You know you have a stupid declaration on your hands when you have to explain what some on your side really mean. Such is the burden of Democrats trying to limit the damage from the childish demands to “defund the police.”
Oxford’s U.S. dictionary defines “defund” as “prevent from continuing to receive funds.” To the educated ear, defund registers as abolish.
No responsible Democrat supports getting rid of police. Joe Biden has refused to get sucked into that conversation. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a civil rights hero who knows something about police brutality, has warned Democrats not to let attention seekers “hijack” the movement to reform policing with calls to, in effect, end it.
The group capturing headlines with these demands is actually tiny. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds that only 16 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans favor even reducing law enforcement budgets.
I wish friends in the liberal media would stop giving cover to—and thus exaggerating the support for—calls to defund police. They do this with byzantine discussions on what they think—or want to think—the radicals really want. “Defund the police? Here’s what that really means”—Washington Post. “What ‘Defund the Police’ Actually Means”—The Atlantic. “Growing calls to ‘defund the police,’ explained”—Vox.
Such commentary typically offers serious ideas to reform policing. They include moving some police functions, such as dealing with the mentally ill, to social workers; curbing the power of police unions to protect bad cops; and changing hiring processes for a job that can attract bullying and/or racist personalities. They even include moving some money from police departments to other social service budgets.
Fine. But they really should reject outright demands to close good police departments along with the problematic as a kind of group punishment.
For decades, “failing” school districts have deprived poor children of adequate education. Do you hear calls from the far left to defund public schools? No, but you hear that from some prominent voices on the right opposed to teachers unions and wanting to funnel more taxpayer money to private schools. Left-wing magazine The Nation last year published a piece titled “Stop Defunding Our Public Schools.”
This defund-the-police theme has delivered Christmas in June to a Trump-loving media desperate to divert attention from the president’s unravelling leadership. A headline from Fox began, “These cities have begun defunding police …”
Our politically polarized times have nurtured an odd symbiotic relationship between the right and left media: Two organisms that seem opposed cooperate to inflate the importance of a view to which few Americans are subscribed—and excite social media.
But in this case, Democrats lose because so many feel obliged to accord respect to proposals that almost no party members support.
Yours truly has never been a big fan of Bernie Sanders, but he deserves kudos for saying that what the country needs is “well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments.” If anything, he added, they need more resources.
No modern society can survive without law enforcement. That includes largely poor and black and brown neighborhoods. When their businesses get ransacked and close for good, their communities lose local jobs, tax revenue, and street life.
The video of a crowd loudly booing Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for refusing to summarily abolish the police department sped around the world as evidence of widespread and growing U.S. sentiment. As we see, it was no such thing—not even among Democrats.
Too bad so many liberals still feel obliged to explain and thus validate the doltish defund-police rhetoric. They’d be better off just rejecting it as off-the-wall.
Froma Harrop is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, Harrop has worked on the Reuters business desk, edited economics reports for The New York Times News Service, and served on the Providence Journal editorial board. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, and Institutional Investor.