On July 28, 2017, 1,194 days before the 2020 presidential election, Maryland Rep. John Delaney announced in a Washington Post opinion article that he hopes for the Democratic nomination. A political centrist, the representative of Maryland’s 6th district made his announcement just six months into Trump’s term — the earliest anyone has declared a presidential run in 45 years.
Delaney has already faced some criticism for jumping the gun, but declaring his candidacy six months into Trump’s presidency is not only a smart move — it will be important for him to get press coverage early on in his campaign, as he’s not exactly a household name — but also speaks to many Americans’ discontent with both the current administration and the election’s incredibly polarizing effect on our entire political climate. It may be one of the earliest announcements in recent history, but it comes in an unprecedented era: Trump’s approval ratings tie for the lowest any have ever been this early in a presidency (on par with Clinton’s at a mere 37, though lower than Clinton’s ratings after the Monica Lewinsky scandal surfaced) and more and more Americans are finding politics to be a stressful, divisive, rigged game. That’s why Delaney is important: moderate candidates will have the best chance come 2020.
At first glance, he may seem like another slave to big business: a successful progressive businessman and banking entrepreneur, Delaney was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004 after founding two companies of his own by the age of 40. One of his two companies, CapitalSource, provides loans to small and mid-sized businesses.
What may set him apart, though, is that his success didn’t come from receiving “a small loan" of a million dollars. Raised in a middle-class family, he was a first-generation college student that paid his own way through law school and struggled with his own student loan debts. Delaney likely understands and will be able to represent the middle class, who feel increasingly isolated and neglected as they grapple with stagnant incomes amongst skyrocketing prices. Democrats’ support among the middle class has slipped, especially in the 2016 election as Trump promised to protect those communities. Delaney may turn this around as he says in his article that he hopes to focus on the future of job creation in efforts to “build a stronger and more vibrant middle class."
He took office in 2012 and since then has been “consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress." He was even named one of Fortune’s 50 Greatest Leaders for that reason. Delaney is ranked third highest for bipartisanship among House Democrats but sees problems within the Democratic Party from “electoral failures" to a lack of focus on the future. He still considers himself to align with the party due to his belief that they prioritize marginalized groups, embrace equality and social justice, and want our government to tap into its potential to provide health care for all and to increase globalization. Socially liberal, he is pro-choice, supports same-sex marriage, and has been endorsed by The Feminist Majority for his stance on women’s rights.
As social issues become less controversial than big-ticket problems like healthcare, immigration, and education, Delaney may stand out as appealing to more moderate minds among both parties (and those in between) as he generally takes a centrist stance. Nearly two-thirds of his bills in 2015 had co-signers from both parties. One such piece of legislation planned to “encourage corporations to repatriate overseas earnings tax-free, in exchange for helping finance major infrastructure projects," according to The Washington Post in an article praising his “energetic advocacy of bipartisan legislation," calling him an “original thinker and a leader."
While he says he “[celebrates] the power" of a free-market economy, he also believes our government has a responsibility to regulate it and calls for “a more just and inclusive form of capitalism and [a reduction of] barriers to small-business formation, start-ups, job creation, investment and growth."
When it comes to immigration, his statement only indicates that he wants reforms to the system to reduce security and fiscal risks. He voted against requiring illegal immigrants to return to their home countries before applying for citizenship but calls also for securing our borders; we can expect a centrist proposition for dealing with the illegal immigration problem, allowing those already in the country to take a simplified path to citizenship while strengthening borders to prevent the issue from growing. As the battle over healthcare shows little sign of slowing, Delaney opposes repealing the Affordable Care Act, but calls it “imperfect" and advocates for serious reform addressing long-term challenges.
In terms of budget, he wants to lead on “deficit reduction and entitlement reform" while investing in the future by prioritizing “education and job training, science and research, alternative energy, and infrastructure" and reducing military spending. However, he is a strong proponent of veterans’ rights, and the House recently approved his amendment to the 2018 defense appropriations bill providing an additional $5 million in funding to the Fisher House Foundation, doubling the total funds it receives. (The Fisher House Foundation provides military families with free lodging near Department of Veterans Affairs and military hospitals.)
Overall, Delaney says his approach to the presidency will go “beyond party and partisanship" and instead strive to unify us all as Americans by embracing a common national identity characterized by ambition and the ability to provide for others globally and nationally. He promises to lead “differently" with “no games, no cat-and-mouse," but instead with compromises and a healthy dose of optimism about our country’s future.
“For too long, the conversation in politics has been about trying to return to the past instead of focusing on the most important thing — the future."
If he lives up to his claims, we can expect him to do well among those who do not feel adequately represented by the extremes or are growing tired of the hate from both sides.