The issue that could make the inevitable Biden win a nailbiter
The drumbeat to “defund the police” is troubling to me, and it’s worth musing aloud if the push from the fringes of the Democratic Party might not have an impact that most of us don’t want to see on Nov. 3.
The conventional wisdom has come to be that comparing 2020 to 1968 is taking where things are now a bit too far, but what passes for conventional wisdom hasn’t had that good a track record of late, so, whatever, it’s worth revisiting.
The 1968 election turned against Democrats against the conventional wisdom of that era. Yes, the Vietnam War was unpopular, but so was Richard Nixon, who had followed up his loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960 with a failed run for governor in California in 1962, after which he famously declared, “you don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”
Nixon, writing the playbook that Ronald Reagan and then Donald Trump would follow later on, swept to a surprising win in the Republican nomination race in 1968, then set himself in the general as the candidate of what he came to call the “Silent Majority,” a coalition of working-class and middle-class whites that were ill at ease with the riots and protests on the evening news every night.
You don’t have to squint much to see Trump as Nixon, and Biden as the “Happy Warrior,” Hubert H. Humphrey, trying to hold together a coalition of centrist, center-left and radical elements whose dislike for each other is only slightly less than that for the folks on the other side of the ideological ledger.
And Humphrey wasn’t fighting a battle within his own party over the very existence of law enforcement.
“Defund the police” makes for something quick, concise, it fits nice on a bumper sticker, but it means different things to the different groups – and none of this is good for Biden.
To the fringes, “defund the police” means what the dictionary says it should mean, effectively, taking money that we currently budget for local police and spending it on something else, as in, “no more police.”
But you’ll hear from some who advocate for “defunding the police” that, actually, no, let’s not go that far, we don’t mean actually “defunding the police,” just breaking down problem police departments and replacing them with new police departments, as was done, with success, in Camden, N.J.
Which, OK, fine, if that’s what you mean, but the problem is, if that’s what “defund the police” becomes in practice, how will the fringes that want “no more police” respond to that?
Not well, obviously, but here’s where we get to the real problem.
The center-left and center, and Republicans ready to peel off from the train wreck that is Trump in droves, hear “defund the police,” and they see the activists setting up CHAZ in Seattle, and mayors ordering law enforcement to stand down as protestors deface public property in cities, and they’re saying, quietly, no way.
I know, because I’m a center-left Democrat, a former Democratic Party local chair, and I feel this way.
And while Biden has tried his best to thread the needle between saying publicly that he doesn’t want to “defund the police” while also advocating for reforms, this is going to be an obvious weak point that Trump and his team will try to exploit in the fall.
The 2020 election currently feels very much like it’s Biden’s to lose.
If it is to turn, it happens one of two ways: COVID-19 burns itself out by the fall, or the Trump team is successful in messaging the left that they should be disappointed that Biden doesn’t fully back “defunding the police,” and messaging to the center that he does.
Story by Chris Graham