Over 100 people crowded into room 1D of the Dana Centre Sunday afternoon for the first of what are sure to be many events with 2020 Presidential hopefuls at Saint Anselm College. Congressman John K. Delaney (D-MD-6) is the first individual to officially declare that he is running for President of the United States in 2020, having launched his campaign through The Washington Post on July 28, 2017. This set the record for the earliest a major presidential candidate has announced their campaign.
Delaware Senator Pierre du Pont IV previously held the record at 615 days before the Iowa Caucus of 1988. Du Pont failed to gain any serious consideration in his campaign and received an insignificant amount of votes in the first three primary contests. Delaney is hoping to have a different outcome.
Before Delaney spoke, supporters and attendees were served pizza, soda, and small cups of gummy bears in the Dana Centre lobby while staffers gave out stickers, campaign flyers, t-shirts, and copies of Delaney’s book The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation.
Once it began, Delaney’s speech was more like the unveiling of the latest Apple product than a traditional campaign rally. He stood in front of his lectern with a PowerPoint presentation behind him filled with videos, pictures, graphics, and transition animations, clicking through the slides with a handheld remote/laser pointer combo. Consistent with the ambiance, the speech was fast paced and data-heavy, with lots of facts, figures, and charts flashing on the screen for moments each before Delaney moved on to the next topic.
The theme of Delaney’s speech was “The cost of doing nothing is not nothing.” He argued that our political system has failed to adapt and address the evolving challenges of the 21st Century and that the inactivity of previous leaders has put us in a precarious situation. His goal is to build a “more prosperous and more just future” for Americans and the rest of the world.
He praised the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for striving to bipartisanship and bridge building in a society that is clogged by partisan gridlock and said that politicians should aim to model themselves after Senator McCain’s style.
Delaney’s platform has seven key planks. The first is to push for greater investment in America. Currently, 80% of venture capital funds are spent in Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and San Francisco. Delaney argued that America needs to reform the tax code to incentivize investment in the heartland and other underdeveloped areas of the country. He also expressed support for the doubling of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which rewards Americans who are working but cannot achieve a sustainable income level.
The second is the development of a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which Delaney said many other leading countries, including China and Russia, have developed. Delaney said that the NAIS needs to take into account possible job disruption and probable security concerns, praising a recent set of laws passed in California to limit what companies like Google and Facebook can do with one’s data without one’s direct consent.
The third plank is the reformation of the public education system in the United States. The current system was constructed by The Committee of Ten in 1892, which was when the presidents of the top ten colleges and universities set out to create a public schooling system. Delaney argued that there is a need for a new Committee of Ten to create a new public school system, centered on PreK through 14th-grade education. Delaney argued that spending the money to invest in Pre-Kindergarten programs and public Associate’s Degrees will pay back dividends to the country.
The fourth plank is the introduction of a basic Universal Healthcare plan in the United States. The plan must include a program for the purchasing of supplemental plans, according to Delaney, as well as the protection of Medicare and Medicaid. Delaney said that a major reason why American wages haven’t increased with corporate profits is because healthcare costs for employees is “gobbling up the profits” that could otherwise go towards increased wages.
The fifth plank is investing in infrastructure, which Delaney argued would be critical to creating new middle-class jobs. He introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in Congress, which gained 40 Republican co-sponsors and 40 Democratic co-sponsors, and called for the funding of a national infrastructure bank, the establishment of a 25% corporate tax rate, and increased wealth in the Highway Trust Fund. The plan was never voted on by Republican Leadership under the Obama Administration.
The sixth calls for putting America on track to be 50% reliant on green energy by 2030 through the implementation of a carbon tax. The seventh is to tackle the national debt as a percentage of GDP. Delaney did not speak of how he plans to achieve that goal but directed attendees to read the final chapter of his book, which was available for free in the lobby of the Dana Centre, for his plans on how to fund programs without increasing the national debt as a percentage of the GDP.
Delaney said that the real “villain is partisanship. And it is toxic.” He argued that President Trump has turned back the clock in terms of the progress we’ve made as a country and that “the tone at the top matters,” attacking President Trump for his combative attitude and frequent Twitter feuds.
One of his more bold proposals was that the President should go before the Congress once every three months and deliver a miniature State of the Union address for an hour before having an open Q&A period with the Congress for two more hours. He said that this was a great method to help Americans with their “problem figuring out what is true and what isn’t.”
Delaney filled Dana 1D, but the audience was largely homogeneous. The room was notably lacking in diversity and, other than eight members of the Saint Anselm College Democrats, there were only about 10 people in the room younger than 30 years old.
Although Delaney is the first candidate to officially declare, he is not the first potential candidate to visit the Hilltop. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has made one trip to the NHIOP already and is making a second in October. Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) made a visit last year, as have former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and Attorney General Eric Holder (D-DC).
Since Delaney’s visit, presidential candidate Andrew Yang, seeking the Democratic nomination, has come to visit with Saint Anselm College Democrats and other interested students.