Washington was abuzz this week with talk about the new Democratic agenda, “A Better Deal,” which is suddenly dominating news coverage and captivating voters with a plan to remake the American economy, sending Republicans scrambling for a viable platform of their own in advance of the midterm elections.
No, not really. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention on the beach.
In reality, with Congress and the president out of town right now, Washington is deader than a Chick-fil-A on Sunday. Bored TV commentators would rather analyze every nuance of President Trump’s latest tweetstorm than spend a second debating trade policy.
And the agenda I mentioned, which Democrats began rolling out a few weeks ago in a series of choreographed events, has impressed pretty much no one.
The slogan, which apparently took months of focus-grouping to perfect, rather than the five seconds of idle thought while doing the laundry that you would think it required, evokes — yet again — memories of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, which remain powerful in exactly two places in America: nursing homes and Democratic leadership meetings.
Critics of the plan were quick to point out that it wasn’t really a plan at all — more like a collection of greatest hits like public infrastructure spending (1984), job retraining (1992) and monopoly busting (1896).
But the more profound and more overlooked problem with this “Better Deal” proclamation isn’t actually about its language or its gauziness. It’s more about the underlying philosophy, which misreads in some fundamental way the core appeal of Trump’s campaign.
Democrats are trying to do a couple of things with this new marketing push. One is to answer this question of what they actually want to achieve, aside from impeaching the president. In announcing the new slogan, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, lamented that “too many Americans don’t know what we stand for” before boldly declaring: “Not after today.”
Because nothing redefines a party in the public mind like a slogan unveiled by congressional leaders at a podium. That’s always worked before.
The other and perhaps more urgent objective is to co-opt some of the populist fury that’s simmering right now in the Democratic base, before it overwhelms the party establishment in the same way that Trump toppled leading Republicans. Schumer and his compatriots are trying to convincingly adopt the ethos of the anti-corporate politicians…