Defunding the police is the dumbest political slogan ever. But it will stick to Democrats like Velcro unless they take strong counter-actions.
In my long career around politics, and commenting about it, I’ve learned the value of just shutting the heck up some times. This is a lesson the hard-left might want to consider, because the more they talk about their causes the more they damage them. This is especially true when it comes to police reform.
Let’s get a couple things clear about crime.
First, murders and shootings are up substantially. But that increase began on Trump’s watch and it is nationwide, including Republican-run states and cities where police budgets have been increased.
Second, the Democratic Party, writ large, does not support defunding the police. That is not in the party’s platform and its leader, Pres. Joe Biden, has plainly said that he’s not for it. Most Democratic candidates agree with Biden and the platform.
But neither of those things will stop the Republicans from making crime an issue in the 2022 election cycle and trying to hang the “defund” label on the Dems.
Among the most bone-headed political slogans ever invented, “defund the police” has to be the worst. Americans overwhelmingly oppose that idea. Even 80% of Black Americans want to see the police spend as much or more time in their neighborhoods, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Some apologists are quick to point out that they don’t really mean what the slogan says. A prominent website leads with a long tutorial on “What we mean when we say “defund.”” The Brookings Institute has an even longer explanation, “The Seven Myths of Defunding the Police Debunked.”
But this is politics, people, not a graduate student seminar. There’s an old saying in politics: if you’re explaining, you’re losing. If what advocates really mean is that they want to reform police departments, ban choke holds, spend more on social programs, that sort of thing, then why not just say that? Why use the word “defund” and then try to explain that you really intend something other than the plain meaning of the word?
If the point is reform, why not just say “reform”? Because the hard-left likes the sound of “defund” and, truth be told, some of the hardest of the hard-left really do mean it. They really do want to eliminate police departments as we know them and replace them with… something vague.
But is it any more unfair for the Republicans to try to hang defund on the Dems than for the Democrats to try to tar all Republicans with QAnon? Probably not. All’s fair in love, war and politics.
So, practically-minded activists, who just want to win elections so that their folks are in power so that they can make progress on their causes would expunge the word “defund” from their vocabulary — right along with “privilege”, “the patriarchy,” “white supremacy” and whole lot of other disastrous political language.
But they won’t because they are more interested in lecturing to voters and signaling their virtue then in winning elections. Also, within their echo-chambers, they don’t hear how that sounds to average voters.
So, if I were Biden, what would I do? Hey, thanks for asking! I would introduce a crime bill that gave money to local police departments to hire more cops. That’s right, more money for more cops.
Am I crazy? I don’t think so. Look, there’s not much evidence that more cops will mean fewer murders, but it will help the Democrats win more mid-term elections. And Biden should couple that with all kinds of reform requirements, so that departments could only get the money if they met a set of standards and got certified by the Justice Department. In that way, the Democrats could accomplish two things at once. They could actually hasten the reforms in policing that might do some good and they would meet head-on the unfair allegation that they want to defund the police.
Biden’s own political instincts might lead him in just this direction, but my guess is that the hard-left is strong enough that it would make this unworkable for a Democratic president. But without strong counter-action I’m afraid that the defund label will stick and it will pull down Democrats — and with them any chance for further reform.