On Wednesday morning, former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) said Americans need to stop the “capitalism vs. socialism” debate. The first Democrat to jump in the race, Delaney emphasized his entrepreneurial background but encouraged an expansion of the social safety net. He seems rightly afraid to identify with socialism, but his big-government approach would drift America away from free markets.
“Socialism in its pure form the not the right answer, obviously. But to some extent, it’s a false choice,” Delaney said. “We have a capitalistic country, we have a free market system. It’s the greatest innovation and job creation machine ever created.”
He did not stop at defending America’s free markets, however. “But we’ve always had really strong social programs,” he continued. “We’ve built great societal infrastructure. We have regulation, tax policy, workers’ rights to ensure our citizens have the kind of opportunities I’ve had. … We’ve allowed these social programs to erode.”
“And so really, we shouldn’t be having this ‘capitalism vs. socialism’ debate. Really, we should be saying, ‘How do we rebuild the social compact so that every young person in this country has the opportunities that people like myself have had?’ Because today’s generation is the first generation of Americans that won’t do better than their parents. We’ve let them down,” Delaney argued.
While this former congressman was the first candidate to declare his run for president in 2020 — all the way back in 2017 — he has little hope of actually winning in the primary. His hesitance to support socialism may hurt him in a race against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who openly supports socialism.
Many Democratic leaders are rushing not just to expand government but to identify as “democratic socialists.” The socialism vs. capitalism debate is real, and Delaney can’t erase that fact.
The former congressman insisted that he is the right leader to unite Americans.
“I was ranked one of the most bipartisan members of the Congress, so I have a track record. As an entrepreneur who started two businesses, I was the youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. I’ve spent my whole career bringing people together around a common goal and getting things done,” the no-name candidate said. “That’s exactly what we need in our next leader.”
Like other Democrats, Delaney blamed America’s divisions on Trump (even though he is a symptom, not the cause, of the divisions). “All the great things we’ve ever done as a country, the things we celebrate today — Medicare, Social Security, sending someone to the moon — they were done when good-minded Democrats and Republicans came together around a sense of common purpose and that’s what we have to get back to,” he said.
Indeed, Republicans and Democrats need to come together, but the Democratic Party is increasingly radical on many issues — not just socialism. Radical abortion laws are driving more Americans to identify as “pro-life,” just as Democrats are exiling pro-life candidates from their party.
Democrats are also calling for sweeping changes to the very rules of the game in politics, thanks to the 2016 election and Republican victories in states and in the Senate in 2018.
Trump’s bombastic rhetoric has alienated many, but compared to this radicalism, he governs with remarkable normalcy. Even if a comparative moderate like Delaney were to win the Democratic primary, the party would still push radical changes as soon as a Democrat enters the White House.
Americans do need to come together, but today’s Democratic Party is the wrong vehicle for any such unity. The very real debate between capitalism and socialism proves as much.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.