At the annual Democratic retreat in Philadelphia this year, President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to keep up the fight for the middle class and be unapologetic about the party's accomplishments, The Hill
Obama said that while news for the economy has been positive, the economic gains have not gone far enough toward reaching the middle class, which he said should be a central priority for the party to address in the coming years.
"The ground that middle class families lost over the last 30 years still has to be made up, and the trends that have squeezed middle class families and those striving to get in the middle class, those trends have not been fully reversed," Obama said, according to The Hill.
"So, as much as we should appreciate the progress that's been made, it shouldn't be a cause for complacency, because … we've got a lot more work to do."
Obama reiterated a number of themes he outlined during last week's State of the Union address. In particular, he stressed middle-class tax relief and efforts to address wage stagnation.
He also lamented the outcome of November's midterms and took some responsibility for the party's poor results at the polls.
At the same time, he suggested that the party should be blamed for a failure in messaging, having been too "shy about what we care about" and "defensive about the things we've accomplished."
"We've now got some choices to make," Obama said, according to The Hill.
Lawmakers had the opportunity to question the president during an open session and asked him about a number of issues ranging from infrastructure, Obamacare, Veterans Affairs and criminal justice reform, a Democratic staffer told The Hill.
The official slogan of the retreat was "Grow America's Economy, Grow American Paychecks," a theme that was repeatedly hit home by Democrats speaking to the media outside the event, The Hills said.
"What you're seeing at this conference is a real focus on the message of: We want to make sure working people are doing well," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters, according to The Hill.
Democrats also debated the reasons for their November midterm losses.
Top Democrats have attributed the results to the effects of ill-timed global crises — including an Ebola outbreak in Africa and the rise of Islamic terrorists in the Middle East — believed to have overshadowed Democrats' economic messages.
"There was a two-month conflagration of global crisis that made it very difficult to break through with a domestic message," New York Rep. Steve Israel said, according to The Hill. "I couldn't buy my way onto some of your networks the weekend before the election unless I was willing to talk about Ebola."
But others felt the problem stemmed from a lack of clear messaging, and the party agreed at the conference to develop a strategy to reframe a more populist message.
As part of that effort, the Democrats have formed two new committees designed to disseminate the party's message and increase voter turnout ahead of 2016, The Hill said.
"We need to stand up and go on offense and not be defensive about what we believe in," Obama told the Democrats Thursday night to a raucous standing ovation, according to The Hill.
"That's why we're Democrats. And I promise you, I'm not going out the last two years sitting on the sidelines. I am going to be out there making the case every single day, and I hope you join me."
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