Of course, it has to be reinforced with good policy that changes people’s lives for the better, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Steve M. describes what is missing from the Democratic message (boldface mine):
Mainstream news sources, by contrast, tell Democratic voters that the problem is the system, or Washington, or gridlock, or Congress. Many lefty news sources say both parties are equally to blame for our problems. What’s rarely heard is this message: It’s the Republicans. Vote them out and things will be better. So it’s hard to turn out voters who oppose Republican policies, and hard to keep them focused on the goal of keeping Republicans out of office.
Democrats need the slack to be able to endorse ideas that don’t have widespread support. As it is, they’re at risk when they endorse mildly unpopular ideas, while Republicans aren’t at risk when they endorse extremely unpopular ideas. That’s where we are as a nation.
Part of this is self-inflicted: for decades, many Democratic candidates have distanced themselves from the party and its accomplishments, instead running on anodyne blandishments like “pragmatism” and “common sense.” If you don’t tell people what you’re for and what you’re against, they won’t know who you are. The other self-inflicted wound is crappy policy and crappy governance. When Democrats are given power, too often they don’t actually use it to make people’s lives better. That would help reinforce this message, because better than isn’t the same as good.
At the same time, Democratic figures need to start hammering back when presented with the ‘both sides’ bullshit. Both sides don’t. One is far worse than the other; make that point clearly. Because rank-and-file Democrats need nice things.