While the majority of elected Democrats have stopped short of actively calling to defund the police, many in the party have expressed sympathy for the idea and some have endorsed it. Others have dodged questioning or reframed the demand as rhetoric.
A “veto-proof” majority of the Minneapolis City Council has pledged to “dismantle” the city’s police department in the wake of George Floyd’s death, even after Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey publicly opposed the idea.
The proposal itself is vague. Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender told CNN Monday that the desire to call the police during an emergency situation “comes from a place of privilege.” (RELATED: Mayor Jacob Frey Highlights Police Union Hurdles In Minneapolis Police Department Probe)
Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said last week that she supports disbanding the Minneapolis police department, saying that it’s time to “reimagine public safety in Minneapolis.” Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also come out in support of the idea, stressing that the “defund the police” slogan should not be adjusted to appeal to “white suburban ‘swing’ voters.”
The idea has also gained traction within the Democratic Party establishment, as former Hillary Clinton spokesperson and “Demand Justice” executive director Brian Fallon said last week that he supports defunding police departments.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has promised to make police reform an important part of his presidency but came out against defunding the police earlier this week. (RELATED: Pastor Darrell Scott Says Calls To Defund The Police ‘Makes Absolutely No Sense At All’)
“Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded,” the campaign’s Director of Rapid Response Andrew Bates said Monday. “He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain.”
Several party members who are reportedly candidates to be Biden’s vice presidential nominee have expressed sympathy for calls to defund the police. Like Biden, they have stopped short of endorsing it. California Sen. Kamala Harris declined to directly confront the slogan when questioned by “The View” cohost Meghan McCain on Monday. She said she believed in “reimagining how we do public safety in America.”
The Daily Caller reached out to all 47 Senate Democrats Monday about the Minneapolis City Council’s plan to dismantle their police department and not one senator responded.
Florida Rep. Val Demings, also believed to be on Biden’s shortlist, called the Minneapolis City Council’s proposal “very thoughtful.” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised the “spirit” of the movement to defund police departments, before her office released a statement clarifying that she does not support eliminating funding for the police. (RELATED: Will Defunding The Police Work? Here’s What History Tells Us)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday she supported the “spirit” of efforts to defund the police in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a statement that her office later clarified did not indicate support for eliminating funding for law enforcement.
— The Detroit News (@detroitnews) June 10, 2020
Like Whitmer, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has relied on law enforcement to enforce some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the country, but has also expressed sympathy towards those calling for police departments to be defunded.
“When they’re saying ‘defund the police,’ what are they saying?” Cuomo asked at a press conference Monday. “They’re saying we want fundamental basic change when it comes to policing — and they’re right.”
NY Gov. Cuomo: “When they’re saying ‘defund the police,’ what are they saying? They’re saying we want fundamental basic change when it comes to policing — and they’re right.” pic.twitter.com/unSdsML37r
— The Hill (@thehill) June 9, 2020
The narrative that the “defund the police” slogan isn’t an actual call to abolish police departments has begun to emerge among elected Democrats and liberal media types as the party attempts to triangulate ahead of the 2020 election. (RELATED: Piers Morgan Says Trump Should Take A Knee In The Oval Office To Unify America)
“SOME NEEDED CONTEXT: Activists calling for defunding the police are not always calling for dismantling departments,” PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor tweeted Monday. “In many cases, it means redirecting funds from police departments to other parts of society that help people like housing, education, and communities.”
Popular left-wing comedian John Oliver said on his show Sunday that “defunding the police absolutely does not mean that we eliminate all cops,” which the Huffington Post described as Oliver “expertly disarm(ing) a right-wing talking point.”
However, many activists behind the slogan seem to be taking it literally.
“What did I say? We don’t want no more police. It’s that clear,” a Minneapolis protester told Frey over the weekend.
After Washington, D.C. renamed part of a street near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” the local Black Lives Matter organization rejected the gesture, saying that “Black Lives Matter means Defund the police.”
Some Democrats have strongly condemned proposals to defund the police, including Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
“You can’t defund the police, that’s stupid, it’s crazy and anyone who talks about that is nuts,” Manchin told Politico Monday.
While the constituency for defunding the police is very vocal, it also appears to be very small. Just 16% of Americans support defunding police departments, according to a YouGov poll published Monday. The poll also found that 65% of Americans don’t want to see any funding cuts made for police departments.