PELLA - The first candidate running for president in 2020 made his first Marion County appearance Sunday. There were 1,066 campaigning days left until Election Day, but John Delaney already had his talking points honed.
The Maryland congressman declared his candidacy in July. Nine curious Democrats showed up at Brew Coffee House to ask what sets him apart from others who might run.
“I’m the one who wants to run and bring this country together,” he said. “I think I have the right vision for the country.”
Delaney, who will leave Congress in 2018 to campaign full-time, has made 80 appearances across the nation and said he has a good sense of what people want.
“We’ve lost complete faith in our government," he said. "We don’t think it’s looking out for our best interests.
“Who’s gonna actually talk about the American people as if half of them are not entirely wrong about anything they believe? Who’s gonna actually try to build a big government coalition and get things done for us?”
Delaney said voters want action in three key areas.
“They want us to talk about their jobs, their pay, and the opportunities for their children,” he said. “That’s what moves the hearts and minds of most Americans.”
Delaney, 54, grew up in New Jersey. His father’s labor union helped pay his way through college. He launched and led two large companies before winning a seat in Congress in 2012. He said that globalization was a positive path for America’s security and prosperity and lifted billions of people around the world out of poverty.
But many communities and their people were left in the dust, he said, and a new wave of change spurred by technology and automation could wipe out more workers and families.
“Sixty percent of the children in this country live in a county where there is no evidence of any upward economic mobility,” he said. “For (those) kids, unless they’re absolutely extraordinary, they don’t have a shot at the American dream because they live in a place where there’s not better jobs being created than the ones that exist.”
Tax reform legislation being debated in Congress doesn’t address the nation’s problems and favors the wealthy, Delaney said. Instead of repealing the estate tax, for example, he said Congress should address infrastructure needs and help hurting local economies.
Congress can create incentives for private investors to defer capital gains from the sale of their investments if they invest these in communities that are left behind, he said. Government contracts also should target areas that are hurting, he said.
Delaney told the cluster that the nation can afford health care for everyone. He suggested expanding Medicaid to cover all Americans, lowering the age for Medicare to 55 and giving everyone the option to purchase supplemental insurance on top of federal programs.
The United States must set the global agenda and build broad coalitions, Delaney said. That includes promoting peace, lifting people out of poverty, and leading the way on labor standards, the environment, and denuclearization, he said.
“The U.S. needs to be at the head of the table,” he said. “The only alternatives for doing it are Russia and China, and they’re not going to set an agenda that’s any good for us.”
The most immediate concern, he told the Democrats, is winning in 2020.
“Even though it’s frayed, we still have representative democracy in this country, which means if win these elections, we can change all of these things,” he said.
“The way we do that is really simple - by talking to people what they care about, not what we care about.”