The party's lack of any concrete policy plans came into sharp relief when three House members tried to explain in a USA Today op-ed what the party will do if they win control of the House this November.
The piece is titled "Real Democratic Agenda," but all it delivered were bromides and vague promises.
"If we have the opportunity to lead the House of Representatives next year," write Reps. Cheri Bustos, Hakeem Jeffries and David Cicilline, "we will lower your health care costs, increase your pay, and clean up corruption."
Empty Midterm Elections Promises
Take them one at a time:
Democrats promise to lower health costs. They already promised to do that once before, and even passed the $1 trillion "Affordable Care Act" (aka, ObamaCare). The result was years of double-digit premium increases in the individual health insurance market. Why should the public trust them a second time?
The op-ed authors mention lowering prescription drug prices. But this is a canard. Drug prices aren't driving health costs. In fact, prescription drugs account for only about 10% of all health spending, almost exactly where it was 1960.
Besides, Trump has also promised to lower drug prices. So far, he's gone about it the right way, focusing on increasing competition and bringing greater price transparency to the drug market. The only idea the Democrats have ever put forward is to slap innovation-killing price controls on the pharmaceutical industry.
They also say they want to spend more on infrastructure, and point to a plan released last year that called for $1 trillion in new money. That will, they say, create lots of good-paying jobs.
Trump has proposed boosting infrastructure spending — by $1.7 trillion. But instead of dumping more federal money into bridges to nowhere and shovel-unready projects, he wants to enlist the private sector to finance most of it, hand more control back to states, and minimize red tape. Democrats rejected that out of hand.
As to the claim that Democrats will "increase your pay," Trump is already achieving that with pro-growth economic policies Democrats oppose. Median household income has reached all-time highs under Trump. Unemployment rates are at all-time lows for minorities.
What about "cleaning up corruption?" Is there a more hackneyed campaign promise? Democrats say they will "strengthen ethics laws to remove the corrosive influence of lobbyists" if they win in the midterm elections. Really? If this is such a priority, why didn't they do this when they controlled Congress and the White House eight years ago?
In any case, the only way to truly neuter lobbyists is by doing the one thing Democrats will never consider: Sharply reduce the size and influence of the federal government. The only reason lobbyists have so much power today is because the federal government is so massively intrusive.
So why the vague, half-baked promises from Democrats? Why hide what they plan to do if they regain control of Congress? Why not be up front about their specific legislative plans, as the GOP was?
The Really Real Dem Agenda
One possibility is that, even after eight years in the wilderness, House Democrats simply don't have any ideas, other than "impeach Trump ... and Brett Kavanaugh, too."
We suspect that the real reason Democrats are being so cagey is they'd rather that voters in swing districts not know the extent to which the party has become captive of socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The truth is that the only new ideas coming out of the party are things like a job-destroying doubling of the minimum wage, socializing health care, free college, "guaranteed" federal jobs, a massive expansion of the welfare state, and a government takeover of corporate boards.
That's not going to win them too many of the centrist voters they need. So best keep it all under wraps until after the midterm elections are over.