Well, that was fast.
That Democrats are deeply divided over whether or not to defund the police is no state secret. Behind the scenes, tempers are flaring.
Clashes between moderate Democrats barely hanging on to swing districts and militant progressives safely ensconced in deep blue ones are simmering just beneath the surface.
Public skirmishes, of course, have been few and far between.
Iron Nancy Pelosi, that veritable Congresswoman who went to Washington to fight the AIDS epidemic decades ago and now reigns supreme as the first, second and only female Speaker of the House, has done an excellent job of managing some of the more unruly House Members.
Grievances against fellow Democrats are to be discussed privately, with leadership, Pelosi told certain progressives popular on social media in 2019- not aired publicly on Twitter.
“Think twice,” before posting such statements, Pelosi advised her fellow Democrats; “Better yet, think once.”
So, after a few embarrassing online episodes- one involving Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) publicly accusing her Democratic colleagues of accepting bribes from wealthy Jewish interests and one during which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called Nancy Pelosi a racist- the Democratic Party Twitter kerfuffles mostly died down.
That doesn’t mean Democrats agree about everything, however. Far from it. Moderates trying to hold the line on the middle ground, and progressives ever pushing further left, are pulling the party in twain. And at a time when Democrats, holding the slimmest of slim majorities, could parlay that power into some real change.
Indeed, it may be the only time, or the last time in a long while, that Democrats have such an opportunity.
Still, a desire to make progress toward longstanding Democratic party goals like universal health care, a higher minimum wage, clean energy and others is one thing. Coming to a compromise on every, single, last issue contained therein is obviously much more of a problem.
No where is this more evident that in the arguments for, and against, defunding the police.
This issue in not dividing Republicans. On the Republican side, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in favor of, or willing to say they are in favor of, “Defunding the Police”.
Now, there are some Republicans, and Independents, who believe the militarization of U.S. law enforcement which has taken place over the last decades is a major problem. Rep. Ron Paul, certainly no liberal progressive, introduced legislation to end the “no knock” warrant in response to the death of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor was killed as police officers were executing just such a warrant.
On the Democratic side, on the other hand, you might be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t at least consider Defunding, once a literal snuff film began appearing in our social media and news feeds last May.
How does the public feel about defunding the police?
We really have no idea.
There is polling and anecdotal evidence to suggest that the idea has gotten some traction among voting Democrats- certain demographics (like younger voters) more so than others. There is also polling and anecdotal evidence to suggest that what support Defunders might have had last June has evaporated in the months since.
The property destruction which accompanied the widespread protests, however small a statistical percentage it might have been, still amounted to the most expensive in U.S. history, though we only have information about a two week period for some reason. Whatever the ultimate price tag, it is probable that it didn’t increase support for Defund.
Nor likely has the increase in crime, especially violent crimes, being experienced by voting Democrats in larger cities.
Since polls have increasingly demonstrated themselves to be unreliable at best, and intentionally misleading at worst, to determine whether or not “Defund the Police” has helped or hurt Democrats, we must turn to the 2022 campaign season which is- lamentably- already upon us.
And with a vengeance.
At the national level, with, let’s face it, a media community predisposed to run interference for an administration whose progressive policies are supported by a majority of its members, there hasn’t been much to see.
On the subject of a controversial topic like the crisis at the border, Trump was walking into a hail of journalistic bullets daily. The death of his administration was death by a thousand cuts. Facing the same subject, the Biden Administration doesn’t seem inclined, or required, to do the same.
But at the state and local levels, the sparks are already well and truly flying. From armies of angry parents engaging in hostile takeovers of local educational boards, to a recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, to more than a few unpopular Democrat governors, mayors, and other, who aren’t even bothering to seek reelection.
We don’t know what internal polling they are seeing. There are the polls released to the public in order to influence public opinion, and make politicians look good, and the actual, good faith efforts those politicians make behind the scenes to determine the views of their constituents, without ever making that information public if they don’t want to.
That is, if it doesn’t help them.
If we really want to know if “Defund the Police” has helped or hurt Democrats, we’ll have to wait and see what those up for reelection in 2022 run on; and what they are forced by their opponents to run against.
Early indications aren’t good for the Defunders.
Contrasting badly with New York City’s recent $30 million dollar ad campaign to boost tourism to the Big Apple, is the high-profile shooting of two women and a four-year old in iconic Times Square over the weekend.
Mayor Bill De Blasio, who has heartily embraced the Defund ideology and has moved to do just that in New York City, has been forced to reverse course and increase police presence, even as he downplayed the incident’s potential impact on tourism.
Let’s read between the lines.
There is the Mayor’s statement: “In the end, people want to come to the city. It is an overwhelmingly safe city when you look at New York City compared to cities around the country, around the world.”
And then there’s this:
New York City’s staggering increase in violent crime aside, the proof of De Blasio’s failures, and indeed the failure of the Defunders, lies in his competition.
Both De Blasio’s Republican challengers in the upcoming election have strongly condemned efforts to the defund the police. “Make NYC Safe Again” seems to be the central premise of their campaigns.
DeBlasio’s challengers have identified crime in the city as his weakest point, and they are really going for it. With the shocking news last week that shootings in NYC are up 166%, and overall crime up by 30%, city leaders are certainly feeling the heat.
And it isn’t just coming from Republicans.
Media publications of the otherwise progressive persuasion are admitting frankly that efforts to defund the police have led to a dramatic reversal of a decades long trend of decreasing crime.
From Portland to New York, progressive politicians don’t seem to be able to backtrack fast enough from a policy which has made their fellow citizens less safe in their own neighborhoods and hasn’t done a thing for equity or racial justice or anything else that anyone can tell.
Whether it is too late to stop the mass exodus of residents and businesses from these newly crime-ridden epicenters of Democratic politics, remains to be seen. The results of this crime wave, and of the destructive protests which have left entire sections of major cities boarded up for weeks and even months, may be irreversible.
Some of the hardest-hit areas may take decades to recover, if indeed they ever recover. Some neighborhoods and areas damaged during the Rodney King riots in the 1990’s still haven’t recovered. Some areas damaged during the 1960’s riots never did.
While the media has attempted to gloss over and downplay this inconvenient twin trend of violent crime and property destruction, in the places where it is prevalent, people don’t need the news to tell them things are quickly going from bad to worse.
Those with the wherewithal and resources to relocate are already hitting the exits. As usual, it will be the impoverished, marginalized and minority communities which are stuck with the results of such a poorly-thought out policy like “Defund the Police.”
(Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)