Getting To Know Delaney
WASHINGTON — The world’s oldest political party has developed an aversion to discretion. The Democratic Party is manacled to an over-caffeinated base that believes that deft government can deliver parity of status to everyone while micromanaging the economy’s health care sector, which is larger than all but three other foreign nations’ economies. Inconveniently, the party must appeal to voters who yearn only for governmental adequacy. Which is why John Delaney, who is ending a three-term tenure as a Democratic congressman from Maryland, is seeking his party’s presidential nomination. His quest will test whether Democrats’ detestation of Donald Trump is stronger than their enthusiasm for identity politics: A white male businessman, Delaney comes to bat with three strikes against him. Suppose, however, Democrats are more interested in scrubbing the current presidential stain from public life than they are in virtue-signaling. Delaney is much more than an example of the If-Trump-Can-Be-Elected-So-Can-My-Cocker-Spaniel response to 2016. His grandparents, he says, “made pencils and worked the docks.” He did not become wealthy through a father’s largesse supplemented by tax chicanery. His father was a 60-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. An IBEW scholarship, and support from the American Legion, VFW and Lion’s Club, helped Delaney through Columbia University. After Georgetown Law School, where he met his wife, he founded a financial company and became the youngest-ever CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. His next company invests in small and midsize companies. In 2017, Fortune magazine included him among the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.” Solidly built and impeccably tailored, Delaney, 55, is a Democrat who believes in what he has lived: upward mobility, with assistance. He recognizes that globalization has been “extraordinarily positive” for billions more people than it has injured, but its casualties are real and deserve government help. He speaks with the calm confidence of one who understands that the lungs are not the seat of wisdom. He checks various boxes that might mollify all but the most fastidious progressives: He likes early childhood education, a carbon tax, a $15 minimum wage and extending the Social Security tax to higher incomes. He dislikes the NRA, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, high interest rates on student loans and “outrageous” drug prices. He would achieve “universal” health care by offering Medicaid for all, and for those who choose to opt for private programs, as he thinks most people would, there would be federal subsidies for those who need them. He says “the screaming top headline” from the midterm elections was that moderate Democrats won. Few not occupying safe seats won while hollering “Single payer healthcare!” and “Abolish ICE!” and “Impeachment!” It is Delaney’s persona —a Joe Biden 20 years younger and half as prolix —that will seem pleasingly adult or insufficiently carbonated when the prancing ponies from the Senate canter into Iowa. If the nomination scramble is a decibel competition, Delaney will lose — and the winning Democrat probably will lose in the November 2020 rendezvous with him who specializes in loud. Delaney illustrates the reason for tolerating what Iowa considers a Mandate of Heaven — its entitlement to begin the nomination process. Iowans are so thin on the ground that retail politicking can give a dark horse a chance. Delaney has been tilling Iowa’s soil as an announced candidate for 475 days, and has exceeded 50 percent name recognition. He has visited all 99 counties with more than 440 days remaining before the 2020 caucuses. In the 10 presidential cycles since Jimmy Carter’s 1976 win in Iowa, six Democrats have won competitive caucuses and then their party’s nomination: President Carter (defeating Ted Kennedy) in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton in 2016. Delaney in 2020? Democrats could do much worse. They generally do, and probably will. As in 2016, Trump is counting on it. GEORGE WILL writes for The Washington Post.