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Will the Dems' 'Better Deal' help define what the party stands for?




Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. lead Congressional Democrats to a news conference to unveil their new agenda, Monday, July 24, 2017, in Berryville, Va. House and Senate Democrats are offering a retooled message and populist agenda, promising to working Americans
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. lead Congressional Democrats to a news conference to unveil their new agenda, Monday, July 24, 2017, in Berryville, Va. House and Senate Democrats are offering a retooled message and populist agenda, promising to working Americans "someone has your back."
Cliff Owen/AP

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The Democratic Party is attempting to redefine itself and its mission — and some would say it's about time.

The party's been having a bit of an identity crisis lately. While most of those identifying as Democrats know they stand against President Trump, less can say what exactly the party stands for.

That's likely the reason behind a new economic plan unveiled by the party Monday. It's called: "A Better Deal."

For early analysis, Take Two spoke to Raphael Sonenshein, executive director at Cal State L.A.'s Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs.

First, the name: "A Better Deal." Is it a better deal?

I think the name is going to be forgotten in about 48 hours, which I think would be a blessing. It makes no sense to me. My heart sank, as often happens when I hear new phrases in politics. The plan is probably better than the name. 

What are the basic components of this plan? 

The basic component is to have an economic focus, which the Democrats have really not had for years. They've been all over the place, all over the map on everything. It's about jobs and skills and incomes, and I think it's a good message. 

It has a lot of ideas that show the impact of the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party and a bit of Bernie Sanders. They're trying to be a bit more visionary, a bit bolder, and I think that can only help the party if they can break it down so people can really absorb it. 

When it comes to jobs, how will they make this happen? 

They're talking about increasing worker training, apprenticeship programs, renegotiating trade agreements. That's a big step for Democrats, who have been pursuing trade agreements for many years. 

They're trying to move all at once in a field that's hard to move in. I think this is the beginning of their process of unifying the party around this message. It's going to take time. 

The second part of the plan has to do with the rising cost of prescription drugs. How are they going to do that one? We're talking about big, bold strokes with this plan. 

It's big, and it's very popular. One of the things they're talking about is allowing Medicare to negotiate on drugs, which has been long overdue. The current law prevents Medicare from doing that. If Medicare could do that, I think they could drive the prices of drugs down to what it is in the rest of the world. 

Politically, from their standpoint, it's a good sign. 

Let's get to the last part: that's aimed at corporate mergers that the party says are decreasing competition. 

This is the Elizabeth Warren impact, I think. They're going to argue that concentration of economic power is limiting our options in many areas, including telephone service, internet service, internet neutrality. 

Will this help California Democrats flip some seats? 

I can tell you this – 435 races are all going to be fought by candidates who are going to do their own agenda and will pick pieces from this that they might use or might not. There is no such thing as a national template. And don't forget that Republicans will immediately personalize this as Nancy Pelosi's plan. They're already running ads against her, which seems to be a popular thing for them to do. 

You can't impose on these candidates from Washington, D.C., but maybe there are some ideas here that people might run on. That would be helpful. 

They still have to boil this down to the basic argument made by the Democratic Party, which was made originally by Mr. Spock in Star Trek: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." 

You don't actually need a political consultant to bill you to tell you that that's what the Democratic party should be talking about. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview. 

(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)