Former President Barack Obama addresses voters one day before the election, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Brandon Bell


The slogan “defund the police” is counterproductive, former President Barack Obama suggested in an interview with Peter Hamby on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.”

He said that the criminal justice system should be reformed so it treats everyone fairly, but the phrase “defund the police,” what Obama derisively called “a snappy slogan,” loses a portion of the audience. In a country as diverse as the U.S., it is better to simply present examples of police reform, Obama said.

Obama isn’t the only prominent Democrat to disapprove of the phrase. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)  don’t like it and neither does President-elect Joe Biden. Following the November election, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said in a leaked audio clip that members of Congress should say “defund the police” only if that is exactly what they mean.

Many members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party criticized Obama for his statements. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted, “We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand.” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) invoked the legacy of Rosa Parks and questioned the reasoning behind critiquing a movement that’s fighting for racial justice. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said the point of using a provocative phrase such as “defund the police” is to make people uncomfortable. Activists can then use that discomfort to advocate for concrete policy changes.


Democrats Have a Messaging Problem. Will They Do the Work to Fix It? – The Root – 12/1/2020
The main reason Democrats woke after Nov. 3 with less power than they expected is because of a weak national messaging strategy and leadership ran away from the radical base of their party instead of embracing it, activists told The Root. They were especially offended when Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn blamed “defund the police,” socialism and other progressive platforms as reasons why Democrats underperformed.

Obama Knocks ‘Defund the Police’ Activists for Valuing ‘Feel Good’ Sloganeering Over Practical Reforms – Reason – 12/2/2020
There were some modest successes in police reform over the summer, but they almost feel like they’ve happened despite the “defund the police” movement, and because they had the support of civil libertarians of all political persuasions. We’ve seen laws passed to ban “no-knock raids” in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s shooting death by police in Louisville, Kentucky; we’ve seen new laws banning types of chokeholds, partly in response to anger over the death of George Floyd under the knee of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin; we’ve seen, after years of resistance, New York state pass a bill that subjects police misconduct and disciplinary files to public records laws.

Barack Obama Criticizes ‘Snappy‘ Defund The Police Slogan – Essence – 12/2/2020
Obama is no stranger to remarks such as these, ones that condescend and arguably attempt to delegitimize years of critical movement work. Framing calls to defund the police as a flawed, self-congratulatory, theoretical exercise is deeply insulting to thousands of people who took to the streets to fight for Black lives with a determination and commitment that the U.S. government has, thus far, failed to echo or act upon.

The Squad Pushes Back after Obama Criticizes ‘Defund the Police’ Slogan – National Review – 12/2/2020
Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) defended the phrase, saying in a tweet, “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,” she added. 

Obama Says ‘Defund The Police’ Alienates Voters, Drawing Sharp Rebuke From The Left – HuffPost – 12/2/2020
Obama’s remarks — particularly his use of the term “slogan” — were promptly lambasted by several progressive Democrats, including Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker and Cori Bush, who made history last month when she became the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress. “We didn’t lose Breonna because of a slogan,” said Booker, referring to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot dead in her own apartment by Louisville police in March. 

‘You Have To Be Clearer’: Joy Behar Challenges Sunny Hostin Over ‘Defund The Police’ Narrative – Daily Caller – 12/2/2020
Co-host Sara Haines then weighed in, saying she tended to agree with Obama. Haines added that “defund the police” had been explained differently by different people — some of whom did advocate dismantling police departments in their entirety — and that she had been confused by the disparity.


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