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Seth Moulton Hasn't Debated Yet. But He's Optimistic America Wants A 'New Generation' Of Leaders

 Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) arrives for a community project and presidential campaign stop in Manchester, N.H. in July. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) arrives for a community project and presidential campaign stop in Manchester, N.H. in July. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

We’re talking with presidential candidates in the runup to the 2020 election. Check out all of our conversations.

When the Democratic Party announced the 20 presidential candidates who qualified for the second debate, five didn’t make it, including Massachusetts Rep.Seth Moulton.

Moulton says he expected not to qualify because he jumped into the race so late. The 40-year-old congressman was recently part of the wing of Democrats who were pushing Nancy Pelosi to move over and let younger generations lead the party. He says that message of “bringing a new generation of leadership” to Washington is resonating with voters.

“We just outraised five of the people who were on the debate stage in June. We’ve been ticking up in the polls,” Moulton(@sethmoulton)tellsHere & Now’s Robin Young. “A poll yesterday had me ahead of a couple of senators who have been in for a lot longer than me. So we’re actually going in the right direction and doing fine. It’s just going to take a little time.”

Moulton has focused his campaign on veterans’ advocacy, foreign policy and voting rights. He has also announced a mental health care proposal inspired in part by his own struggles with PTSD after serving four tours in Iraq as a Marine. The goal is to establish a standard of care in order to erase the stigma of asking for help when dealing with mental health issues, Moulton says.

“Under my plan, everybody in the military will get a yearly mental health checkup — just like you get an annual physical whether you’re sick or not,” he says. “And then we’ll extend that to every high schooler in America, so that it just becomes routine that you go and get checked for mental health issues.”

Interview Highlights

On his calls for House leadership to step aside 

“The issue with House leadership was never one of ideology. It was the fact that the top three leaders have been in power for a combined total of about 100 years. And I think it’s time for a new generation to step up and lead.”

On how he would unite both the country and Democrats if elected 

“Well first of all, I think that’s what we have to do as a party in order to win. I don’t think Donald Trump is going to be as easy to beat as many Democrats like to think, and to win, we’re going to have to build a coalition that includes everybody in the Democratic Party, plus independent voters, those Obama, Trump voters, and even some disaffected Republicans. And that’s exactly the leadership experience that I bring uniquely to this race.

“My fundamental job in Iraq was as a Marine platoon commander, which meant that I was on the ground leading troops in combat, and I had this remarkably diverse platoon, several remarkably diverse platoons. But at the end of the day, we had to come together to serve America. And I think that that leadership experience is exactly what we need from our nominee to win this race but also from our next president to accomplish all the things that we would like to do.”

On his national security vision 

“It follows the principle that we should win wars without fighting them. That’s an old Chinese principle, but it means that you lead with diplomacy and you lead with a new generation of arms, arms control and alliances. That means modernizing NATO to meet a new world where Russia is attacking us through the internet not rolling tanks into Eastern Europe. Building a Pacific NATO to help contain the rise of China and the threat of a North Korean nuclear missile.

“Of course, the opposite is what’s going on now. Rather than win wars without fighting them, we’re fighting wars without winning them. And that’s why I’m calling for an end to the longest war in American history. But making sure that we end the war in Afghanistan responsibly. We can’t make the mistake that we made in Iraq when we pulled out so quickly that we had to turn around a year later and put the troops back in. So I think that we need to have a reinforced diplomatic mission in Kabul to reinforce the Afghan government and maintain a small counterterror force there to ensure that we don’t have terrorist training camps like what led to 9/11.”

On health care policy and Medicare-for-all 

“I’m with President Obama, which is that we need to have a public option of a Medicare-like option, although I think we can do better than a plan designed in 1963. I don’t want to force anyone off their private plan if they want to keep it.”

On the student loan debt crisis and proposals for free college 

“We need to do something about the college debt crisis. I got an email 16 days ago that announced I had finally paid off my last college loan as a member of Congress. I guess now I get to work on grad school. So we have a massive debt problem in this country, and under my administration, you’ll never pay more than 10 percent of your income towards college debt. And if you still have it after 20 years, we’ll eliminate it. But I don’t think we should promise free college to everyone because for the price of free college, you know, for the half of America that even goes to college, we could literally eliminate child poverty for years. So we’ve got to get our priorities straight here. We do need to do something about the price of college, and I will address it aggressively. But we can’t leave out half of America by giving free college just to those who were already fortunate enough to go.”

On Democratic socialism 

“I’m not a socialist. I’m a proud American capitalist. I just think that everybody has to pay his or her fair share. And I just want to make sure that our free market system is fair for all.”

On making Election Day a national holiday 

“Voting shouldn’t be required, but we should do everything we can to encourage it. To make sure that … every American who wants to vote gets a chance to go to the polls. And a lot of Americans can’t right now because they have to work all day because they have jobs that make it impossible for them to vote. So why not have voting day be a holiday?”

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

This article was originally published on

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