House Democrats on Tuesday will unveil a new task force that party leaders hope will reboot their messaging strategy ahead of 2016.
Democrats lost 13 seats on Election Day, and there has been strong criticism from within the Democratic Caucus that the party’s message was badly out of step with the American public.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the policy and communications group, hand-selected the 16-member committee that is designed to broaden their policy and messaging ideas as Democrats look to rebuild their numbers in the House.
Besides Israel, the group will include Pelosi allies such as Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Chellie Pingree of Maine. Israel is one of Pelosi’s closest confidants in Congress, and he spent the past four years atop the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The task force, members said, will give Democrats the ability to curry policy ideas from a broad range of geographic and political perspectives.
“House Democrats will continue to stand up for wages and workers in America, but we must be more effective and united in communicating this to the American people,” Israel said. “That’s the goal of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and I look forward to working with my team to develop bold messages that will deeply resonate and show the contrast between our agenda and that of House Republicans.”
The panel also includes a number of members who have been increasingly critical of the direction of the Democratic Party in the House, such as Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and California Rep. Eric Swalwell. Both Polis and Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut were heavily angling to be named Israel’s successor at the DCCC but lost out to Rep. Ben Ray Luján.
Democrats based much of their economic and political message during the 2014 elections on populist policies like minimum wage hikes and income inequality – priorities that excite the Democratic base but failed to woo independents and moderates. The party’s leadership team was criticized by moderates and younger members post-election as being too fuzzy on their national message and too focused on policy issues like wage disparity for female workers. These ideas polled well yet didn’t move voters.
The messaging task force was announced by Pelosi shortly after the November elections as a way to reboot House Democrats ahead of 2016 – an election Democratic leaders hope will vault them into the majority.
Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas said having a designated messaging group for House Democrats will help the party focus “emphasizing the Democratic message of opportunity.”
“It will also help get Democrats on the same page so we’re connecting with voters in the same way across the country,” the sophomore lawmaker said. “We’re always working toward 29 seats.”
The group will also include Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Richard Neal of Massachusetts, Eric Swalwell of California, Donald Norcross of New Jersey, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, Betty McCollum of Minnesota and John Delaney of Maryland. With six members, sophomores like Kennedy and Swalwell will dominate the group.