Is “defund the police” the dumbest political slogan ever? Until somebody comes up with “abolish the fire department,” it’s a contender.
It is more than passing strange that smart people are writing weighty essays about what a phrase as self-explanatory as “defund the police” means. Doesn’t “defund the police” mean defund the police?
Not according to Philip McHarris, the lead research and policy associate at the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability.
According to McHarris, the phrase has no meaning at all. Of course, he puts it a little more delicately: the meaning of defund the police “depends on who you ask.” Some supporters want to reallocate some, but not all, funds away from police departments to social services. Some “want to strip all police funding and dissolve departments.”
This isn’t a knock on McHarris. In fact, he’s absolutely right. His description of the inane narrative circulating around the meaning of “defund the police” is spot on.
Christy Lopez, a professor at Georgetown Law School, writes in the Washington Post that “’defunding the police’ is not as scary (or even as radical) as it sounds.” “Do not be afraid,” she tells us, “defunding and abolition probably mean something different from what you are thinking.” “Defunding” doesn’t really mean defunding, it just means “shrinking the scope” of police responsibilities. And “police abolition” doesn’t really mean abolition – at least not all at once right away – although it carries the aspirational “vision” of eventually eliminating reliance on police for public safety entirely. In the meantime, according to Lopez, it just means “reducing” our reliance on police.
Funny it doesn’t actually say that.
If it takes an essay by a law professor to try to tell us what “defunding the police” does mean, isn’t that a clue that there’s something wrong with the phrase in the first place?
Doesn’t “not as scary as it sounds” tell you right from the get-go that as a slogan to rally around it’s, well, awful?
How do you think “Defund the Police” will stack up against “Great American Comeback” as a campaign theme? Will mostly unread op-eds telling us not to get hung up on the words “defund the police,” just get into the spirit of it, carry the day against the themes of renewing, recovering, restoring and rebuilding?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the proponents of “Defund the Police” say they intended it to mean. What matters is what people hear. Words matter. If Democrats add “Defund the Police” to their 2020 campaign rhetoric, the phrase will take its place right up there with “Open Borders,” “Socialism” and “Medicare For All.”
Not even Karl Rove could find a better way to sabotage the Democrats with a more toxic slogan.
What does “Defund the Police” really mean?
It means re-elect Donald Trump.