Squad member Cori Bush: No, I won't stop saying "defund the police"

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File

You remember Cori Bush. She’s the Democrat with private security who wants to cut funding for public security.

Lefties complained on social media last night about this Axios item, insisting that it’d be unfair for Republicans to try to make Bush the face of the party on this issue when most Democrats disagree with her. But since when has that ever been a rule of fair play in hardnosed politics? Tom Nichols reminded them that Democrats made Todd Akin the face of their “war on women” campaign in 2012 by seizing on his infamous comment about “legitimate rape” in the Missouri Senate race even though the Republican establishment distanced themselves from it.

Comments like Akin’s and Bush’s don’t resonate with the opposing party because they expose what the political class wants. They resonate because they appear to confirm one’s worst suspicions about what the other side’s base believes. After all, when a party wins an election, it’s not just their leaders who gain power. It’s their voters. Do Americans want to empower a faction that includes a “defund the police” wing?

“I always tell [fellow Democrats], ‘If you all had fixed this before I got here, I wouldn’t have to say these things,'” [Bush] said…

“‘Defund the police’ is not the problem,” she added. “We dangled the carrot in front of people’s faces and said we can get it done and that Democrats deliver, when we haven’t totally delivered.”…

“I’ve had colleagues walk up to me” and say that “defund the police” doesn’t help in their districts. Bush didn’t name to whom she was referring.

Bush said she won’t alter her stance until there’s meaningful reform. She said that should focus on ending the mechanisms by which police have killed Black people, including chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

It’ll be fascinating to see what sort of hay the GOP and its ad teams can make of “defund the police” in the midterms given how hard Democrats have strained since 2020 to get away from it. The effort began just two days after the election with Abigail Spanberger’s rant during a Democratic caucus conference call about the results. She won her House race by the skin of her teeth that November but was under no illusions about the next one, telling her colleagues “we will get f—ing torn apart in 2022” if they don’t drop that rhetoric. Since then, amid media attention to spiking murder rates nationwide and shoplifting rings looting stores in California broad daylight, big-name Democrats have not only bitten their lips about police defunding, they’ve counterprogrammed it.

And not just center-left Democrats like Cory Booker, who celebrated when Tommy Tuberville introduced a resolution against defunding the police in the Senate. Ritchie Torres is a self-described progressive from NYC who recently said, “The defund police movement is dead in New York City and good riddance. And any elected official who is advocating for the abolition or even the defunding of police is out of touch with reality and should not be taken seriously.” Karen Bass is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who’s running this year to be mayor of L.A. She just introduced a new plan to hire more police if elected, noting that “more and more Angelenos I speak with tell me crime has touched them personally, and they feel scared.”

When Bush was asked by Axios about comments like that, she said, “What is a ‘progressive’ here in the House? We need to hone in more on what that really is.”

Bass is only the latest in a series of African-American Dems who’ve spoken out loudly on fighting crime, though. Eric Adams, a former cop, got elected mayor of New York by promising to make the city safer and recently hosted Joe Biden at an event at which Biden said, “The answer is not to defund the police, it’s to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors and the community needs you, know the community.” London Breed ordered a surge of police in December to fight the “bullsh*t” that’s made San Francisco unsafe. And former Philly mayor Michael Nutter has been withering in criticizing that city’s far-left D.A. for not taking the rising number of murders there more seriously.

Can all of that pro-police (or at least anti-anti-police) messaging from prominent Democrats successfully blunt GOP accusations that Biden’s party is soft on crime, that the era of wanting to defund the police is over? It takes a lot of messaging energy to convince voters that something they think they know is true — that liberals see cops as more of an enemy than criminals — isn’t really true, but Dems have been putting in the work lately. Probably it’ll depend on what the trends in crime look like this November. Just as the last jobs report before an election carries outsized influence in shaping voters’ perceptions of the economy, the crime rate locally this fall may determine how comfortable national swing voters will feel with Democrats in charge. Not looking good in New York City so far.

And if it does come down to messaging, luckily for the GOP, Cori Bush is around to counterprogram the Democratic counterprogramming.

In lieu of an exit question, scroll through the tweets from liberals collected here groaning at Bush’s dopey refusal to give up on defunding the police.