To be clear, this isn’t evidence of a new GOP radicalism about cops. Republicans strongly and consistently oppose complete police abolition and do not like language of “defunding” or “dismantling” the police. They are skeptical of claims of widespread racial bias in law enforcement. When pollsters use vague, subjective terms, like asking about support for “major” vs. “minor” policing reform, GOP respondents tend to favor the more conservative option. Yet when asked to consider specific options, they seem demonstrably more comfortable with changing American policing than the loudest voices ostensibly representing them in government and media.
I don’t have a provable theory of this disconnect. It could reflect generational differences. It could be that ordinary Republicans, especially those with police officers among their family and friends, believe reform will benefit the good cops. (“Even law enforcement in Indiana think that, in some of these cases, it’s giving them a bad name,” Braun told Carlson.) It could be a libertarian impetus for police reform, whether from folk libertarianism or national libertarian advocacy which has created intra-GOP division on criminal justice issues for the better part of a decade.
Or it could be GOP elites’ elitism itself: Generally speaking, there’s a correlation between being poor and being on the receiving end of abusive policing.