Growing divisions within the Democratic Party over the messaging of saying "defund the police," has stalled talks on bipartisan police reform legislation and sparked worries of hurting the party in the upcoming midterm elections.
Although Democrats in the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last month, the legislation stalled after the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 different groups that includes various Black Lives Matter organizations, ripped the bill for providing "incrementalist reforms," in a letter to congressional leadership.
"The bill bans federal use of chokeholds, ignoring the reality that police have killed Black people in this manner regardless of whether these bans are in place," the letter reads, according to the Associated Press. "A no knock warrant ban would not have saved Breonna Taylor’s life, just like a ban on chokeholds did not save Eric Garner’s life. The JPA [Justice in Policing Act] fails to address the root causes and realities of policing in this country."
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told CNN in late March that he’s "hopeful" that the Senate can reach an agreement on a police reform bill.
"I've been talking with my colleagues on the other side," Scott said. "I think we are in a position where we're at least in the middle of a serious conversation. I'm hopeful that it goes in the right direction, which is to the finish line and becomes law in a bipartisan fashion."
A large organization of outside networks, working with various congressional groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congressional Progressive Caucus, have joined together to examine the impact of the attacks on the defund the police movement on the 2020 election as part of a larger examination of the party’s performance, the left-leaning super PAC Priorities USA found in a survey of voters.
"Let me start off by saying this: The role of an activist is not the same as the role of a politician. That has been true of grassroots campaigns and activists’ campaigns since the beginning of time. It was true during the civil rights movement," said Guy Cecil, chair of Priorities USA, in a press briefing recently. "Having said that, in the aggregate, when you look at the totality of the election, ‘defund the police’ in the aggregate neither helped nor hurt the cause."
A recent poll from Ipsos/USA Today found that less than 1-in-5 voters support the "defund the police" movement, with more than half opposing.
Analysis from Democrat consultant Matthew Weaver shows that Republican attack ads accusing Democrats of wanting to slash funding for police were no more impactful than other GOP attack ads, but ads from Democrats that refuted these attacks "made a difference," according to Politico.
"Those candidates who aired such spots performed better than President Joe Biden by 1.5 percentage points for every 1,000 gross ratings points — a measure of advertising impact — run," Politico notes.
Weaver said that the lesson here is that "not addressing certain false allegations explicitly and head-on is a strategic error that many cannot afford to make."
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla told Politico: "We expect that Republicans will continue spreading lies and misinformation about our candidates and their positions, and Democrats will be ready to combat those Republican lies and make clear to voters where they stand."
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