Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) criticized the Democratic Party in a statement following recent special election defeats, and he defended those comments Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Ryan targeted the party's failure to craft a unifying economic message. He has criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in the past and even mounted a challenge to her leadership after the 2016 election.
"We don't have a strong economic message," Ryan said. "When I was growing up and you'd ask my grandfather, my grandmother, ‘Why are we Democrats?' And it was ‘The Democrats are for working class people.' And we've lost that message."
He questioned the centrality of social issues as a unifying theme for Democrats. He did not contradict the party's stance on such issues, but he said that economic opportunity spoke to all parts of Democrats' voting coalition.
"We are for so many people, and we are for so many very, very important issues, Willie [Geist], that I'm for," Ryan said. "But the thing that ties African Americans and Latinos and the LGBT community and women altogether is that we all want economic opportunity for our families."
"We all want an opportunity to grab the next rung in the economic ladder, and people don't look at the Democrats for this," he said. "Small businesspeople don't look at the Democrats for this."
Ryan also criticized the party for not spending more to help Archie Parnell win the Tuesday special election in South Carolina's fifth district. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee only spent $275,000 on Parnell's race, but it spent $5 million on Georgia's sixth district election, which Democrat Jon Ossoff lost by a larger margin than Parnell did.
"We came in very late in that district to try to get the turnout," Ryan said.
After praising Parnell, Ryan said, "A little bit of money on the ground toward the end would have definitely got us home."