Will #DefundthePolice cost Joe Biden the election? As activists increasingly demand federal intervention into local policing to deal with issues of “systemic racism,” Biden’s track record in defending police has come under fire on the Left. In a cycle where Biden needs massive African-American voter turnout to outperform Donald Trump and where he needs to heal the rift with the progressives in the party, Biden’s past support for law enforcement has turned into a potential flashpoint for his campaign.
Biden’s reaction in embracing the activists has not gone unnoticed in law-enforcement circles, reports Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki for Politico. His realignment with their critics puts their support at risk, most likely in the swing states Biden needs to carry. And his former allies aren’t being kind in pointing that out, either, with one calling out Biden for a lack of fortitude in his dotage:
Joe Biden has long prided himself on being a union-friendly Democrat with a good relationship with rank-and-file cops.
But Biden’s call for more national policing reforms and oversight in the wake of the death of George Floyd — and the perception that he hasn’t shown enough solidarity with law enforcement amid the ensuing nationwide protests and unrest — have created a fissure with law enforcement groups, leaving many who once supported him frustrated by what they regard as political posturing by their one-time ally.
“Clearly, he’s made a lot of changes the way candidates do during the primary process, but he kept moving left and fell off the deep end,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, the umbrella organization for Police Benevolent Association chapters.
“For Joe Biden, police are shaking their heads because he used to be a stand-up guy who backed law enforcement,” Johnson said. “But it seems in his old age, for whatever reason, he’s writing a sad final chapter when it comes to supporting law enforcement.”
Biden’s trying to pretend he hasn’t changed at all, and hoping neither side notices. In recent speeches, Biden claims that he “came out of the civil rights movement,” but his track record says otherwise. Kamala Harris took a bite out of Biden during the first Democratic presidential debate last year over Biden’s opposition to forced busing at that time, but that is just one in a long line of complaints progressives have with Biden:
But it is what happened when Biden got to the Senate that comes under scrutiny from activists working against racism today. Though Biden had a 100% rating from the NAACP from 2005 to 2006, the policies he pushed, the friends he made, and some of his statements do not fit in with the goals of most of those marching and organizing in the wake of Floyd’s death.
In the 1970s, Biden worked with segregationist senators to oppose federally mandated integration busing, calling it a matter of “black pride.”
And he was friendly with segregationist senators such as Jesse Helms, James O. Eastland, and Herman Talmadge. “All these men became my friends,” Biden said in his 2008 farewell address to the Senate. He called South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond one of his “closest friends.”
Biden helped lead the charge for a landmark 1994 crime bill, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which created “three strikes” mandatory life sentences for repeat offenders and increased prison funding by about $10 billion, among other provisions. He warned of “predators on our streets” who were “beyond the pale” while speaking in support of the bill.
This, by the way, was the point of the challenge from Charlamagne tha God. The host of The Breakfast Club argued that Biden needed to make a substantial commitment to reversing that track record by choosing a woman of color for his running mate. Rather than discuss that, Biden got offended and told Mr. tha God that his credentials on civil rights were beyond reproach and then ironically said that any African-American voter considering support for Donald Trump “ain’t black.”
Since Biden can’t or won’t offer any nuanced arguments in support for his record, his only choice is to abandon his previous principles in an attempt to pander to the mood. Needless to say, that’s not what police need at the moment, nor the communities that police serve that have been subjected to riots and looting. If it comes down to a law-and-order election, Biden will lose the suburbs, and might even have some trouble maintaining support in urban areas where business owners saw their lives’ work go up in smoke — literally.
House Democrats, meanwhile, have proposed police-reform legislation that they call “sweeping.” For the most part, though, it looks like a whole lot of money with very little real change:
The George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and co-sponsored by Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Jason Crow, D-Colo., and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., calls for new national policing standards and accreditations.
It would require every state, local and federal law enforcement agency to provide data to the Department of Justice on the use of deadly force by and against police officers, along with data on traffic and pedestrian stops.
It would also make funding grants available to police agencies studying and creating new recruitment, hiring and oversight programs, and require the Justice Department to establish a task force to coordinate efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of law enforcement misconduct.
The DoJ already has the authority to prosecute law enforcement misconduct, through its Civil Rights division. In fact, that’s exactly what it’s doing in the George Floyd case, with its parallel investigation into the homicide at the hands of police. A task force and more money would provide better resourcing for other such efforts, certainly, but after-the-fact enforcement isn’t a change. Neither is data collection, even if it is a pretty good idea to start quantifying these issues to see where — and if — the problems exist. The only new effort is a separate proposal to either eliminate or greatly limit “qualified immunity” for police, which is a worthy subject for debate — but only necessary because the federal judiciary created it out of whole cloth a few decades ago.
Only that proposal addresses the real issue for police reform, which is accountability. The governed should be able to hold those in authority over policing accountable for the manner in which it is accomplished, and that needs o come from the governments responsible for the police: cities and counties. They run the police, not Congress, and local law enforcement is “accredited” by those local governments. If people want true reform, then they need to restore true accountability at that level: reducing the influence of public-employee unions, and ending the one-party systems that have run these governments for decades.