Former President Barack Obama stirred the hornet’s nest when he criticized the “Defund the Police” slogan recently. Squad members fired back on Obama calling him a hypocrite and exposing the deep rift in the liberal movement between the far-left and so-called “moderates.” The real issue both sides of the left have to grapple with is not word choice but the policy implications of defunding police.
The dust-up began during a Snapchat interview with Peter Hamby on his political show, “Good Luck America.” Obama has released a new memoir and was asked by the host about defunding the police.
In short, Obama called “Defund the Police” a “snappy slogan” and marketing tool that would not actually advance the cause of policing reform. Ouch.
If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.
The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?
And if you want to get something done in a democracy, in a country as big and diverse as ours, then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are. And play a game of addition and not subtraction.
The Squad members each responded on Twitter:
And a new potential Squad member Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman from New York also weighed in:
While “Defund the Police” is both the main slogan and the top policy priority of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the Squad, it is repudiated by most others including their colleagues on the Left.
Rep. James Clyburn, the third-highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House and the man who single-handedly saved Joe Biden’s presidential campaign by endorsing him before the South Carolina primary, has been a vocal opponent of the defund movement and chalked severe Democratic losses this election cycle up to the slogan:
We were not able to discipline ourselves…That phrase ‘defund the police’ cost Jaime Harrison tremendously…Stop sloganeering. Sloganeering kills people. Sloganeering destroys movements. Stop Sloganeering…
This is just the tip of the iceberg of infighting over who’s to blame for Democratic losses this election. Speaker Nancy Pelosi—and even Joe Biden—does not embrace defunding the police.
There is also more at issue than just a slogan. The policy of draining police forces of revenue and shifting resources to other services is unpopular. Americans rightly worry that it will not stop crime and nor leave communities—especially those that face chronic violence—any safer. There’s evidence that they are right; just look at Minneapolis, MN, which has experienced a spike in violent crime (including homicides) even as they took away $1 million from the police budget and are on a path to entirely dismantle—not just defund—their police force.
Americans, especially blacks, overwhelmingly support more police on their streets. They also support some policing reforms as I have discussed in a recent policy focus. The two goals are not mutually exclusive.
Defunding the police is folly and it’s time that the left rejects the idea. While it may galvanize some young voters, it turns off many more, especially those who are directly impacted by their outcomes.