Amid the ongoing protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, calls to defund the police have grown increasingly loud — particularly among the activists who are taking to the streets to urge politicians to act.
And in several places, governments are acting.
“This morning we committed to move resources from the NYPD to youth and social services as part of our City’s budget.
“Our young people need to be reached, not policed.
“We can do this AND keep our city safe.”
While those moves are unlikely to impact the political futures of either de Blasio or the Minneapolis City Council members — both are in strongly liberal enclaves — the push for defunding the police following Floyd’s death carries massive political risk for Democrats more broadly.
To understand why, look no further than President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed Monday morning.
“Not only will Sleepy Joe Biden DEFUND THE POLICE, but he will DEFUND OUR MILITARY! He has no choice, the Dems are controlled by the Radical Left.”
“Sleepy Joe Biden and the Radical Left Democrats want to “DEFUND THE POLICE”. I want great and well paid LAW ENFORCEMENT. I want LAW & ORDER!”
And Trump’s 2020 campaign has rapidly picked up on the message.
National Democrats, meanwhile. have spent the last few days dodging questions about whether they support defunding efforts.
“You have to look at that on a case-by-case basis,” said New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, on CNN Sunday when asked whether he backed defunding the police in New York state.
Their argument, then, is not necessarily that we don’t need police officers. It’s, how we can best ensure that police officers are serving the communities they are tasked with policing?
The political problem for Democrats is this: They are now being backed into a corner by activists who are demanding radical change. But it’s not at all clear that a majority of the country supports a policy that would defund the police. Democratic leaders need to change the conversation to be about reforming police departments and re-allocating some resources for more community building and less militarization.
If they can’t, the call to “Defund the Police” will continue to be music to Trump’s ears.