Everyone to the right of AOC already knows this is true but it’s noteworthy that the president-elect would acknowledge it so bluntly. Especially to an audience of activists who are sure to be more receptive to the “defund the police” message than the average voter.
It’ll be interesting to see if that message is more muted, or metamorphoses, during Biden’s presidency. Not because he’s urging people to lay off it but because Democrats’ terrible night downballot on November 3 was what it was. Radicalism is a liability for them, they’ve been reminded. If they had nominated someone for president other than Sleepy Joe, they probably would have lost that race too.
I don’t know that George W. Bush has weighed in yet on defunding the police but I’m going to guess that he’s against it. And if he is, that’s a clean sweep of presidents elected this century who are, at least rhetorically. Biden made the case to civil rights leaders on a conference call that it’s one thing to want other agencies to take over some police functions that don’t involve catching bad guys and another to imply with your sloganeering that you want to slash police budgets willy nilly.
“I also don’t think we should get too far ahead ourselves on dealing with police reform in that, because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police,’ anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing — which I promise you, will occur. Promise you,” Biden said.
“That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable. We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things. We’re talking about putting more psychologists and psychiatrists on the telephones when the 911 calls through. We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.”
Might not want to try that particular social experiment in the midst of a crime wave, though. And of course it’s not universally true that leftists aren’t talking about actually defunding police departments. Some are. “Defunding police means defunding police,” AOC famously said of Bill de Blasio’s plan to move money around from the NYPD budget. She didn’t care for Obama’s recent critique of the slogan either:
The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the “polite language” policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore.
It wasn’t until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do ANYTHING even if it wasn’t their full demands.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 2, 2020
That’s what Biden’s up against on his left flank with today’s mild scolding. As for the other 85 percent of the country, I’m gonna guess that we won’t hear much “defund the police” rhetoric from Raphael Warnock or Jon Ossoff over the next 26 days until the Senate runoffs in the purple state of Georgia. In fact, Warnock’s campaign posted a “fact check” three days ago specifically assuring Georgia voters that he doesn’t want to defund the police, that in fact it’s Republican Kelly Loeffler who once voted against police funding. Sleepy Joe is headed down there to campaign for him and Ossoff next Tuesday, the day after the electoral college officially makes him the next president, which I find a bit surprising. After all, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are doing everything they can to discourage Georgia Republicans from voting for Loeffler and David Perdue. Having Biden blow into town like a conquering hero and make the case for Warnock and Ossoff will probably do more to convince Republicans to get serious and turn out than it will Democrats.
By the way, there’s another noteworthy quote from his conference call with civil rights leaders. In this one he sounds like a bit of a … constitutionalist? I’m as surprised as you are:
So there’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order. I’m not going to hesitate to do it, but what I’m not going to do is I’m not going to do what used to–Vanita, you probably used to get angry with me during the debates, when you’d have some of the people you were supporting saying, ‘On Day One I’m gonna have an executive order to do this!’ Not within the constitutional authority. I am not going to violate the Constitution. Executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds. And as one of you said, maybe it was you, Reverend Al, whether it’s far left or far, right, there is a Constitution. It’s our only hope. Our only hope and the way to deal with it is, where I have executive authority, I will use it to undo every single damn thing this guy has done by executive authority, but I’m not going to exercise executive authority where it’s a question, where I can come along and say, I can do away with assault weapons. There’s no executive authority to do away that. And no one has fought harder to get rid of assault weapons than me, me, but you can’t do it by executive order. We do that, next guy comes along and says, well, guess what? By executive order, I guess everybody can jave machine guns again. So we gotta be careful.”
The left’s not going to like that either, especially after McConnell and the Senate GOP start blocking every bill in sight because that’s what MAGA “lost cause” rejectionism requires of them. It’s almost poignant that Team Joe is setting up an office of conservative outreach to try to soften hearts and minds under those circumstances. All it’ll end up doing is earning them the contempt of progressives when it inevitably fails and lefties demand to know how Biden and his team could have ever been so naive.