Black Lives Matter activists would be much happier if they lived in the world that Republicans described on the first night of the Republican National Convention — a world where Democrats yearn to defund the police.
From beginning to end, the Republican speakers at last night’s convention painted a vivid picture of a Democratic Party policy vision that doesn’t exist, claiming Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is leading his party in demanding police budgets be drained like a cold bathtub.
Here’s how they described it:
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise said, “Joe Biden has supported the left’s defunding of the police. There won’t be any children and grandchildren without those law enforcement and first responders.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan added, “Democrats refuse to denounce the mob, and the response to the chaos — defund the police, defund border patrol, and defund our military.”
And Kimberly Guilfoyle, chair of the Trump Victory finance committee, said: “They will defund, dismantle, and destroy America’s law enforcement.”
Similar rhetoric can be found in other speeches from the night, including those of RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and businessman Maximo Alvarez. But these claims could not be further from the truth. While some progressive Democrats have supported calls to defund the police, they are in the minority — and Democratic leaders absolutely do not want to defund the police. Many don’t even like the rhetoric or the phrase.
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she was “not at all” considering police defunding. Likewise, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member in Congress, previously told CNN that “nobody is going to defund the police.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in unveiling Democrats’ police reform legislation, stressed the bill “isn’t about” defunding the police when asked about it in June.
In heavily Democratic cities like New York and Seattle, where activist city council members have pushed for budget reconsideration, they have been met with staunch opposition by the very mayors Trump and other Republicans have accused of wanting to defund the police. And, at the top of the Democratic ticket, not only has Biden opposed defunding the police, he actually advocates for adding more funding to the police.
As Vox’s Fabiola Cineas noted in explaining Biden’s criminal justice plan, “while activists call for reducing the number of police officers and policing budgets, Biden’s framework would actually increase the number of police officers in Black and brown communities. He wants a $300 million investment in the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which he helped spearhead in the 1990s, to reinvigorate community-oriented policing.”
Moreover, earlier this summer, PolitiFact noted, “Biden himself has said several times in interviews and op-eds that he does not support defunding the police.” Biden underscored that message at the Democratic National Convention when he told a panel assembled to speak about racial justice that “most cops are good.”
Not only do Democratic leaders oppose defunding the police, but in practical budgetary terms, some Republicans actually support cutting police budgets as part of their overarching support for government austerity. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias writes:
In early February of this year, the Trump administration proposed a 58 percent cut in the federal government’s COPS Hiring Program, a federal program that supports police department staffing. That’s not a one-off; his administration’s budget proposals have routinely called for huge cuts to this program, which was inaugurated in the 1990s as part of Bill Clinton’s pledge to hire 100,000 new police officers (Congress keeps declining to do this).
The reality of Republicans’ long-held affinity for government austerity, particularly during economic downturns, is in tension with Trump’s stance that he will never defund the police. And just like the president’s claims that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the argument that the Democratic Party is champing at the bit to defund the police is also not true.
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