Rep. Jeffries Affirms Dems Won’t Turn Their Back on Their Black Base

Rep. Jeffries Affirms Dems Won’t Turn Their Back on Their Black Base


Jeffries Talks on the “Better Deal.” During an hour long in depth conversation on the new “Better Deal” agenda rolled out this week by Democrats, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) made it clear that the party will not ignore their base while re-focusing policy and communications strategy.

More specifically, they won’t ignore a key part of their base: African American voters. In 2016, Black vote turnout declined for the first time in 20 years, but Democrats have placed much of their attention on the concerns of “white working class voters” after Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton. 

On June 27, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) was named Chair of Heartland Engagement by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  Democrats have not won a majority of white voters in a presidential election since 1964.

Will Democrats ignore the concerns of Black voters and ditch turnout strategies as they strategize to take the House in 2018? Rep. Jeffries says no.

“No one in the House Democratic Caucus is going to walk away from issues such as criminal justice reform, ending mass incarceration, cracking down on police brutality, dealing with voter suppression and correcting the long-standing injustices that have plagued many in the African American community since the dawn of this great country,” Jeffries said firmly.

Jeffries is part of a three person team, along with Bustos and David Cicilline (D-RI), that led the process on messaging and strategy. Messaging for congressional Democrats has often times been overly-detailed, lengthy and mired in “the fine print” rather than in big picture principles.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue a direct “Madison Avenue” style approach of blunt political marketing that frequently connects to the southern strategy. Frequently it’s all said in a way any 5th grader can understand.

Build a Wall
Make America Great Again
Repeal Replace
America First

Jeffries made it clear that members of the Congressional Black Caucus played a key role in the discussions around the party’s “new agenda” ideas and will continue to. 

The “Better Deal” plan has received mixed reviews though it has focused on economic issues, something Democrats have often been criticized for not focusing on enough.

On Monday, July 24, Democrats held a press conference in 84 percent white Berryville, Va., featuring Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).  Jeffries (D-NY), 46, who represents one of the most diverse congressional districts in America, was there as well. 

One of the biggest challenges Democrats have is the complications of “big tent” politics. The party is now dealing with melding together establishment Dems, the Bernie progressives, the New Dems and the Blue Dogs.

Today members of the Democratic Caucus will hear from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in their Thursday messaging meeting. House Democrat Henry Cuellar, a Blue Dog who attended and spoke at a “Better Way” presser this week, will join Republicans at a press conference on business regulations.

Despite that, colleagues of Jeffries have confidence in him and what the new effort will yield moving forward.

“He gets it,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) about Jeffries on July 26. Fudge, along with many other members, has been critical of the lack of focused strategy by House Democrats.  Moving forward into the August recess there is bound to be more focus on what the details of what the policy pieces will be.  

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Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is a writer, comms strategist and political analyst. She created Crewof42, a blog focused on African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke also writes for NBC BLK, The Root, NNPA and is the Managing Editor of Politic365. As part of a diverse career in politics and media, she has served as a congressional staffer for the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and Director of Communications for Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor of Virginia. From 2014 to 2017, Ms. Burke appeared each Monday on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin on TVOne. Ms. Burke holds a B.A. in History from The American University. She was born and raised in New York. Email: Twitter: @LVBurke. IG: @laurenvburke. Periscope: @LVBurke