Barack Obama: ‘Defund the Police’ is a ‘snappy slogan’ which loses a big audience

In the immediate wake of the election, there was a lot of bickering back and forth online, on social media, about the takeaways from the election, specifically in regards to the messaging from far-left figures. Personally, after the year we’ve had, I’m all for Defund the Police movements and I think there are so many police departments around the country which need to be demilitarized, constrained and yes, defunded. But the “defund the police” label got stuck to Democrats across the board, and there’s evidence to suggest that the label hurt a lot of good Democratic candidates in more moderate states or congressional districts. Now Barack Obama is discussing “defund the police” and whether young activists should really embrace that label. Obama spoke to Vanity Fair’s Peter Hamby, and you can read the full piece here. Here’s the part about youths and Defund the Police:

Whether young people are too combative politically: “Well, you know, Malia and Sasha, my daughters, we talk about this. Malia’s 22. Sasha’s 19. And it’s interesting. Even they, and among their friends, notice that sometimes because you’re responding so quickly and trying to be clever or snappy that they sometimes feel as if we’re not really listening to each other as much as we should. We’re just trying to score points. And I think the one thing that I’d like to see all of us do—and shoot, old folks are worse than young folks in many ways about this—is to use social media to make initial contact. But then at least post-COVID, once we get through this pandemic, try to have conversations with people face to face afterward.

On Defund the Police: “We take for granted that if you want people to buy your sneakers, that you’re going to market it to your audience, right? We take for granted that if a musician drops a record, that they’re going to try to reach certain audiences by speaking to folks where they are. It’s no different in terms of ideas, right? So if you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like Defund the Police, 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. But if you instead say, Hey, you know what? Let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly. And not just in policing, but in sentencing, how can we divert young people from getting into crime? And if there was a homeless guy, can maybe we send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy? You know, suddenly a whole bunch of folks who might not otherwise listen to you are listening to you. So 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. And play a game of addition and not subtraction.

[From Vanity Fair]

He’s not wrong? He’s speaking like a man who won two national campaigns built on appealing to the hopes and dreams of the widest swath of Americans. He’s not even saying he disagrees with the larger arguments of the Defund the Police movement, he’s just pointing out that a lot of people will immediately tune out the Defund the Police people out of hand because the branding is seen as “too radical.” Joe Biden is the same way – Biden’s branding is Reform the Police, and he’s promised to adopt most of the policy positions the Defunders want anyway. So it’s an argument about branding more than anything else. That being said, I also sort of agree with the far-left people that we can’t just reject Defund the Police as a policy/movement simply because Republican strategists and Fox News are using it to terrify old people. So, yeah, Socialist Twitter is yelling at Obama today. Just a heads up.

— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) December 2, 2020

It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police. https://t.co/Wsxp1Y1bBi

— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) December 2, 2020

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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