Delaney thinks voters want healing

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

John Delaney of Maryland was the first Democrat to announce he is running for President and the first to buy an ad in The Storm Lake Times, so I was all ears when he visited the office on Monday.

He campaigned here for JD Scholten in his bid against Rep. Steve King, but I didn’t get the chance to visit with Delaney. He has been in Iowa 20 times over the past year, and contributed to more than 20 campaigns in the state. He is hip deep in it, much like Sen. Chris Dodds who moved to Des Moines for a year.

Delaney was on his way from Sioux City to Des Moines, where he was scheduled to meet with political organizer John Norris.

First impressions are important. Delaney greeted everyone in the office, had plenty of time to visit, looks you in the eye and smiles, comes across as friendly and honest. And very smart. In a Bill Clinton-Terry McAuliffe  sort of way. Delaney’s platform reads like Clinton’s, primarily by investing in places “left behind” in a rapidly changing information economy.

Rural Iowa is one of those places.

He talks about reinvesting capital gains in opportunity zones to avoid taxes (he was among the bipartisan sponsors of that provision in the Trump tax bill), expansion of the earned income tax credit for working folks, investment in career training and the like. And he understands that the caravan is at the border in large part because they are suffocating under Iowa corn that they used to grow for themselves. Yet he remains a free-trader, one of the backers of the Trans Pacific Partnership viewed with suspicion from the left wing of the Democratic Party and the right wing of the Republican Party.

Delaney wants to be that nice fellow who can work with anyone.

“The central issue is: How do we take our terribly fractured nation and bring us all back together?” Delaney said. “We’ve got to start doing things, and right now we can’t because of how divided we are.”

So he would start with areas where left and right can come together around a middle:

For infrastructure. Everyone says they want better roads, bridges and power systems.

For using the tax structure to fill in the places left behind, like those hard-hit Iowa manufacturing centers like Mason City and Ottumwa that high-tech and free trade leave vacant.

For addressing climate change through cap-and-trade, a Republican idea until it became a Democratic one under Barack Obama. He says that 10 million people have been displaced in Syria — 20 million will be displaced in Bangladesh by climate change. “It’s an economic and national security issue,” Delaney said.

He is not too young and not too old at 55. He is an entrepreneur, having made his fortune serving the lending needs of small healthcare businesses that couldn’t get bank financing. He is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. He said he sold out of his business interests because he had all the money he could ever want, so he leaped into politics because he wants to serve. Delaney has six field offices in Iowa and 16 on staff, and he is paying for 80% of it himself. He is not worrying so much if Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden sucks up all the Washington money because he has plenty of his own.

“The election of Donald Trump was the punctuation on three decades of bad politics,” Delaney said.

That’s what shells out communities from Baltimore to Laurens, Iowa, he said, a system that doesn’t take into account those left behind by change.

“Are we going to address these things and be honest about what the solutions are?” Delaney said. “People are yearning for more honest and transparent engagement with candidates.”

Delaney appears to be all that. One wonders whether the centrist candidate that Tom Vilsack called for can break through the money and caucus din of some 15 candidates — a few of whom come to it with a ton of money already, like Michael Bloomberg or Biden. Delaney thinks the Jimmy Carter model of trudging up to every Iowa doorstep can continue to work. He also thinks that the theme of bipartisanship can sell among Iowa Democrats who simply want a golden hairdo served on their platter. He might find that populism has not worn itself out here and that caucus-goers want a spear carrier and not a peacemaker.

But what he is doing:

Delaney shows up. He is working it. He is a businessman and lawyer who knows how to work a plan. And he was here first and most. But so was Chris Dodd.