U.S. Representative Dean Phillips thinks Democrats in Congress have a messaging problem.
Despite passing several major bills over the past two years and having a “remarkably diverse” caucus, “most Americans don’t know who we are,” Phillips said. The Minnesota Democrat will have a chance to change that after being elected co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee on Thursday. The caucus leadership position will give him an influential voice in the messaging and branding of House Democrats.
“The Democrats are creating a very impressive legislative product, but we’re not wrapping it very well,” said Phillips, a businessman who once ran his family’s Phillips Distilling Co. and helped launch the brand in success Talenti gelato. “I often say Republicans speak in the headlines and Democrats speak in the fine print. And my mission in this new role is to elevate our message so that we, too, communicate in headlines that are impactful, easy to understand and move. the needle.”
Phillips has built a moderate and sympathetic reputation in Congress over the past four years and intends to continue that approach in his new leadership role. But his optimistic style will be tested by reshaped political dynamics in the House. Republicans took tight control of the chamber in November, putting Phillips in the minority for the first time in his congressional career.
For his part, Phillips said he “will focus on communicating by invitation, not condemnation.” He campaigned for the committee square with a slogan “Let’s Grow”, which he underlined by deliver tiny succulents at the offices of every House Democrat.
Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse was elected chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, while Phillips, Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar and Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood were chosen to be the three co-chairs of the committee.
Phillips’ selection gives Minnesotans a voice at the House Democrat leadership table. The state will have a similar influence across the aisle with Republican Rep. Tom Emmer recently elected House Majority Whip, the GOP’s third-highest position in the chamber.
“I’m glad that on both sides of the aisle we have a member of the Minnesota delegation in our leadership ranks,” Phillips said.
The Democrat said he would encourage his colleagues to support a centrist message that resonates with independent voters. He thinks a “quiet majority” of Americans identify as being slightly left or right of political center.
Although he will soon be in the political minority, Phillips said he is excited about the leadership of his party and the new leaders joining it. He praised new House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, who succeeds Nancy Pelosi, as “one of the best listeners I’ve ever met.”
“I’m excited about the next generation, which I’ve been championing for a long time since I joined Congress,” Phillips said. “And this is the beginning, I think, of a wonderful new chapter for our Congress.”
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