Obama’s Thoughts on ‘Defund the Police’ Weren’t Exactly Surprising.
As I have said now on more than one occasion, I prefer not to discuss President Obama because frankly, I would rather focus my energy elsewhere. Considering how much has happened over the course of the last eight months alone, there have been no shortage of reasons to address people who are currently able to bring forth legislation and create policy instead. But every once in a while, Barack Obama comes forward and says or does something that I am unable to ignore, especially considering how he has such a profound impact and influence on the discourse and decisions that are made. Unfortunately, his recent comments about the calls to ‘defund the police’ leave me feeling compelled to address them.
Justine Coleman with The Hill writes:
“Former President Obama said political candidates lose support when using ‘snappy’ slogans like ‘defund the police,’ in an interview scheduled to be released Wednesday.
Obama told Peter Hamby, who hosts a Snapchat political show “Good Luck America,” that those who use the slogan could jeopardize their goals of enacting meaningful reforms for police.
“You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” the former president said in the interview scheduled to go live at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, according to Axios.”
Understandably, his comments were met with backlash not only from leftists, but sitting Representatives in congress as well.
Represenative Ilhan Omar said in response:
“We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety.”
“It’s not a slogan but a policy demand.”
And therein, I believe, lies exactly what bothers Barack Obama so much about the calls to defund the police.
The thing is, it should go without saying that Obama is intelligent enough to understand that it’s not a slogan. He understands that it is a call for exactly what Ilhan Omar said it was in her response: “the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country, that get us progress and safety”. When lawmakers or pundits address defunding education, people are more than capable of understanding that it means re-allocating the funds allotted for that particular program to go elsewhere instead, so why should we pretend that people wouldn’t be able to understand that when it comes to police? Instead of changing the slogan, why not use the conversation it sparks as a way to show the American people where else that a lot of that money could be going, like education, social work, and jobs programs? The black lives matter movement certainly sparked conversations and push back particularly in the beginning, but organizers did not back down. So why should organizers back down from calls to defund the police?
‘Defund the police’ is not a “snappy slogan”, but ‘hope and change’ and ‘yes we can’ certainly are.
From the moment he entered the national political stage, Barack Obama built his entire image around platitudes and slogans, so I’m not entirely surprised that he is more than happy to come out and critique any authentic demands for change.
In all honesty, when I first read his comments the first thing I thought of was his reported conversation with Pete Buttigieg not long before Super Tuesday, when he told him he has leverage, and should consider how to use it. Clearly, it was a not so subtle way to press the Mayor to endorse Joe Biden and sink Bernie Sanders’ campaign just before he was about to clinch the nomination. Well, Obama certainly has leverage. More leverage than arguably any other figure in the corporate wing of the Democratic party. I just find it disappointing, but unsurprising that his criticizing calls to defund the police were just the latest example — after almost singlehandedly ending the potential of an NBA strike — of how he has used it to vilify any demands for meaningful change.
Perhaps no one summed it up better than Beth on Twitter, who said:
Imagine if Obama instead used his powerful voice to urge politicians to make sure people weren’t evicted and starving during a pandemic, rather than picking apart “defund the police”.
Nonetheless, it was encouraging to see people like not only Ilhan Omar, but Jamaal Bowman who had the courage to respond back to Obama’s comments. The former president will certainly be a thorn in the side of any leftist movements for a long time to come, but it’s good to see that there are at least some leaders willing to publicly disagree.