarding real, actual policy: infrastructure and education/health care/immigration reform. Delaney also notes that he wants to “encourage a more just and inclusive form of capitalism and reduce barriers to small-business formation, start-ups, job creation, investment and growth.”
Two more red flags. First is Delaney’s embrace of the capitalist system, the rejection of which accounted for roughly 95% of why Bernie’s supporters embraced him last year. And second is his reference to “reduc[ing] barriers to small-business formation,” which sounds a lot to me like the bog-standard “Embrace the free market!” talking point offered by whatever GOP replicant finds themselves on Fox Business on a Sunday morning.
Delaney would also like to “encourage more volunteerism, impact investing and public service”; try as I might, I can’t even begin to fathom what he means by that. I assume he means tax breaks or credits for businesses who do volunteer work in needy communities, but offering an incentive for volunteer work kind of undermines the whole “volunteer” thing. I could be wrong about his intention, but that’s what happens when you don’t have a comprehensive list of policy proposals on your website.
I’m Not Sure He Knows What “Progressive” Means
Delaney touts his “strong progressive values” twice on his site and notes his record as a “progressive businessman.” Frankly, it reads a messaging strategist gave the whole thing a once-over and told Delaney, “Throw the word ‘progressive’ in there a few times — I don’t know what it is, but the young voters seem to love it.”
I don’t know what exactly a “progressive businessman” looks like, but given that Delaney appears content with retaining the current capitalist system that has contributed to staggering income inequality in America, I have a hunch that he ain’t it.
Of course, there are also the standard references to his “blue-collar” background and how much he loves Bruce Springsteen (watch your back, Chris Christie), because everybody knows the middle class loves multimillionaires who attempt to gain credibility by shoehorning references to classic rock stars into their stump speeches.
I mean, Christ on a bike. If you gave the DCCC endless funds and Tony Stark’s laboratory, they still couldn’t build a less-suitable candidate for the current political climate. I sincerely hope Delaney is only doing this to boost his profile and hitch a ride on the actual Democratic nominee’s ticket down the road, just as I sincerely hope that never comes to fruition.
If candidates like Delaney are any indication, the Democratic Party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory remains unparalleled.