Strib: Top three MN Dems oppose abolish-the-police charter change ... silently

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Call this Profiles in Courage, Loon State Edition. Tomorrow, voters in Minneapolis will go to the polls to decide whether to allow the city council to disband the Minneapolis PD in a charter amendment. Both the governor and the state’s two US Senators — all Democrats — oppose the referendum.

But they seem very shy about it, for some reason:

Three of Minnesota’s leading Democrats oppose the Minneapolis ballot question that could replace the city’s Police Department with a new public safety agency, but they aren’t campaigning against it.

More than a year after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police, the divide over Question 2 has torn through established partisan political lines. With polls closing Tuesday, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and Gov. Tim Walz have made their opposition clear but appear to be staying away from actively campaigning to defeat the measure.

What reason would that be? Political cowardice, of course:

The ballot question is a complicated one for Democratic politicians, said Kathryn Pearson, a University of Minnesota political science professor. It’s a rare local measure that has attracted statewide and national attention.

“They would just as soon not get involved in Minneapolis politics and be out front on an issue that’s, no matter what position they take, guaranteed to upset some of their supporters,” Pearson said. “If they were to be actively campaigning, it would also really highlight the divide within the Democratic Party.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison and his congressional successor Ilhan Omar have been less shy about Question 2. They have openly pushed for its passage, with Omar declaring that she wants to “put control of Minneapolis’ public safety in the hands of its people.” Of course, it’s already in the hands of Minneapolis through its city council, and always has been; the council has full authority to set policing policy in the city.  Minneapolis just keeps electing performative dilettantes to the council, as well as people in the bag for public-employee unions, rather than serious people interested in actual governance. Question 2 wouldn’t change anything except to remove a requirement to ensure some level of public safety.

That may play well enough in Minneapolis — or perhaps not. We’ll see after tomorrow’s vote how much Minneapolis voters trust the council in the middle of a crime wave touched off by the retreat of police in the wake of their demands to abolish the department. But it’s clearly not playing well outside of Minneapolis or anywhere else in the country, as a Pew poll last week showed:

Amid mounting public concern about violent crime in the United States, Americans’ attitudes about police funding in their own community have shifted significantly.

The share of adults who say spending on policing in their area should be increased now stands at 47%, up from 31% in June 2020. That includes 21% who say funding for their local police should be increased a lot, up from 11% who said this last summer.

Support for reducing spending on police has fallen significantly: 15% of adults now say spending should be decreased, down from 25% in 2020. And only 6% now advocate decreasing spending a lot, down from 12% who said this last year. At the same time, 37% of adults now say spending on police should stay about the same, down from 42% in 2020.

Black adults are still less likely than white or Hispanic adults to support increasing police resources. Even so, their position has radically changed from a year ago, when 22% supported increasing funds and 42% supported decreasing funding. Among black adults, that is now 38/23 in favor of increasing police spending, a 35-point shift in the gap from June 2020.

And among Democrats, defund/abolish is turning into a disaster. Seventeen months ago, Democrats went for defunding 19/41. Now they support increased police funding 34/25. That’s informed by a significant shift in perception about violent crime, Pew points out:

Americans’ changing attitudes about police spending in their area have occurred amid rising public concern about violent crime. In July 2021, 61% of adults said violent crime was a very big problem in the country today, up from 48% in April 2021 and 41% in June 2020 (though concern over crime has fluctuated in recent years). In the July survey, Americans expressed more concern about violent crime than they did about the federal budget deficit (50% said this was a very big problem), climate change (47%), racism (45%), economic inequality (44%) and illegal immigration (43%).

That’s reason enough to oppose Question 2, even aside from the fact that it’s the city council’s desperate attempt to distract from their own incompetence in managing public safety. So why not tell voters to reject Question 2? The only reason is an equally desperate attempt by these three top Minnesota Democrats to eat their anti-police cake and have it, too. It ain’t the Loon State for nothing, folks.