They already have enough ammunition.


President Obama's comments about "defunding the police" being a mantra that "loses people" are absolutely correct - no qualifications necessary.

It's yet another one of those things in our politics in which several things can be true at the same time.

First, the obvious. Something needs to be done at a national level about our police and that starts with funding. Our police forces are trigger happy and dangerous, particularly for black people as well as people with mental illness. Decades of defunding mental health and social services, as well as a failed "war on drugs" has led to an insane amount of over - policing. And the population is so awash in propaganda from "blue lives matter" up to and including "protect and serve" that it makes their budgets particularly impenetrable. But that's where it starts - redirecting funds from policing to broader public services for people who need them.

We - and Obama - get that.

But - and this is President Obama's point - "defund the police" is bad marketing to get that job - the one that we agree all needs doing - done. You can agree on the overall goal and disagree with the phrase that is being used in service of that goal. Just saying "but it's true!", doesn't make it good marketing. 

Note: charts aren't great marketing, either.

That's because to the ill - informed, "defund the police" sounds like madness. And if you add the ill informed to our massive population of authoritarian - friendly citizens, that happens to be way, way more people than the reform - minded people + activists. Activists - no matter how accurate or passionate their plea - "lose people" with "defund the police". And the people they lose are the persuadable who are necessary to put enough broad pressure on the system for it to change. 

The biggest piece of evidence that it's a bad mantra / slogan / thing is that the "blue lives matter" authoritarians have absolutely zero qualms about amplifying "defund the police". Because they know it serves their interests. They know it creates a false parallel between their extremists (who want to make it legal to run people over with their cars) and activists with the wacky notion that public safety is important. They rely on that false parallel from top to bottom. 

If the Republican party embraced a straight up position of "abortion bans now!" or "keep America white" (ahem...), I actually hesitate to guess what the consequences would be since the party's leader made himself famous for saying the quiet part out loud. But there's a reason they bookend their TRAP policies with "the left wants abortion on demand!". When your position is unpopular and extreme, a polar opposite matters.

But on the issue of police brutality... we really don't have "two sides". One side is okay with cops having legal immunity and shooting whomever they want without consequence, and one side is... not. And the side that IS okay with unaccountable cops needs a villain that's just as deplorable as they are. Hence "they want to get rid of all cops!" and "what if no one shows up when you call 911?".

So in theory, and as much as our polarized politics allows for it, messaging matters. Targeting appeals and thinking carefully about who needs to be converted matters.

    What do we want?

        A redirection of tax dollars away from law enforcement and towards better                 public services and social workers to help those in need!

    When  do we want it?

        Within the next few years hopefully as part of a broader federal stimulus                     package to mitigate the pandemic!

It's certainly not as catchy, and it's focused on those pesky facts instead of a larger "truth". But as Joe Biden's election proves to a degree, it's the kind of boring, procedural governing that we need right now.

So two things are true - we should defund the police. But, there are ways advocating for doing so that don't alienate those who are sympathetic to the idea and that don't hand ammunition to the enemies of the idea.

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