Nov 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Cárdenas: Democrats need to be more "culturally competent" to win

Photo: Paul Morigi via Getty Images

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who's running for chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told "Axios on HBO" that the DCCC needs to change "overnight" and his colleagues need to be more "culturally competent" if they want to be successful in the next election.

Why it matters: House Democrats are confronting what went wrong and what their party needs to change after they failed to expand their House majority and President Trump expanded his support among Latino voters.

What they're saying: "It's frustrating to me," Cárdenas said about Democrats' failure to better connect 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 their head and say, 'I like this Democrat. That person's fighting for me.'"
  • Cárdenas said the Democratic Party left some Latino voters on the table this cycle because of a lack of focus and understanding about their concerns.
  • "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 said.
  • "And you can't message to them in the last few weeks ... You have to develop a relationship with them on the truth, and get that back-and-forth as soon as possible. We didn't do enough of that."

Driving the news: Cárdenas and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) are both running to replace Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) who stepped down after catastrophic congressional results for the party in the 2020 election.

  • The election will be held on Nov. 30.
  • "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 said.
  • DCCC officials pushed back against his criticisms, noting that 58% of the group’s senior staff are people of color. They also said they spent heavily on vendors of color, as well as on research to find better ways to reach Spanish-speaking voters.

The big picture: Democrats are reckoning with their national party brand, especially as some members blame liberal slogans like "defund the police" as the reason for their House and Senate losses.

  • Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told "Axios on HBO" the day President-elect Joe Biden won the election that House Democrats "were not able to discipline ourselves" and that they should "stop sloganeering" if they want to win more seats.
  • Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) told Politico: “The brand of the national Democratic Party is mushy. People don’t know what we stand for, what we’re about.”
  • And Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) — who lost re-election — tweeted an autopsy of sorts, blaming their party losses in part on "a national party that thinks racial identity is how we vote."

Go deeper: Rep. Tony Cárdenas is running for chair of the DCCC

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