Well, the results of Election 2020 are in and, danggummit! if the Dems didn’t pert near snatch defeat from the jaws of victory… AGAIN! Not only didn’t we win Senate seats we shoulda won, we almost lost the House majority! Now, the great post-election hand wringing and circular firing squad session has begun.
One of the chief contenders for the blame game is the role that Defund the Police played in the loss of House and Senate races. Many moderate Democrats including the House stalwart, Rep. Jim Clyburn, blame the slogan for the losses and many progressives have turned around and blamed moderates for their own losses.
Between #COVID19, mail-in-voting, polling place intimidation, voting fraud hysteria, Trump, and disinformation, Election 2020 was a complex affair with voters being pulled in every direction, it is difficult understand how much of the losses are to be blamed on Defund the Police and how much on other issues, but it is not difficult to imagine that it did entice some 2018 Dem voters back to the Repubes.
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What is for sure is that Repube seized upon the slogan and demagogued the bejeezus out of it. They tarred and feathered every Democrat with the slogan.T Progressive candidates weren’t hurt too bad by it since they tend to run in more progressive districts, but moderates who had flipped Repube districts in 2018 took a drubbing.
There are two main reasons for this: First, it is an easily remembered phrase. It is simple and catchy. It is short and to the point like a short spear poking you repeatedly in your psyche. You can see why progressive activists liked it when they thought it up. And the other reason is that it is easily understood. The notion of defunding the police pert near takes your breathe away. If you’re white because it leaves you feeling naked, afraid, and vulnerable. If you’re a PoC because it means the police won’t be killing you so often any more. Which ever camp you fall closest to, the meaning weren’t lost on anyone.
The US being such a law-and-order culture we think some fundamental deep personal flaw causes people to be criminals (cough-cough being black, cough -cought).
The average white person didn’t hear the phrase and think, “Hmmm… Surely, they don’t mean go WITHOUT police entirely, so what do they mean? I know! They must mean take some of the funding that police use for military-grade equipment and murdering unarmed PoC in their sleep and as they run away and use it to for social services and education that could decrease the number of crimes committed and require fewer police.
Anything sounds stupid when you say it like that. And, you can see racially anxious white voters stopping at, Defunding the police would mean we’d have no police. That’s both terrifying and crazy! White folks already think of black men as criminals, so the prospect of being without police protection really resonated with white suburbanites, especially women, as it turns out.
As it turns out entertaining fantasies of Cory Booker servicing the unmet needs of white suburban women was all fun and games until you wrapped it up in a lack of immediate police protection from the criminally minded Other.
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After that smearing all Dems moderate and progressive as being pro-Black and Brown criming in white neighborhoods was EASY. It would be as if Election 2018 had never happened, All those white voters would come home.
Democrats just don’t seem to appreciate how difficult it is to think, especially when there is an easily grasped and understood alternate explanation handed to them by a nice smiling white Repube. is hard and people just won’t do it when they have a ready-made alternative is beyond me. When the police don’t race into your neighborhood and gun down a child playing with a toy gun within seconds of arrival, you don’t think of the police as being a deadly adversary. And, when you’ve been trained all of your life to think of criminals as being black, brown, lower class, and someone other than you and your elected representatives. About 57% of white voters are ready, willing, and able to jump with both feet over that cliff.
I reckon Election 2018, makes it all very very confusing. In 2018, the Repubes lost big in the House and held their Senate losses to two seats. The only way to protest Trump was to vote against the Repube candidates, and people did up and down the ballot. The electorate was sending a message: they was done with Trump. Things were just a bit different in 2020. Trump was running, so voters split their ballot, voted against Trump but for the Republican candidates who white voters trusted to protect them from the Other.
The literal meaning of Defund the Police resonated with white voters. Once you are trying to explain the slogan, you’ve lost the fight. You ain’t gonna win no voters using a slogan that you gotta explain to them, especially one that stimulates the unnameable fear of black-on-white crime.
Ironically, progressive are correct when they say that moderates lost the messaging war. The literal message of Defund the Police too difficult for many to overcome in Repube districts.