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California Democrat says party’s message needs to change ‘overnight’

Andrew Trunsky, DCNF

California Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas said that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee needs to change its message “overnight” if it wants to be successful in future elections.

In an interview with Axios released Tuesday, Cárdenas said that Democrats need to become more “culturally competent,” pointing to an underwhelming election cycle in the House that saw his party lose seats while Republicans overperformed among Latino voters and voters of color.

“It’s frustrating to me,” Cárdenas said, referring to his party’s failure to resonate with Latino voters. “If we did a better message in Spanish and English to a community that communicates in two languages, we are going to get them to nod and say, ‘I like this Democrat. That person’s fighting for me.’”

“You can’t talk to a community without having culturally competent people who are doing the messaging and getting the truth out to them,” he added.

Despite predictions that Democrats would expand their House majority, the party ended up losing seats in the general election. In Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Republicans held a congressional seat that both parties expected Democrats to flip, and in Latino-heavy south Florida, the GOP flipped two seats that Democrats had expected to hold.

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who lost her race in Florida, echoed Cárdenas’s concerns after her defeat, tweeting that “when others try to treat Latino’s as a monolithic group, they miss the nuances” and opportunities to connect with them.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin has also voiced concerns over the party’s message, telling Politico that “the national brand of the Democratic party is mushy. People don’t know what we stand for, what we’re about.”

Cárdenas is one of two House Democrats running to lead the DCCC. The current chair, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, stepped down after the party’s disappointing results.

“I would like to see the DCCC change overnight, literally, to make sure that we have culturally competent, diverse staff, diverse vendors, diverse campaign consultants, diverse candidates all across the board,” Cárdenas told Axios.

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