Minnesota Democrats still divided on abolishing the police

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Ed Morrissey has been keeping tabs on the ups and downs of Minnesota’s effort to pass a charter amendment that would remove the City of Minneapolis’ requirement to fund and staff a police force. That ballot resolution was challenged in court, facing accurate claims that the wording of the resolution was intentionally deceptive. A lower court agreed with that request repeatedly, but the state Supreme Court eventually disagreed and allowed the ballot question to move forward. If the ballot resolution passes next month, the Minneapolis City Council would gain the ability to abolish its police force and replace it with a “Department of Public Safety” that might or might not include “some police officers.”

The consensus on the ballot question is far from unanimous, however, and that’s true among Democrats. The Republicans in the city and the state don’t really have much of a say in the matter. Minnesota hasn’t endorsed a Republican for President since Richard Nixon and the Democrats haven’t lost a statewide race in more than a decade and a half. But the many Democrats seem to be keenly aware that they may be about to fire off a political boomerang that could come back and strike them down. Ilhan Omar and Keith Ellison are big fans of the plan, but they don’t really need to worry about their own job security. As an analysis from the Associated Press points out this week, others, like Tim Walz and Amy Klobuchar are trying to defeat the effort, fearing a harsh backlash from the voters in the midterms.

As a city that has become synonymous with police abuse wrestles with police reform, the effort is sharply dividing Democrats along ideological lines. The state’s best known progressives — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison — support the plan, which would replace the police department with a new Department of Public Safety. Other top Democrats, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov. Tim Walz, oppose it.

The debate is dominating the city’s mayoral and City Council races, the first since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in May 2020 and sparked a global racial reckoning. Passing the amendment would be a major win for the reform movement — both in substance and symbolism. But many in the Democratic establishment believe calls to “dismantle” or “defund” police cost the party seats in statehouses and Congress last year. They’re determined not to let that happen again next year. Defeating the Minneapolis measure has become a critical, high-profile test.

The ongoing deception involves the wording that progressives are using to describe the effort. They prefer to talk about “reforming” the police and that wording of the proposal polls quite well. That’s understandable because most of us would have to admit that the Minneapolis police have uncovered more than their fair share of bad apples over the years and the department’s reputation isn’t exactly the best you could hope for. But when you ask the voters about either defunding or abolishing the police, support for the effort craters.

If there was ever a politically opportune time for Minneapolis politicians to try to abolish the police, this certainly doesn’t appear to be it. The state recorded a nearly 60% increase in murders last year as compared to 2019 and that trend is continuing. Violent crime, including carjacking and assault, is surging just at a time when the discouraged Minneapolis Police Department shed 20% of its force through early retirements and resignations. And now the most liberal Democrats are still pushing to replace most of the police with social workers?

The broader concern that’s shared by both Walz and Klobuchar is that a successful effort to abolish the MPD would produce a domino effect that would be felt well beyond Minneapolis and even the state of Minnesota. Going into the midterms, Republicans around the country would point to the Twin Cities and say, look. If they did it there they could do it almost anywhere. And they’re probably right. The defund/abolish the police movement undoubtedly cost Democrats some close elections all over the country in 2020. That trend continues to this day. One USA Today/IPSOS poll taken over the summer found only 18% support nationally for defunding the police. Support for abolishing the police was even lower.

Like several other Democratic policy points, liberal activists seem to consistently overestimate public support for these schemes by a vast degree. The same goes for unlimited illegal immigration and calls to “empty the jails.” I don’t expect these efforts to gain any serious traction, but conservatives should probably just sit back, grab some popcorn and let the Democrats run with these ideas next year. It will only require flipping a couple of Senate seats next November and a slightly larger number of House races to slam the brakes on all of this and essentially put an end to both Joe Biden’s agenda and his presidency.