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On ‘defund the police,’ Democrats must walk a tightrope

The protests over the death of George Floyd — with a generous helping of rioting and looting marbled in — quickly provoked a demand to “defund the police.”

Such a move didn’t seem very smart amid widespread head bashing, store trashing and arson setting — especially for Democrats siding with the looters but still heading into an election.

Perhaps realizing they went too far, we now see the radicals initiating a furious spin campaign to reassure the public that cops will still be there even if defunded. As The New York Times explained on Thursday, “Calls to defund police departments are generally seeking spending cuts to police forces that have consumed ever larger shares of city budgets in many cities and towns.”  

But a new poll reveals that this issue has generated quite the quandary for Democrats seeking to walk the line between the woke activists backing Black Lives Matter and Antifa and more traditional Democrats whose main concern is defeating President Donald Trump.

For instance, the Times interestingly cited Minneapolis as an example of this budget-shifting. But CBS News reported, “Minneapolis City Council members say they plan to vote to disband city’s police department.” Council President Lisa Bender tweeted, “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety” — although no one seems to know what that is. 

“Dismantle” surely sounds like the department is going away. And it seems clear that retaining the same level of staffing for cops or adding more would be a non-starter among activists.

At the same time, some leading Democrats in Congress, and the party’s unofficial presidential nominee, Joe Biden, don’t support defunding.

But, again, here is the dilemma for Democrats.

On Friday ABC News/Ipsos released a new poll that showed 64 percent of Americans reject the “defund the police” movement.

Moreover, the pollster reported, just “39 percent support reducing the budget of their local police department if the money is shifted to programs related to mental health, housing, and education.”

Among Democrats at large, however, support for defunding is running at 55 percent.

It’s slightly higher, 57 percent, among black Americans, who comprise a significant portion of the party’s base.

And considering age cohorts, the largest plurality of support — 46 percent — comes from young adults 18 to 29, who seem to be the bulk of those taking to the streets to denounce police officers as violent tools of racist government and demanding change.

Trump has made this easy on himself. He vigorously opposes defunding and has staked out ground as the “law and order” candidate. 

Biden and many other Democrats, though, must tip-toe along, seeking to avoid a politically fatal misstep.

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