DKos member Empty Vessel has a diary about why some people at DKos think the Democrats are doing a good job and others are critical of the Dems. Empty Vessel concludes a major factor is how much emphasis a person puts on economic policy and how much they put on social policy. The Democrats are closer to Republicans on economic policy than on social policy, so a person's emphasis on one or the other makes the distinction between the two parties look bigger or smaller.
I think there's a lot of truth in that. It does depend somewhat on how you define "social policy" and "economic policy". Student loans certainly involve economics and its not specifically about gender, race or such. But do we see it as "economic policy"? (See: Student Loan Deal: Negotiated for Whose Benefit?
Empty Vessel says those who emphasize economic / criticize Dems are more likely to feel comfortable with a statement that both parties are "owned by the same oligarchs". Certainly, many critical of Dem economic policy would have fewer objections to that. Although I'm on the economics / critical side, I would avoid jargon like "oligarchs". And I understand while both parties' economic policies are a result of the influence of privileged sectors of society, they're not necessarily the same wealthy individuals, companies or industries. One might be more under the influence of oil companies, the other might be more under the influence of companies that are losing money because of high oil prices. That could lead to different legislation. You can't take a statement the two parties are "the same" too literally, but the economic policies indicate there's not enough difference for representing average Americans.
Economic and social policy aren't mutually exclusive. Equal job opportunity has obvious economic effects for designated groups. Changes for one group can have effects in other parts of the economy. But a successful effort to reduce the percentage of the members of one group living below the poverty line does not necessarily reduce the percentage of the whole population living in poverty. As long as there is a significant number of people who are poor, jobless and/or homeless, there's an opportunity for it to affect some groups more than others - and for those who get their way by divide and conquer to see that it happens. How important that is to a person can affect their view of the Dems.
Empty Vessel suggests the economics-oriented people expect a more just economy to result in changes social policy aims at. And that social-oriented people expect just social policy to lead to a just economy. Empty Vessel says just social policy will let more minorities vote, leading to more economic policy legislation. This brings us to where electoral policy plays a role.
The Dems are doing little on Citizens United and the gerrymandering that gave the US House of Representatives to the GOP in the 2012 elections. Pres. Obama wanted a commission to look into 6-hour-long lines to vote, but is a commission a promising starting point for action? The Dems have played a role in some of the legal actions about selective voter roll purges, voter ID laws, voter intimidation, etc. - but many of these cases have had to be done by others. Unless this changes, those minorities aren't going to be able to vote in economic policy.
Dems want to be viewed as more different than the GOP, but it's convenient to keep the filibuster rules so they can blame the GOP for the fact they don't do what Democratic voters want them to. It's convenient for Dems not to make a major public issue that the Republicans only control the House because of gerrymandering - it lets them blame Republicans for legislation the majority of voters didn't want. On those issues 70% of voters want less conservative economic policy, Dems may feel they have to do something. But the fact that is what is needed might be viewed as a problem by someone who simply wants majority rule, as opposed to social or economy policy.
"Economic policy" can mean a lot of things. Wars in which resources or another country's economic policies play a role. Resistance to action on climate change because it impacts some major businesses. Efforts that harm public schools in order to promote shifting to private "charter" schools (and to weaken teachers unions and thereby all unions). Economic issues underlie many policies.
Although I see economic policy as of great importance, I agree with Empty Vessel that today we need to work on both economic and social policy issues. The fact is, I can't think off-hand of any economics-oriented political person who is indifferent to the right to choose, racial equality, government spying, immigration, etc. But we are guided by more than that.
[This is not intended as a debate with Empty Vessel. It was a good diary worth thinking about. I've gone further into some points than Empty Vessel did, so we do not know how much we agree on those details.]