“The last thing we need in the fight against the far-right’s attacks against everything we hold dear is for our fellow progressives to use the kind of rhetoric (like “defund the police”) that reinforces negative stereotypes about Democrats and plays right into the hands of the Republican Party.”
(Somerville Wire) – As is widely known by now, the Boston chapter of the Democrats Socialists of America has endorsed five first-time candidates running for seats on the Somerville City Council in the upcoming elections.
All but one, Becca Miller, has called for “defunding” the police on their campaign websites. In what is nothing more than a matter of semantics, Miller’s website puts it somewhat differently, by saying that she supports a cut of 10% every year in the SPD budget.
Among the many prominent figures who have weighed on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of calling for “defunding the police” is none other than Barack Obama:
“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.” (New York Times, 12/20/20).
Another consequence of the widespread calls to “defund the police” is the impact it is already having on American politics. Given the dozens of voter suppression laws being passed all over the country, in addition to the real possibility that the Republicans could regain control of either the House and/or the Senate in 2022, it is no exaggeration to say that the very survival of American democracy is in serious jeopardy.
The last thing we need in the fight against the far-right’s attacks against everything we hold dear is for our fellow progressives to use the kind of rhetoric (like “defund the police”) that reinforces negative stereotypes about Democrats and plays right into the hands of the Republican Party.
Recent polling underlines how unpopular “defund the police” is across all segments of society. As has been reported in the NY Times, in a public opinion poll taken in March, only 18% of Americans support the demand to “defund the police.” Furthermore, according to the same Ipsos/USA Today poll referenced in the Times, only 28% of Black Americans support “defunding the police.”
Now let’s suppose, for a minute, that DSA candidates win enough seats in the next election to gain a majority in the Somerville City Council (which could actually happen). You can bet your bottom dollar this is just the kind of story that will be picked up by the national media. And even though DSA isn’t affiliated with the Democratic Party, if a traditional Democratic stronghold like Somerville votes to “defund the police,” it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out which party will benefit from such news and which party will take a hit from it.
Yet despite all of the controversy that the slogan “defund the police” has stirred up, there remains a lot of confusion about what it actually means. To some it means making deep cuts in police budgets and transferring those funds to programs that address the root causes of crime, drug addiction, mental health issues and homelessness. However, to others it simply means defunding the police altogether.
In looking at the campaign websites of the five first time candidates who have been endorsed by Boston DSA, it’s not fully clear which definition of “defund the police” they support. However, after digging into this more deeply, it became hard not to conclude that such ambiguity was a deliberately misleading tactic in order to avoid revealing what their actual positions are. So much for DSA’s professed commitment to political transparency.
Unfortunately for these five DSAers, as well as J.T. Scott, the incumbent city councilor from Ward 2, who has also been endorsed by Boston DSA, the Our Revolution Somerville questionnaires that all six of them filled out are in the public domain and thus easily accessible by all of the voters in Somerville. All you need to do is to hit link below and then scroll down to the names of the candidates and then hit “Questionnaire” under each of their names. https://sites.google.com/view/orsomerville/endorsements-and-elections/2021-municipal-endorsements?link_id=1&can_id=6a3d649a0162d90df34cabfb29f775a6&so
On the questionnaire, Question # 46 Q, asks whether or not each candidate supports “the police abolitionist movement.”
All three of the DSA at-large candidates: Willie Burnely Jr., Eve Seitchik, and Charlotte Kelly unequivocally answered “Yes”. As did the Boston DSA endorsed candidate for Ward 5, Tessa Bridge, and the DSA candidate in Ward 7, Becca Miller. As indicated above, so did Ward 2 councilor, J.T. Scott.
Notably, Bernie Sanders, the leading democratic socialist in the United States, doesn’t agree with any of them on this issue “Anyone who thinks that we should abolish all police departments in America, I don’t agree.” (New Yorker magazine, June of 2020).
It’s difficult to imagine that the majority of voters in Somerville will cast their ballots for candidates who not only support “defunding the police,” but actually support abolishing the police altogether. Time will tell.