If you happen to be a NeverTrump Republican or a conservative-leaning independent looking for someone to support in 2020, perhaps former Maryland Rep. John Delaney seemed to perk up your interest in the second round of Democrat debates.
Delaney hasn’t done much in his public career, but he was one of the few candidates willing to challenge liberals like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren over the fact they’ve gone far-left and want to take the party with them. Warren struck back hard and the media portrayed it as a loss for Delaney. (It doesn’t help when you consider the fact that Delaney isn’t just in the single digits but that digit is usually one of two used in binary code, or for the fact that his comeback to Warren’s burn came a day late.)
Well, if you were considering Delaney solely based on the fact that he’s not prima facie nuts, you shouldn’t. And if you weren’t paying attention to Delaney at all, you should.
That’s not because he has much of a chance, mind you. It’s because ideas from the lower tier of candidates can often filter into the higher tiers once the back-markers start getting eliminated — and Delaney has one of the worst ideas in the whole Democrat field. It’s called mandatory national service, which he announced last Sunday.
“To help bring people from different backgrounds together, Delaney is proposing a mandatory national service program to provide opportunities for young people to give back to their country and to meet and work with people from all backgrounds,” Delaney’s website reads.
The basic idea is this: After you graduate from high school or turn 18, you have to spend between one and two years working for the government in some respect.
“It’s time to bring the country together, restore our sense of shared purpose and a common and inclusive national destiny,” Delaney said. “By mandating national service, we build a future where young people begin their adult lives serving their country and working alongside people from different backgrounds. Where people from Massachusetts and Florida and Oklahoma work alongside each other; where people who grew up in the suburbs, in farm towns, in coal country, in urban communities get to know each other, get to learn from each other and get to see firsthand that we still have a lot in common.”
And as for deferment? “No exceptions,” Delaney said.
There are four ways you can discharge your indentured servitude to the government. Either you go into the military, participate in community service, enter into “a new National Infrastructure Apprenticeship Program” or (get ready to emit a massive groan of carbon dioxide) go into the “newly created Climate Corps.”
The military option is pretty straightforward — although if it sounds a lot like a sort of draft, that’s because it is. Given the success we’ve had with a volunteer armed forces, turning the military into a semi-voluntary outfit for the express purpose of forcing “young people to give back to their country and to meet and work with people from all backgrounds” is the kind of nonsense social experimentation conservatives don’t want to see in the military.
Community service won’t be too much different than the usual AmeriCorps or Peace Corps nonsense — except, again, it’s one of several options that you’d be forced to pick from.
In terms of the National Infrastructure Apprenticeship Program, Delaney’s website says that “[t]he government would enter into public/private partnerships with private companies and trade unions to offer infrastructure apprenticeships.
“Private companies would be awarded contracts to undertake projects such as improving public parks or renovating federal buildings to make them environmentally green.”
And then (sigh) there’s the Climate Corps, where “participants would assist in clean energy projects, including solar installation, improving building efficiency, developing community gardens, and increasing awareness about sustainable practices.”
This would all be paid, mind you, although the “salary/stipend will vary based on [the] regional cost of living and whether housing is provided through the program.” One guesses, given the general penuriousness of the federal government when it comes to things like this, it won’t be much.
Furthermore, “1 year of service will result in 2 years of free in-state tuition and fees at a public university, community college, or technical school” and “2 years of service will result in 3 years of free in-state tuition and fees at a public university.” Delaney’s website also says that you can learn skills for future jobs — unless, of course, none of these programs suit your career goals, in which case you’ve just wasted a year or two of your life with very little to show for it other than a stipend and a few years of free in-state tuition. (And hey, weren’t the Democrats going to be giving away college anyway?)
In short, once you or your kid turns 18 — which means they’re an adult — they still don’t own their own labor, which is the backbone of a free society. At least for a year, the government does.
To paraphrase Dan Rather, Delaney’s chances were slim and none, and Slim just left town after the debate. However, given the kind of press that national service might generate, you get the feeling maybe Slim could stick around and, if not worm his way onto a ticket, at least give the candidates some ideas.
And therein lies the problem. You can see this one sounding great to a number of the Democrats. After all, it would “help bring people from different backgrounds together.” Plus, that whole “Climate Corps” thing sounds good. Want to appeal to blue-collar voters, too? Well, that whole National Infrastructure Apprenticeship Program certainly sounds nifty, right?
Yes, candidates may think this sounds like a great idea, even if Rep. Delaney doesn’t get any traction. That should scare you.
As Scott Shackford writes at Reason, “[p]art of being an American is claiming the right to choose your own adventure and to draw your own map of your future.
“This is flat-out forced labor, and paying the laborers doesn’t change the fact that you are stealing a year of young people’s lives. It’s comically absurd to think that compelling them to do whatever tasks are currently on officials’ agendas is going to unify them in any way,” Shackford continued.
“Just the assumption that these projects match the values of all or even most Americans is itself galling. Forcing an entire younger generation to do an older generation’s bidding will not bring a ‘sense of shared purpose,’ any more than drafting them to fight in Vietnam did.”
All right, so Reason is a libertarian publication. You would figure they’d be against this sort of thing. In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf also notes how terrible this idea is from the liberal perspective.
“How strange that any Democrat fails to see associated perils at this moment. If mandatory national service were in place today, it would be run by Donald Trump. How would the Trump administration marshal the nation’s youths if it were able to compel the labor of each young man and woman, ‘no exceptions’?” Friedersdorf wrote. “Perhaps the White House political adviser Stephen Miller would help decide where to assign them and how best to advance the ‘national destiny’ as he sees it. Perhaps some would be assigned to help patrol the border.
“Or say that Delaney wins the presidency. Would national unity be advanced by drafting every 18-year-old with a MAGA hat into national service under the new, Democratic administration? Perhaps we would have a culture-war fight about whether volunteering at Planned Parenthood should count toward discharging one’s obligation.”
Delaney’s plan is a preposterous one that seems to have sprung from the head of one of those high school sports movies where kids from different sides of the tracks are forced together onto a team and somehow manage to put aside their differences and Win the Big Game. However well-intentioned that kind of stupidity might be, however, neither he nor most of the media seem to have recognized the germ of evil that lurks within. That was only a movie, after all — and none of those kids were conscripted.
Will another candidate pick this up? Do you think that it’s terribly unlikely, particularly given where the party’s going?
The Democrats already believe they deserve more of the fruits of your labor in the form of taxes. How far of a jump do you think it is before they start demanding the labor itself — particularly when it can be cloaked in meliorative-sounding language like “Climate Corps” and “improving public parks or renovating federal buildings to make them environmentally green?”
Delaney almost certainly won’t survive the rigors of the 2020 campaign. Let’s hope his worst idea won’t, either.
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