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Defund-the-Police Democrats debacle | RealClearPolitics

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Defund-the-Police Democrats debacle |  RealClearPolitics

It is easy to find politicians talking nonsense. The television news gives them a lot of coverage. Viewers like colorful voices, which are usually the most extreme. The resulting Kardashianization of politics doesn’t matter much unless these cartoons tarnish an entire political party, define its public perception, and compromise its chances of passing laws and winning elections.

That’s the Democrats’ problem with “The Squad,” led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This issue reappeared last week when a team member Cori Bush told a national television audience how eager she is to defund the police. He said nothing to convince anyone to reject his views. He probably made matters worse with his transparent hypocrisy, defending his right to hire expensive private security guards while advocating for less police protection for everyone else.

Rep. Bush hasn’t learned the most important lesson about being stuck in a hole: stop digging. The St. Louis Democrat doesn’t dig with shovels, either. He bought an industrial-size excavator and went to work. The hole he is digging is “defunding the police,” and polls show that he is extracting gold from fools. The underfunding movement may be popular with some wealthy (white) elites, far-left activists, and, at least temporarily, some African-Americans in congressional districts like Bush’s, though its popularity even in those districts will fade as the violence continue to increase. All the others are already firmly opposed. They reasonably fear that the lack of funds will lead to more crime, not only because there will be fewer police officers on the scene, but because those who remain will limit their active surveillance because they lack political support.

A new poll, just completed by the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and Harris Poll, shows that 75% of respondents want more police and only 25% want less. About the same number, 72%, oppose defunding the police. A slight majority even favor reinstating “stop and search” policies to “deter firearm crime,” something New York did with Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg before ending the practice because so many were being searched. young men belonging to minorities.

Pollster Mark Penn, co-director of the Harvard / Harris poll, now says Increasing violence is the most important issue for the 2022 midterm elections.. “Crime is becoming the next crisis in America,” he concluded, “with overwhelming numbers seeing an increase in crime and Americans want stricter enforcement, not more flexible.” There is no question which party has the upper hand on that issue. The question for Democrats is: what can they do to recover?

Of course, many voters also want to see police reforms and greater transparency. Both are being rolled out across the country. Above all, Americans want the police, prosecutors, and judges to do their jobs and protect them from predators. That means the left’s push to cut police funding has become a major electoral responsibility for mainstream Democrats, both nationally and locally. One sign that the political winds have turned is that two progressive cities, Seattle and Minneapolis, which destroyed their police budgets last year, now want to increase them. They are not alone.

Cori Bush spat directly into that wind last week during her CBS interview. Correspondent Vladimir Duthiers asked Bush for her response to critics who say it is hypocritical for you to support defunding police departments while she spends lavishly on her own personal security.

Bush’s strange response:Would you rather that I die? Would you rather that I die? Is that what you want to see? Do you want to see me die? You know, because that could be the alternative. So either I spent $ 70,000 on private security over the last few months, and now I’m standing here and I can speak, able to help save 11 million people from being evicted. “

As if that answer wasn’t bad enough, he added: “I have private security because my body is worth being on this planet right now. … I have a lot of work to do. There are too many people who need help right now for me to allow it. So if I end up spending $ 200,000, if I spent $ 10, 10, $ 10 more on that, you know what, I can be here to do the job. So hang on and defund the police has to happen. “

The only way to summarize your answer is: “I am much more important than ordinary people, which means that protecting myself is much more important than protecting them.” That is not an attractive message. There is nothing wrong with Bush wanting to stay alive. You may want to acknowledge that other people do too. Since they cannot afford private security, they have the help of the police. He wants to deny them that help.

It is political negligence for Cori Bush to embrace this kind of narcissism, hypocrisy, and shameful victimization on national television. It’s even worse when her own party struggles to limit the self-harm caused by the movement she advocates. Republicans will be happy to rebroadcast that interview over and over again. It is so bad.

Voters now connect police funding to the rise in crime, and connect both with Democrats. Although party leaders, including Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have repeatedly tried to distance themselves from progressive demands to cut police budgets, they have not succeeded in the public eye, at least not yet.

Why do Democrats have so much trouble with the crime issue, despite the unwavering support of the mainstream media? The problem is all that damn evidence. All the cities that actually made The underfunded police are governed by Democratic mayors and city councils. All lax prosecutors, so reluctant to indict violent criminals and blatant thieves, call themselves “Justice Democrats.” Almost all of the local judges who release prisoners are Democrats. Most of the support for “no cash bail” comes from Democrats and has been implemented in blue cities and states. Those policies, supported by leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris, put criminals back on the streets just hours after they were charged with violent crimes. It was the Democrats who held a national convention last year and did not mention the riots and looting for months. To their credit, party leaders now routinely have to say that they oppose withdrawing funds from the police. But no high-ranking Democrat, not Biden, not Schumer, not Pelosi, has been brave enough to roundly condemn the progressives who support him and stand up to them. The public has taken notice. Voters realize that strident demands to cut police budgets, eliminate cash bail, and reduce felony crimes to misdemeanors are elements of a broader progressive wish list that would limit all facets of enforcement. the law and criminal punishment.

Many of those wishes are being fulfilled. In city after city, the police know they no longer have the support of top elected officials. They know that many of their arrests will not be processed. The predictable result is that more police are retiring, and those who remain are spending more time sitting on patrol cars and less time chasing criminals. They know that bullies can break into a store, pick up $ 950 worth of merchandise, and walk to their car with the implied permission of city officials. District attorneys in several major cities, all Democrats, consider these thefts only petty crimes and do not bother to prosecute them. So, police figure, “Why bother trying to catch thieves?”

The inevitable public revulsion poses a political challenge that goes far beyond one or two squad members with bad ideas and intimidating pulpits. It’s true that some have pushed the fundraising agenda more aggressively than others, but voters believe the entire party is involved. Now that the moderate members want to change course, those on the left, like Cori Bush, want to continue investigating and proudly shouting their message to the world. His colleagues on the center-left have not found their way out of the hole.

Next November, voters will bury them further if their main concerns are rising crime and lawlessness on the southern border. If that reckoning comes, the Democrats will only be to blame.

Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he founded the Program on International Politics, Economics and Security. He can be reached at charles.lipson@gmail.com.

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