So in real terms, the Democratic party is redundant since we already have a party, the GOP, that is deeply committed, and has a track record of delivering results for the wealthy class in the U.S. The only difference right now is that Democrats are kinder towards the underclasses and care for the environment. So they will let them have some public education, roads, and gay marriage.
But the Democratic party has FDR's populist legacy. So when it comes to voters, they can claim to be championing the underclass during the elections.
Yet the wealthy donor class is jealous. They don't like hearing that bankers were responsible for 2008. Or that we need greater regulations. Or talk of controlling college tuition costs and student loans, because many of the donors make money of of this. And if you don't praise the donors enough, they won't trust you, and they will back the Ayn Rand inspired GOP.
So this bring us to the lack of brand. The Democratic Party, to be able to run election campaigns, must be rich-friendly to get the money, yet populist enough to get liberals to vote for it. It has to be either a contradiction or so bland that no one can get excited with it.
Let's go back to student loans. Had Obama and the Democratic congress passed a reform back in 2009 that would allow for erasing student loan in bankruptcy and kicked out private lenders who profit out of lending federal money to students, we would have, to this day, a generation of solid democratic voters.
But the above plan ran against the desires of the wealthy political donor class. So nothing happened.
And that is the source of voter apathy and low voter turnouts. When new voters finally get engaged and there is no direct change in their lives, they become apathetic. So elections to them, in a very personal way, don't matter because nothing changed.
We who are political junkies will talk about the supreme court, and abortion rights, and gay rights and how this means that voting does matter. And this is a valid counter-argument. Yet from the perspective of a new engaged voter, those are more decisions that come from the above. Decisions that in real terms, they have no control or power to do anything about it.. Whether you vote for someone or against them, neither party is looking out for the interests of the common person who can't donate consistently to campaigns due to having so much debt and low paying jobs.
I wish I could give a solution to this, but there isn't one as long as money is allowed to play such a strong role in our political system. I read that Social Democrats in Europe are going through the same problems.
It all comes down that democracy is functionally broken today due to money.