Instead, on many issues like health care, Democrats seem to be hoping that the best offense is a good defense. In some cases – like Social Security and Medicare, which Democrats were more likely to mention than Republicans – they may be making an effort pre-empt Republican proposals to trim the programs, which may emerge during the budgetary debates of the next several years. But whether these issues have yet ripened for voters is unclear.
Democrats have criticized Republicans for their vague agenda – and certainly the Republicans have not articulated anything as succinct as the Contract With America, which may have aided their exceptional performance in the midterm elections of 1994. But Republicans do appear to have a message that is at least reasonably clear to voters, and reasonably consistent from one Congressional district to the next: pick us, and we’ll repeal health care, secure the border and reduce the size of government. Democrats, meanwhile, who two years ago seemed to have a glut of agenda items, are now having trouble articulating to their constituents exactly what a Democratic vote would gain them. Perhaps that’s why Democrats are having trouble both with the sizable number of voters who are dissatisfied with both parties – and in motivating turnout among their base.