As the Democratic Party responds to an election that landed Republicans in control of the White House and both branches of Congress, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton on Monday said his party needs to rethink both its message and its messengers.
A freshman congressman whose first bid for office was the 2014 race in which he knocked off 18-year Rep. John Tierney, the Salem Democrat has been among those advocating for new leadership within the party and a focus on economic issues after Hillary Clinton's Nov. 8 loss to President-elect Donald Trump.
"We need to do a lot of work, because clearly the status quo isn't working, and the idea that we can just go forward with the same plan, the same strategy, the same message and the same messengers, and suddenly start winning again in 2018 or 2020, I think is dead wrong," Moulton said at the New England Center and Home for Veterans in Boston during a forum held by Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and Highland Street Foundation.
Contrasting Democrats' economic positions with Trump's, Moulton said it was "particularly shocking" that "an awful lot of people in middle America nonetheless voted for a guy who rides to work in a golden elevator."
Moulton said Trump wants to bring the country back to "an economy of the 1950s," and Democrats should instead "tailor an economic message that works for families in the new economy, that says to people in Ohio and Indiana, you can be a part of the economic future, but it's not just about going back to the coal mine."
Moulton and Rep. Stephen Lynch of South Boston were among the 63 House Democrats who backed Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan in his unsuccessful attempt to unseat the 76-year-old Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in California's 12th District.
"It's about having a role in the technological revolution that's sweeping across the globe," he said. "If you want to follow someone into the world of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, high-speed rail, things like that, it's probably not going to be someone who's 76 years old, so I think we've got to think about who our messengers are as well."
In announcing his support for Ryan late last month, Lynch also pointed to a need for a new approach to economic messaging, calling this year's election "an epic failure and another lost opportunity."
"It is ironic that during a prolonged period of low wage growth for most Americans, today's Democratic Party has failed to articulate a forceful and meaningful message to working families that we are on their side," Lynch said in a statement. "Instead, we are perceived as a party of narrow interests supported by the elite."
Moulton had said Ryan would offer "fresh, inclusive and accountable leadership" that the Democratic party would need to "put ourselves in the best possible position to take back the majority in 2018."
Democrats now have their smallest congressional minority since 1929, and the party has lost more than 60 seats since 2010, according to Ryan, who said the party's low numbers pointed to a need to retool its leadership.
"At the end of the day, we have to figure out how to win," Ryan said in a press conference after his loss. He said, "Leader Pelosi has been here a long time. She has a lot of friends. This is her caucus, clearly, but we had an opinion and we wanted to make sure people heard it."
Moulton has been vocal in his opposition to Trump as well as in his call for a new direction within his party. He frequently criticized Trump on Twitter during the campaign, asserting the New York businessman "cannot do basic math," "lies so obsessively" and demonstrates "total unpreparedness to lead our military."
While still striking a negative tone about Trump on Monday, Moulton said people disappointed with the election results should strive to empathize with and understand the concerns of Trump voters. Trump received more than 62 million votes en route to his election on Nov. 8.
"There are a lot of people out there who are not racists, who are not misogynists, but nonetheless they voted for this crazy guy Trump because they thought he'd be better for our country," Moulton said. "I don't think there are many Trump voters who went out there and said, 'I want to ruin the United States of America with my vote.' "