Axios Sees a Way out for Democrats on 'Defund the Police,' but There's a Big Problem

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

As we reported earlier this week, New York City handed the “Defund the Police” movement a humiliating defeat when Democrats picked Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams as their mayoral nominee. Adams is heavily favored to defeat Republican nominee Curtis Silwa in the fall election, the winner of which will replace failed Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Adams’ primary victory is viewed as a stinging rejection of the push to defund the police because he expressly campaigned against it. His experience as a former NYPD officer and his statements about how he was beaten by a police officer when he was a teenager also lent credence to his claims that he understood both the police perspective and the perspective of black residents who were mistrustful of police – and would work as mayor to bridge the divide.

In a write-up about Adams’ primary win, Axios.com suggested that the New York Democrat had provided a blueprint of sorts for Democrats going forward who wanted to escape being lumped in with Defund supporters:

Adams, 60, who retired as an NYPD captain after a 22-year law-enforcement career, spoke to rattled New Yorkers with a twin message of “the justice we deserve and the safety we need.”

The win by Adams, currently Brooklyn borough president, “permissions every Democrat around the nation to argue for safety and justice” over defunding police, Howard Wolfson, top Democratic strategist and former deputy mayor for Mike Bloomberg, told me.

The win will “chart a course for Democrats around the country,” Wolfson tweeted.

[…]

The bottom line: Many voters of color don’t want to defund the police, because they deal with some of the worst of the crime. The Adams model: Reform, don’t defund, policing. Take both crime and police misconduct seriously.

It’d be nice if that hot take was true. Not because I want to see Democrats win anywhere but because inevitably they will win in certain areas due to the demographics of the city/state in which they’re running. It would be nice to know that even those victories wouldn’t mean an automatic rush to pull funds from the police department, because regardless of what the white affluent liberals who are calling for defunding want, most people – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. still trust the police and want them to either maintain their presence in local communities or increase it. The polls bear that out.

The problem with the Axios/Wolfson take is that it’s simply a pipe dream. House Democrats got dragged with the “Defund the Police” label last year not simply for expressing sympathy for BLM radicals who chanted “Defund the Police”, but also because some of those same Democrats used anti-police rhetoric of their own.

For instance, future Vice President Kamala Harris supported a bail fund for extremist defund-the-police “protesters,” many of whom were arrested for their role in virtually destroying entire city blocks in Minneapolis via looting, fires, and violence. Then-Democratic-presidential-nominee Joe Biden also contributed to the effort, suggesting he was open to “redirecting” police funds elsewhere.

Over the summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called federal officers “stormtroopers” and part of then-President Trump’s supposed “secret police” force, when they were sent in to help riot-plagued cities like Portland deal with demonstrators trying to burn down federal courthouses.

Most prominently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said last year during the debate in New York City on reallocating police funding that “defunding police means defunding police.” Other “Squad” members have made similar comments and continue to do so.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) put it in simpler terms during a combative interview on MSNBC Thursday: “Defund the police is a chokehold around the Democratic Party!” and House members paid a political price for it last year.

In addition to that, the funding issues for police start at the local level, and city council districts are like state legislative and U.S. House districts, drawn along partisan lines. In “progressive” cities like Portland and Oakland, radical leftists are going to put Defund the Police candidates in local offices and the only way to stop them from implementing that agenda is by having a mayor who will veto any budget that includes gutting the local police force (which is what happened in Minneapolis in December).

How many far-left mayors are going to have the guts to do that? Unlike Adams, most are beholden to radical leftists who camp out at city hall and at the private residences of local officials, some of who are threatened if they dare to disagree on defunding the police.

While Adams’ win earlier this week was good news for New Yorkers, in my view this does not signal a path forward for Democrats to escape the Defund the Police label. That ship has long sailed, and there’s no getting off it for them now.

Related: Judge Deals Massive Blow to ‘Defund the Police’ Movement in Minneapolis