Had the White House laid out a set of core beliefs and values that they vowed to adhere to and that they framed their policies with, Democrats could have kept the American public on board with them through a tough economy. Instead, they flailed from inane attack to inane attack, never telling America what they stood for and why they stood for it, never demonstrating the strength of character and resoluteness essential to viable leadership.[...]Pushed to give an instant reaction to the question, “What do Democrats stand for?”, I’d wager that most people would repeat Republican talking points. There’s simply no clear, captivating summary of Democratic values. Nor is there any sense that there are unwavering values Democratic leaders will fight for.
I think this is exactly right, though the problem goes back before 2008. Democrats won in '06, not because they had taken a disciplined approach and carefully crafted a bold, clear policy platform after losing the 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections -- but because people hated the GOP, they hated Bush and they hated the war.
I remember hearing Nancy Pelosi (who I generally support) at Netroots Nation in '08 answer the question, "What do Democrats stand for?" -- and it was a total disaster. She didn't have a good, crisp answer then, and Democrats still don't now.
That's a big problem, aside from the shitty policies.