Former President Barack Obama provoked the ire of progressives who rebuked him for his apparent criticism of the “slogan” to “defund the police.”
Obama came under fire from prominent progressive lawmakers who took issue with his remarks about how “snappy” slogans can actually alienate voters. The former Democratic president was called out by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and other members of the so-called “Squad” after his comments on the “Good Luck America” show Wednesday.
“I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘defund the police,'” Obama told Peter Hamby on the Snapchat political show, referring to the call in some cities across the nation this summer which advocated defunding, or even dismantling law enforcement offices.
“But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama continued.
“The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with? And if you want to get something done in a democracy, in a country as big and diverse as ours, then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are,” he added.
Omar responded on Twitter, contending that defunding the police is actually a “policy demand.”
“We lose people in the hands of police,” the Minnesota Democrat wrote. “It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety.”
We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety. https://t.co/Vu6inw4ms7
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 2, 2020
Omar’s fellow progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib also appeared to be reacting to criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement’s push for reallocating funds from “racist police systems.”
“Rosa Parks was vilified & attacked for her civil disobedience. She was targeted. It’s hard seeing the same people who uplift her courage, attack the movement for Black lives that want us to prioritize health, funding of schools & ending poverty, rather than racist police systems,” the Michigan Democrat tweeted.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley chimes in to say she is “out of patience” with criticism.
“The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific,” the Massachusetts Democrat declared on Twitter. “Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists. Whatever a grieving family says is their truth. And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing.”
The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific. Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists.
Whatever a grieving family says is their truth.
And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) December 2, 2020
Representative-elect Cori Bush referred to the phrase as a “mandate” and cited the police shootings of Breonna Taylor in her Kentucky home in March of this year and of Michael Brown in 2014in Ferguson, Mo.
“With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people,” the incoming Missouri congresswoman tweeted Tuesday. “We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence. It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police.”
Other Democrats, besides Obama, have also spoken out about the negative implications of the “defund the police” movement. And with an election that saw Democrats lose their wide majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, many in the party have been pointing fingers at those calling for progressive and socialist policies that drove away moderate American voters.
President Trump repeatedly called out former Vice President Joe Biden for supporting the movement to defund police but the Democrat insisted he did not, advocating instead for “conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness,” as he told CBS News in June.
“I think the ability, using terms like ‘defund the police,’ have led to Democratic losses in this last year,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told WAMU in a recent interview.
“I came out very publicly and very forcibly against sloganeering,” the highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We can’t pick up these things just because it makes a good headline, it sometimes destroys headway,” the House majority whip said. “We need to work on what makes headway rather than what makes headlines.”
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