Congressional Democrats launched their new economic agenda Monday in front of a small crowd of the faithful in Berryville, Virginia. It was an unremarkable event; no fanfare, no great enthusiasm, no details and, certainly, no original ideas. One would almost have suspected they had little faith in it themselves; such was the understated nature of this brief, outdoor address. The whole affair neatly encapsulated the current state of the party; forlorn, uninspired, clinging to the same old platitudes.
There was one noteworthy aspect to this event: The indication that party leaders – at least in Congress – have rediscovered what venerated Democratic Strategist James Carville told Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992: It’s the economy, stupid.
Standing on a small stage were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and a handful of Capitol Hill Democrats. Schumer delivered the announcement of their new direction. Not known for his charm or inspiring manner, the Senator from New York almost made it sound like a eulogy. He announced the new campaign slogan, “A Better Deal,” and spoke briefly about working families feeling that the economy was rigged against them.
“American families deserve a better deal,” he said and went on to list all the obstacles faced by those families. The distressing and unfair economic picture he painted, however, deftly omitted the fact that, for eight of the last eight and a half years, a Democrat has occupied the White House. One wonders how he and his party colleagues saw fit to sit in silence for the last eight years of neglect. Perhaps he was implying that this terrible state of affairs had developed just over the past six months.
The solutions themselves, however, were neither inspiring nor even hopeful. “We’re gonna increase people’s pay,” Schumer announced. “We’re gonna reduce their everyday expenses and…we’re gonna provide workers [with] the tools they need for the twenty-first-century economy.” The first two of these three promises, Schumer explained, would be met by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and providing “paid family leave and sick leave.” More jobs would be created through a trillion-dollar infrastructure project. So, more spending, more welfare, more government-driven solutions. The message was the same, from the Democrats, as it has always been. Little wonder that the rollout was almost by stealth. There was no bold, new plan to celebrate, here.
Since Hillary Clinton – presumed heiress to the throne – was vanquished in November 2016, the Democrats have been surviving on just three principles: Social justice, President Donald Trump is evil, and the Russians helped him win the election. Most Americans – even including those who vote Democrat but do not gravitate to the extreme left – care little for these ideas. Jobs, wages, taxes, health, happiness, and security are the things with which most ordinary people concern themselves. To regain control of the federal government, then, these are the very points about which the Democratic Party needs to start talking.
Chuck Schumer may only recently have come to terms with this – or, perhaps, has only now decided to admit it. Heralding the party’s new message in a recent interview, Schumer reflected on things most Democrats have been loath to admit, in recent months. “When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity,” he said, according to a Washington Post report, “you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself.” This remark was widely seen as a shot at Hillary Clinton herself, although Schumer might just as well have been speaking about the Democratic Party in general. “So what did we do wrong?” He continued. “People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still, believe that.”
As Schumer demonstrates, the Democratic Party continues to make the same, false assumption it has been making for years; the assumption that the messaging, not the platform, is the problem – that the agenda and the policies will work, if only the voters would understand what the party is trying to do. As the Washington Post reported, Nancy Pelosi recently said that the party’s new focus “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” That is the Democrats’ mistake. It is true that their presentation is confused, unfocused and largely negative. The real problem, however, is the government-centered, tax-and-spend, massive welfare and fiscal irresponsibility – ironically, the very policies that gave America President Trump.