In an editorial for The New York Times, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlines the party’s “Better Deal,” the platform it hopes will carry it to midterm victory in 2018:
Our better deal is not about expanding the government, or moving our party in one direction or another along the political spectrum. Nor is it about tearing down government agencies that work, that effectively protect consumers and promote the health and well-being of the country. It’s about reorienting government to work on behalf of people and families.
According to Schumer, Democrats hope to give small businesses tax credits to retrain unemployed workers. They have also pledged to fight for a $15 minimum wage, regulate prescription drug prices, and bust monopolies. At Vox, Jeff Stein notes that this is something of a “populist” turn for the party. And the party does deserve praise for affirming its commitment to a $15 minimum wage and a crackdown on monopolies and mounting prescription drug costs. The latter two planks will require Democrats to buck a number of corporate donors, a demonstration of political courage.
For the working class, however, this “Better Deal” is insufficient. It does not mention Medicare for All or another approach to genuine universal health care. It does not mention student loan debt or a campaign against right-to-work laws. Those details may be released at some later date—in his editorial, Schumer implies that more information is forthcoming—but their omission doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the party’s progressive vision.
The plan’s name itself is something of a tell. This isn’t a modern New Deal. It does not challenge many of the structural imbalances responsible for our shoddy social welfare system, and it can’t as long as Democrats boast of refusing to expand federal government. The Better Deal is indeed just what it says it is: better, but not great. Not yet.