Democrats are still desperately casting about for an answer to the Trump phenomenon, hoping to end the GOP’s recent string of victories in 2018. Unfortunately for left-leaning Americans, the Democratic party’s latest solution is a bland policy agenda that amounts to weakly whispered socialism rather than a forceful rejoinder to the populist wave that propelled Donald Trump into office.
The Democratic leadership seems confident that it has finally settled on a solution that will stick: an economic agenda it is calling “A Better Deal.” Gathered yesterday afternoon in Berryville, Va., 70 miles outside the nation’s capital, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, assured the public that the Democratic party is renewing its commitment to delivering an America that “works for everyone.”
Somehow, Schumer and Pelosi’s stale language was more exciting than the platitudes contained in the plan itself, a fatal flaw for an agenda that has supposedly been crafted to capture populist sentiment. One need read no further than the document’s anemic slogan: “Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”
To their credit, Democrats finally appear willing to own up to the mistakes that cost them big in 2016. And for now, at least, they’re pointedly steering clear of the social issues that they acknowledge have divided the party’s leftist and centrist wings. From Schumer’s New York Times column this morning:
In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there. We also failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake. This is the start of a new vision for the party, one strongly supported by House and Senate Democrats.
But that vision doesn’t appear to be one that will excite. The plan’s central shortcoming is its grounding in three key promises — increasing people’s pay, reducing their everyday expenses, and providing “workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.” In short, it’s nothing that Democrats haven’t already promised — and failed — to deliver.
Schumer claimed in his column that this plan is “not about expanding the government,” but his subsequent legislative suggestions betray him. Apparently, the path to income equality and economic prosperity will be paved by increasing regulation of drug companies and “huge corporations,” having Medicare negotiate drug prices instead of private insurers, and giving employers tax credits to train workers for unfilled jobs. Schumer also lauds Democrats for introducing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, a mandatory $15 minimum wage, and paid family and sick leave.
If this reads like a dry list of policy tweaks that will likely amount to nothing, it’s probably because that’s exactly what it is. Promising free giveaways has a history of getting Americans on board, but it’s difficult to imagine a populist Democratic wave sweeping the country clamoring for greater regulation of Big Pharma and more paid days off work. It’s hardly the kind of platform that will boost the party’s bleak fundraising numbers: Last month, the DNC raised $5.5 million compared with the Republican party’s $13.5 million.
After months of wracking their brains, Democrats have managed to come up with nothing more exciting than their usual fare.
After months of wracking their brains, Democrats have managed to come up with nothing more exciting than their usual fare — ever-growing government and ever-increasing regulation. Not to mention the fact that incessantly growing the government can’t achieve their high-minded goals. Even if the party managed to take back Congress in 2018 — an unlikely proposition — and implemented a handful of these policies, there’s little chance that they would succeed in substantially increasing incomes and decreasing the cost of living. These are minute policy changes, not an overarching vision for a more prosperous America.
Worse yet, there’s nothing even remotely groundbreaking in their agenda, no matter how savvy Democrats have been in marketing it. Instead, it’s the same recycled promises, a cobbled-together stand-in for the undoubtedly progressive platform the party will run on next year. This isn’t a rallying cry or an innovative solution that will attract moderate Americans to the Democratic party. It sounds much more like the dying shout of the Resistance.
— Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.