Telling his Richland County audience that Democrats can no longer be the “Smarty Pants” party, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pushed for a focus on message and outreach to voters the party lost in 2016.
Garcetti spoke to roughly 100 people Wednesday at a community center in Hopkins. He took questions at a town hall organized by the state Democratic Party that also featured Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
“We can’t be the ‘Smarty Pants’ party anymore,” he said. “I know we have good ideas and when we’re in power we should do them. But when we’re running elections, people don’t want to know your ten-point plan for things. They want to know if you connect with them as a human being. Do you understand their struggle? Can you connect to them?”
The mayor was in Columbia on Wednesday for a meeting of a municipal group he helped create called Accelerating America. Benjamin had hosted the event featuring political officials and business executives from towns across the country.
Garcetti was obstensibly there due to his role with Accelerating America, but rallied the Democratic audience to improve their message and stay focused on voters’ sense of identity. He argued Americans ultimately chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 because they felt Trump would be more likely to shake up the status quo. He said it would be Democrats’ turn to take advantage of that same frustration this fall.
He avoided weighing in on specific policy proposals and kept his remarks focused on voter messaging. However he did say the party should encourage grassroots efforts from young voters, such as the teens who protested against the most recent school shooting in Florida. “They didn’t wait for anybody else to organize them… and, lo and behold President Trump is now suddenly going back on (banning) bump stocks,” Garcetti said. “Which he should have done after Las Vegas. But it was them that changed him.”
South Carolina will soon play host to Democratic presidential hopefuls canvassing the state ahead of its early 2020 primary. Garcetti, who has led the country’s second-largest city since the 2013 election, is considered an outside shot for the party nomination.