Pelosi Challenger: Democrats ‘Not Even a National Party’

Rep. Tim Ryan blasts party reliance on identity politics as Democratic civil war intensifies

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 27 Nov 2016 at 8:07 PM

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s “fireable” offense was the fact that “we’re not winning” as a party that has lost touch with voters during an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Ryan, who is challenging Pelosi for the minority leader position, urged the party to take to heart the lessons President-Elect Donald Trump’s upset victory should be teaching them. Noting that Democrats’ resounding losses in the presidency, the House, and the Senate on Election Day show that they’ve “been getting the message wrong,” Ryan said the party is losing its relevance and viability.

The reality of it is, there’s no juice in that kind of campaign. There’s no energy in that because it’s divided.”

“Now, we’re not even a national party. We’re a coastal party, and we’ve got to move forward,” Ryan said. “We’re losing all over the board. We’ve got to start something new and start fresh.”

The Ohio congressman blasted his party’s reliance on “identity politics,” saying it wasn’t enough to sway American voters.

“I think in part, we tried to slice the electorate up and we tried to say, ‘You’re black, you’re brown, you’re gay, you’re straight, you’re a woman, you’re a man.’ The reality of it is, there’s no juice in that kind of campaign. There’s no energy in that because it’s divided,” Ryan said.

"The key to and the magic of good campaigns is when you pull people together — you unite them around a common theme," Ryan continued. "And look, if you're black, white, gay, straight, brown — you want a good job. You know, we focus too much sometimes on the minimum wage when we should be talking about living wages and middle class wages and pensions and benefits and the kind of things that the people in the industrial Midwest talk about all the time."

Ryan's words echoes the sentiments expressed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's former primary challenger. Sanders made waves last week when he criticized the party's reliance on identity politics.

"And some people may not agree with me, but that is the fight we're going to have right now in the Democratic Party," Sanders told Boston Magazine. "The working class of this country is being decimated. That's why Donald Trump won."

The Democratic Party's message has been wrong, Ryan said, and it has succeeded only in alienating voters and polarizing an already deeply divided country. In order to redeem its message, the Ohio congressman said the party must reach beyond identity politics, reject the old way of doing things, and turn the page over to enter a new chapter.

"We've got to get the message right. We've got to have the right messenger and we've got to have someone who can not just go on MSNBC, but on Fox and Fox Business and CNBC and go into union halls and fish fries and churches all over the country and start a bush fire about what a new Democratic Party looks like," Ryan said.

When "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked Ryan for his thoughts concerning the Clinton campaign's decision Saturday to join in Green Party candidate Jill Stein's quest for a voting recount in Wisconsin, Ryan said that was the wrong course of action for the party.

"It's their decision. They ran a tough race. I'm moving on myself … I would counsel against it, but I'm moving on," Ryan responded. "I think we have an obligation to respect the voter who put Trump in. And we may not like it and we may have fought really hard … but we have to respect what the American people have done."

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