Meet The Democrat Who Was The First To Declare A 2020 Presidential Bid

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Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., speaks to fairgoers during a visit to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2018. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., speaks to fairgoers during a visit to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2018. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney was in the 2020 presidential race, before it even was one. The Democrat declared his candidacy in July 2017.

Delaney (@JohnKDelaney) tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson that he first thought about running for president after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election to President Trump.

“That moment made me say, 'We have to think differently about everything,' ” Delaney says. “We really need to move to a bit of a post-partisan world where we actually start solving problems and stop kind of living in a country where the political leaders act like half the country is entirely wrong about everything they believe and increasingly try to pit American against American.”

While he admits it's impossible for Americans to agree on everything, Delaney says politicians should focus on what they actually do agree on, and get politics back to what it is meant to be: “a debate of ideas.”

“There's a long list of things where I actually think there's broad agreement in this country that we need to act and do something,” he says. “But it never gets done because it's not of interest to the extremes on each side who, in my opinion, have largely held this country hostage for decades.”

Interview Highlights

On his plan for health care

“I'm not in favor of the Medicare-for-all bill that is proposed in the U.S. Senate specifically. ... Because the term Medicare-for-all sometimes doesn't mean anything, but there is actually a bill that [Sen. Bernie Sanders] and a lot of the other people who are running for president have crafted in the Senate. I am not for that bill. I am for a system of universal health care where every American has health care as a fundamental right because I think that's where we should be as a civilized society.

“I think the way I would do it is to some extent I [would] actually use Medicare as a model. What Medicare does is you get basic health care as a right if you're over 65, and then you have the ability to buy supplemental plans so that you can have choices. So … my proposal is a system very similar to that. I leave Medicare alone. I create a new system for everyone under 65 where they get health care as a right. It's a basic plan. We roll Medicaid into that, but then we allow people to have choices and get private insurance to supplement that basic government plan. That's where I think we should go.”

"What we should do on border security is pretty obvious."

John Delaney

On a possible compromise with Trump for a border wall

“I think there's 1.8 million people who are considered Dreamers. I think they go to bed every night worried about potentially being deported and going back to a country none of them may even know. You know, they came here as kids. They did nothing wrong. And if as part of a smart border security program, we funded some money for the kind of steel barriers that exist now on the border, and we could get a deal with Dreamers, how could you not do that, right? I mean … you're potentially helping 1.8 million human beings.

“What we should do on border security is pretty obvious. The Congress and the president should agree on a certain amount of money, call it $5 billion, and they should agree that experts will make recommendations as to the best way to spend that money. And it's likely that those experts would say let's invest in technology here, let's put some more personnel here, and probably in these places we need some physical barriers. And the Congress and the president should agree on what the experts recommend.”

On his views on trade and his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

“I was a big supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I worked very closely with President Obama on that. I was one of the few Democrats to support it. I thought it was in the economic interests of the country, but in particular, I thought it was in the national security interests of the United States of America. The No.1 threat from a foreign policy perspective, by any measure for our country, is China. And Asia is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, and we need to be making commitments to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region that we are there as a partner for them. And it's one of the main ways of dealing with China — and what I would consider their pirate-like practices over the last several decades — to be competing with them in their backyard.”

"The next crisis is never the same as the last crisis, so I think walking around and acting like the banks are the big problem in this country is really not the right issue."

John Delaney

On Wall Street regulation after the financial crisis

“I think the financial system in the United States of America right now is very well capitalized and is safe, and largely in a good position to withstand an economic crisis, which is the most important thing. Because the last time we allowed our banks to be way undercapitalized, and they operated with a kind of a 'heads they win, tails the taxpayers lose' mentality, and it largely brought down a big part of the U.S. economy. So firstly and I think most importantly, we have a very strong and well-capitalized financial system in this country. I think regulations on larger financial institutions are largely appropriate, and I fully support the Dodd-Frank regime to regulations, but I do believe we are seeing a rapid decline in the number of community banks in this country. And I think we have to say, you know, we have to decide as a country, do we want to still have these community banks? Because we can't subject them to the same level of regulations that the largest financial institutions have because they just can't afford it. And as a result, they're rapidly kind of being consolidated.”

On if Elizabeth Warren is too tough on banks

“I think she perceives the banks to be a bigger problem right now than they are. In other words, the banks were a much bigger problem going into the financial crisis. I think right now, just to put it into perspective, the risk of automation and artificial intelligence, which is likely to displace 50 million jobs or fundamentally change them by 2030, for example, is a much bigger conversation for us to be having about the economy and jobs, etc. in this country than the banks, which are largely pretty well capitalized and have been appropriately regulated since the financial crisis.

"The next crisis is never the same as the last crisis, so I think walking around and acting like the banks are the big problem in this country is really not the right issue. The right issue is how is our economy fundamentally changing? How is it disrupting jobs and work, and how is it leading to a tremendous concentration of opportunity in a relatively small number of places in this country? I mean last year the United States of America, 80 percent of the venture capital was invested in 50 counties out of 3,100 counties. So you have this tremendous concentration of opportunity that's based on all these changes — technology, globalization, etc. And those are much bigger things to get our head around than what's going on in the banking system.”

"I worry that we're going to live in a world where future political disagreements are met with violent protests because we can't have any normal conversations anymore."

John Delaney

On the biggest problem facing the youngest generation

“Well, I think devices [are] a big issue. I mean, I think we've allowed these technology companies who have real monopoly power to effectively develop devices that are clearly addictive. And we have, you know, no regulation on them largely at all. I sponsored legislation in the Congress to have the [National Institutes of Health] do a study on the addictive nature of devices. So I think a combination of social media addiction, I think a combination of very concentrated economic opportunity where about 70, 80 percent of the kids in this country live in a community where the jobs that are being created are not as good as the jobs that used to exist, which has led to fractured families, a large mental health crisis, a public education system that really hasn't been updated to deal with the demands of the world we live in now, I think there's a convergence of all these factors that is creating huge despair in our country, in every generation. ... And listen I have four daughters ... ages 11 to 26, so I kind of am pretty close to these issues, and I think they're a real issue.”

On what scares him the most about this country

“What scares me is the level of division in our country. I worry that we're going to live in a world where future political disagreements are met with violent protests because we can't have any normal conversations anymore, and people are looking for villains, and typically they're looking for people who are in a different political party. And we haven't done things to control the disinformation wars that can happen in a largely unregulated technology environment that we live in. I worry about a world where people look at their phones, see something they like and smile and the phone will know that, and it will immediately give them an image of — and the image might be a complete fake scenario where they took someone's face and voice and imposed it in a scene designed to influence what they buy or how they vote. And this really erodes the basic fabric of our society. So I really worry about the deep, deep divisions in our country because I think this is a magnificent country, and we can solve every single problem in front of us, but we have to solve them all together. And if we're divided, we can't.”

Jill Ryan produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on February 8, 2019.


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Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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