WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump and his allies have grasped calls for “police funding” as a dangerous example of overtaking democracy as he fights for momentum amid the crises threatening his re-election.
Leading Democrats, including presumed presidential candidate Joe Biden, distance themselves from the push for “funding”, which some proponents say is a symbolic pledge to end systemic racism and shift priorities police rather than a real plan to eliminate the police.
But confusion over the intent of the proposal has created an opportunity for the Republican president, who has struggled to navigate the delicate debate on racial justice, risking the support of people of color, suburban women and independents. less than five months before election day.
Faced with growing pressure to weigh in, Biden addressed the issue on Monday in an interview with “CBS Evening News”.
“I do not support the funding of the police. I support the conditioning of federal assistance to the police according to whether or not it meets certain basic standards of decency, good repute and, in fact, is able to demonstrate that it can protect the community, everyone in the community. “Said Biden.
Other opponents of the movement include Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., A former presidential candidate and one of two black Democratic senators, and Representative Karen Bass, D-California, leader of the Congressional Black Caucus.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson in an interview also refused to support calls for police reimbursement.
“I support the energy behind. I don’t know what it means on the merits. When I talk to people about the concept, I got three different explanations, “said Johnson, who criticized Trump. “We know there has to be a change in the police culture in this country. ”
Democrats are well placed to conquer the political center this fall, according to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who said that Trump’s uneven actions and rhetoric in a time of radical social unrest “killed him.”
Luntz added, however, that Democrats are risking their advantage by adopting policies considered radical after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The handcuffed black man died after a white officer stuck his knee in Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Minneapolis city officials have endorsed the language of “police funding” supported by some civil rights activists and a handful of progressive Democrats. Over the weekend, protesters also painted “DEFUND THE POLICE” in large yellow letters on a street near the White House.
But there was little evidence that the effort was gaining momentum in Congress. Some Democrats described it as bad policy, even though most Democrats shared the desire to see the police again.
Former senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., A white moderate who lost his candidacy for re-election in 2018, said that “funding the police” is “a horrible name” that misinterprets the goal.
“By starting with the word ‘smash’, you left the impression that you are doing something much more radical than what needs to be done,” said Heitkamp, a leader of the One Country Project, who is trying to help Democrats connect better with rural voters.
She said the term frustrated her “there is going to be someone who will try to find an opportunity in this area, especially among the Republican Party, and use it now as an excuse for not addressing what is a very real problem in America. ”
This is largely what happened when the Trump campaign and the Republicans in Congress sought to link the Democrats to the fundraising effort.
“This year has seen the lowest number of crimes in the history of our country, and now the Democrats of the radical left want to fund and abandon our police,” Trump said on social media. “Sorry, I want LAW AND ORDER! ”
The GOP campaign arm sent emails condemning “police funding” and linking it to Democratic candidates.
The Capitol Hill Democrats unveiled a vast proposal on Monday to tackle police brutality that did not include withdrawing police funding. The Police Justice Act would limit legal protections for the police, create a national database of incidents of excessive force, and prohibit strangulation, among other changes.
Representative Greg Meeks, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a group of moderate House Democrats called the New Democrat Coalition, said that Trump’s tweets accusing Democrats of trying to kill the police are a distraction.
“It looks like the guy who’s the 45th president is trying to divert attention from the real issue, the brutality and the murder of George Floyd,” said Meeks, who represents New York. “And we’re not going to allow them to do that. ”
Democrat representative Matt Cartwright, who is white and represents a Trump-leaning neighborhood in northeastern Pennsylvania, has rejected calls to fund the police.
“I don’t care about his name, I’m not for that,” he said, noting that he had joined the protest marches in his neighborhood.