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Democrats depend on a racially diverse coalition to win national elections. But in 2020, Republicans were able to make some key gains among non-white voters. Now, as House Democrats prepare to defend their control of Congress, their campaign committee is releasing a strategy to engage voters of color in 2022. They shared it first with NPR's Juana Summers.
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is investing millions of dollars to engage and mobilize voters of color ahead of the midterm elections.
SEAN PATRICK MALONEY: We're going to invest $30 million in a comprehensive plan, put in place earlier than ever before, to engage with communities of color. And that means folks from the neighborhood, boots on the ground much earlier.
SUMMERS: That's New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, House Democrats campaign chair.
MALONEY: Much more meaningful engagement, not just showing up at election time, and putting the resources behind it with a culturally competent, diverse team that knows what it's doing because we believe when we invest in our most reliable voters, we get a great return.
SUMMERS: What Maloney is talking about there - early engagement, cultural competency - in part acknowledges some critiques from activists and strategists. They say that Democratic outreach to voters of color can often feel like an afterthought, and that when the party does reach out, it sometimes doesn't feel authentic.
For just one example, I want to turn back to a conversation I had more than a year ago with Chuck Rocha. He's a Democratic political consultant who headed up Latino outreach for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign last year and saw pitfalls with other Democrats.
CHUCK ROCHA: Unlike all the other campaigns, who just have regular white establishment consultants who will horribly Google Translate something to Spanish that was made for a white person in the suburbs, we would actually use cultural competency to make sure that that piece was done through the lens of a Latino by a Latino for a Latino.
SUMMERS: Now, Rocha there is talking specifically about how Democrats approach Latino voters. But he's pointing to some things that House Democrats say they plan to address in their outreach to Black, Latino and Asian American Pacific Islander voters. While Democrats had a big advantage with voters of color in the 2020 election, they lost ground with Latino voters relative to 2016 and also lost ground among non-white voters without a college education. House Democrats say they are investing early to keep their racially diverse coalition together in the midterms.
NIKEMA WILLIAMS: You can't just show up in a community and expect people to listen to us and turn out overnight.
SUMMERS: That's Congresswoman Nikema Williams of Georgia. She's a part of the Democratic Campaign Committee known as the DCCC, leading its efforts around voter education and voter protection. Williams is also the chair of Georgia's Democratic Party.
WILLIAMS: What we saw in Georgia was it took years of organizing in every corner of the state. When I was elected chairwoman in 2019, I made a commitment that we were going to organize year round. That's what we did in Georgia. That's how we won in Georgia. And that's what we're doing with the DCCC.
SUMMERS: The committee is also working to combat disinformation, with a focus on media frequently consumed in communities of color. In the days leading up to the November 2020 election, voters of color were flooded with disinformation, and some critics say the party did not do enough to fight back against it. Maloney talked specifically about Republican efforts to broadly link Democrats to socialism and defunding the police.
MALONEY: And it's not enough to just wave it away and pretend it doesn't matter. We need to take these lies and distortions seriously. We need to have a robust effort to counter that disinformation.
SUMMERS: Maloney said the party is prepared to mount a strong defense against disinformation in the midterm campaigns and that research into how it spreads will play a big part. It's intended to help Democrats speak to voters of color individually rather than as monolithic groups. Juana Summers, NPR News.
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