The Democrats unveiled a new agenda on Monday, aimed at setting a positive and populist tone for the economy ahead of the 2018 elections and called “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”
In the 2016 election, Democrats appeared out of touch with the concerns of everyday Americans. They were widely criticized for not having a strong economic message, one that appealed to voters in blue-collar communities across the country. Many argue this oversight cost Democrats seats in Congress and contributed to Hillary Clinton’s election loss. With their new message, they’re attempting to take the mantle of economic progress back.
Democrats say they want to appeal to a broad base of Americans by offering people a better shot at participating in the economy. The plan calls for job training, tighter regulations on corporations and pharmaceutical companies, renewing infrastructure in rural America, and slowing the soaring cost of living.
The slogan, especially its use of the word “deal” and the similarity to pizza delivery chain Papa John’s slogan “Better ingredients, better pizza” earned it plenty of derision, but, The Post’s Dave Weigel writes, it’s being received well by the Democratic base.
It’s also, of course, a reference to President Trump, author of the “Art of the Deal” who marketed himself to the electorate as the ultimate dealmaker.
Trump rode into the White House on a populist wave, directing his message to Americans in and outside the heartland who felt left behind in the modern economy. He pledged to get people back to work, revitalize crumbling infrastructure including our “third-world airports,” negotiate better trade deals, bring manufacturing jobs back to America, and close corporate tax loopholes.
While the American people wait for Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress to make good on his promises, the Democrats want to seize on the messaging.
The Democrats’ plan launches as Trump’s approval rating has dipped and many are starting to question Republicans’ ability to lead Americans toward a better future. At the same time, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC poll, most don’t think Democrats stand for anything beyond being anti-Trump.
One way they’re trying to remedy that is banking on their brand of populism, without the anti-immigrant messaging used by the GOP. They’re also hoping to shed some of the identity-based messaging that people have come to associate with Democrats.
During Monday’s launch, Schumer weighed in on whether Democrats “should spend all our energy focusing on the diverse Obama coalition or the blue collar American in the heartland who voted for Trump.” He brushed aside the choice. “There does not have to be a division,” he said.
Let’s recall another moment in time when America’s political leaders made a few deals. Faced with the Great Depression and World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt shepherded America out of its economic rut with the New Deal. Working with Congress, FDR created programs to help businesses recover, got people back to work through massive public works projects, and kept people from losing their homes and farms.
The University of Virginia’s Miller Center, a nonpartisan center for presidential scholarship, points out that Roosevelt was hard to pin down on the political spectrum. “Upon entering the Oval Office, FDR was neither a die-hard liberal nor a conservative, and the policies he enacted during his first term sometimes reflected contradictory ideological sources,” they wrote.
Perhaps this analysis of FDR’s deal will help to settle some of the confusion as to how the Democrats and Trump’s GOP can both have deals to make with the everyday woman and man. In short, deals are for every and all political parties. The Democrats have their deals to make, and so do Trump and the GOP.
To be clear, “A Better Deal” isn’t just Trump messaging rehashed. The Democrats also called for a renewed focus on antitrust laws, pledging to break up big companies and make it more difficult for large corporations to merge. What remains to be seen is if the American people will buy what the Democrats are selling and vote them into office in 2018.
If it worked for Papa John’s, Democrats hope it will work for them, too.