New Woke Litmus Test: 'Defund the Police'?

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Posted: Jun 08, 2020 10:25 AM
New Woke Litmus Test: 'Defund the Police'?

Source: Demonstrators paint the words 'defund the police' as they protest near the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A very unpopular, radical idea is gaining traction on the woke Left, which is increasingly incorporating the demand that government "defund the police" as a core component of the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not just a social media hashtag; it's emblazoned on signs and placards at protests, it's being chanted in the streets, and it's becoming a proposal -- if you can call it that -- with which politicians are being confronted. After the Mayor of Washington, DC, painted "Black Lives Matter" in large font across two blocks of 16th street (which was decried as "performative" by BLM), activists added this:


Some liberals, nervous about this slogan, are busily attempting to explain that defunding the police doesn't really mean defunding-defunding the police, despite the unambiguous meaning of the slogan's words. MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle performed pre-emptive damage control in a tweet that read, "defunding the police does NOT mean cutting the pay of police officers or taking their pensions away." The replies featured a mix of leftists insisting that yes, that's precisely what they mean when they say "defund the police," with other liberals fretting that the public relations impact of that phrase could be beneficial to Republicans. Ruhle deleted the tweet. This is a good point:


The problem for Democrats is that their base is split on the question. In case you missed it over the weekend, watch as the lefty Mayor of Minneapolis gets loudly booed and told to leave a rally after he stated his opposition to defunding -- i.e., abolishing -- the police department (content warning):  


And then this happened:


The Trump campaign, which has noted that Joe Biden staffers have contributed to funds to bail rioters out of jail, seems eager to tie Biden to this issue. Republicans generally appear interested in Democrats answering questions on this front, for obvious reasons:


Indeed, a new YouGov poll shows strong support for a number of police reforms, but defunding police departments is wildly unpopular: "Despite calls by activists and protesters to defund police departments, most Americans do not support reducing law enforcement budgets. Close to two-thirds (65%) oppose cutting police force funding. Just 16 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans support that idea." It will be interesting to see if these margins hold up. A recent Morning Consult survey found a strong majority in favor of deploying the military to help police control riots. But after the left-of-center conventional wisdom pronounced this idea horrifying and even "dangerous," Democrats swung from plurality support to overwhelming opposition (+6 to -52), practically overnight. For many, their initial instinct was to favor the measure, but they flipped as soon as they were informed what the 'correct' opinion was. In light of that sort of tribalism, if "defund the police" becomes the litmus test for wokeness, its support will increase, particularly among self-identified Democrats.

Those who angrily oppose the military's participation in quelling riots are effectively arguing that the police alone should handle that task. As I mentioned last week, many of those same people also believe that the police are irredeemably and systemically racist and abusive. I'd add that many of the people who want police departments defunded also want to heavily restrict or even ban citizens from owning firearms. This combination of insane and unconstitutional policy preferences would create a dystopian nightmare in which only criminals would have guns, with law-abiding citizens rendered unable to defend themselves, with no one to call for help. Here's a preview of the anarchy:

Steven Pinker was a 15-year-old anarchist. He didn’t think people needed a police force to keep the peace. Governments caused the very problems they were supposed to solve...At the dinner table, he argued with his parents about human nature. “They said, ‘What would happen if there were no police?’ ” he recalled. “I said: ‘What would we do? Would we rob banks? Of course not. Police make no difference.’ ” This was in Montreal, “a city that prided itself on civility and low rates of crime,” he said. Then, on Oct. 17, 1969, police officers and firefighters went on strike, and he had a chance to test his first hypothesis about human nature...“All hell broke loose,” Dr. Pinker recalled. “Within a few hours there was looting. There were riots. There was arson. There were two murders. And this was in the morning that they called the strike.”

Sounds appealing, doesn't it? I understand that not everyone mouthing those three words is actually calling for the practical abolition of the police, but many are, and words have meaning. It's hard not to marvel at the protest movement seeming to be settling on one of the least popular ideas in America as a key demand. I'll leave you with two videos, the first of which underscores the need for police reforms. Imagine applauding this callousness:

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And here's a police representative telling off a leftist Los Angeles councilwoman over funding cuts for the LAPD: