‘Defund my butt’: Democrats battle over left-wing policy demands even as they agree Biden should focus on the economy and healthcare

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to media during a census outreach event ahead of the census deadline in The Bronx, New York City

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As the Democratic Party processes its devastating losses in down-ballot races across the country this cycle, prominent voices within the party are waging public battles over what went wrong. 

Moderate Democrats blame progressives for sinking the party’s candidates in red and purple parts of the country by embracing unpopular left-wing proposals that Republicans have branded as “socialist,” including calls to defund law enforcement and ban fracking.

High-profile progressives, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, have accused centrists of “finger-pointing,” running tactically weak campaigns, and silencing Black and Brown activists and the party’s base. 

But there’s a relative consensus among progressive operatives that Democrats need to refocus themselves on policies that enjoy broad support particularly among crucial white working-class voters, like investing in green jobs and lowering prescription drug costs.

A case study in ‘defund the police’ 

Perhaps no left-wing demand has gotten more attention than calls to “defund” the police. The movement to reallocate law enforcement funding to social services emerged with force amid the nationwide protests following George Floyd’s death in police custody in May. 

Some activists are calling to abolish police forces, others want reform and new investments in community policing. Democratic lawmakers and candidates’ responses to the calls run the gamut. While then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for reforms to “root out systemic racism” and invest in marginalized communities, he rejected “defunding” law enforcement. Many centrists called for reform and increased investment in police forces, while progressives like Ocasio-Cortez embraced reallocating resources to social services.

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At the same time, the Black Lives Matter protests last spring prompted a significant surge in voter registrations among Democrats and independents, and Americans’ support for BLM skyrocketed. But approval of the movement dropped in the summer, as both peaceful protests and rioting continued and President Donald Trump ratcheted up his anti-BLM messaging. 

“White voters’ support for Black Lives Matter protests began to wane and the ‘law and order’ messaging from the president started to trickle down in the local races,” Basil Smikle, a Democratic political consultant and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, told Business Insider. 

Smikle agrees with South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, who’s argued that calls to defund the police are “killing our party” and also undermining the Black Lives Matter movement. Clyburn recently compared the slogan to the controversial “burn, baby, burn” chant used by some activists during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Red and purple-district Democrats are urging a re-thinking of messaging on policing and criminal justice reform. 

“When we want to talk about funding social services, and ensuring good engagement in community policing, let’s talk about what we are for,” Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia moderate who won a close reelection race, told Democratic House colleagues during a tense call last week.

The centrist think tank Third Way argued in a post-election memo released Wednesday that moderate Democrats in purple and red states and districts were “unable to escape” the impact of Republican attack ads that accused them of supporting socialism, defunding the …read more

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Source:: Businessinsider – Politics

      

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