Cory Booker overtook Republicans on "Defund the Police." Now what?

At the 16th hour of a Senate debate earlier this month, Cory Booker rose to speak at around 1 a.m. “I’m so excited!” He roared, frownin...


At the 16th hour of a Senate debate earlier this month, Cory Booker rose to speak at around 1 a.m. “I’m so excited!” He roared, frowning and clapping his fist in his hand, like a pitcher trotting towards the mound. Booker, who represents New Jersey, leaned back and put a hand in his pocket. He smiled and raised an eyebrow mischievously. “It’s a gift,” he said. “If it wasn’t for a complete abdication of Senate procedures and esteem, I would go over there and kiss my colleague from Alabama.”

Booker was referring to an amendment to the 2022 budget – which was the subject of the Senate marathon session – and to Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected senator from Alabama, who proposed it moments earlier. “My amendment is pretty straightforward,” Tuberville said. “If your city council wants to fund their policy, don’t expect the federal government to make up the difference. Local leaders across the country, he continued, “have decided the right thing to do is to cancel their town’s police force,” but the Alabamis will not “take the note” for the ” police fundraising movement awakened “.

Wake up, cancel, refund – Tuberville was practically auditioning for a spot on Tucker Carlson’s show the next day. But in his turn at the desk, Booker beat him. The Tuberville Amendment was a giveaway, he said, because it would “end the slanderous accusation that someone in this esteemed great body would want” – he paused for deceptively shocked effect – “Fund the police”. Booker urged every senator “not to walk, but to stoop” to vote for the Tuberville amendment. He ended by calling on the Senate to add language expressing unanimous support for “God, country and” – punch from the pulpit – “apple pie”.

Booker was, in other words, spreading it out. The tone deviates from its typical register, which recalls a preacher turned therapist. If Tuberville hoped to view Democratic senators as radical all cops are bastards – or beholden to Twitter activists of that ilk – Booker saw an opportunity to set the record straight. His clip drew laughs from commentators on CNN and MSNBC, effectively foiling Tuberville’s plans. And basically, Booker has made his wish come true. Tuberville’s amendment passed by 99 to 0 votes, completing a shrewd political shift for Democrats on the sensitive issue of policing.

One summer ago, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the racial justice protests that followed, the party seemed genuinely divided over whether to support the growing calls by the left to fund the police. Members of the House of Swing Districts, such as Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, said the fundraising movement has played into the hands of Republicans by alienating moderate voters. Members of the House of Safe Neighborhoods, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City, have advocated cutting police budgets and redirecting money to other public safety measures.

A fundamental aspiration of the fundraising movement is to reduce violent encounters between officers and the public by deploying mental health professionals to answer certain 911 calls. Some cities have started adding such services. Denver, for example, has implemented an alternative response to 911, with social workers answering some calls; similar pilot projects are underway in Oakland and Portland, Oregon. But as promising as they are, these local experiences are not what many of the most ardent advocates of police funding had in mind – and that is not what their slogan, fairly or not, has come to stand for. Police funding has become associated with calls to remove officers from the streets or even completely disband departments – which can be hard to imagine in real terms. What would a city look like if unarmed public security officers replaced all cops with guns? How to remove firearms from law enforcement in a country with tens of millions more guns than citizens?

If Booker is successful in pulling his party away from the fundraising movement, the question is what Congress Democrats will need to show for it.

Most Americans, by all demographics, share these concerns. In March 2021, a USA Today / Ipsos poll showed that only 18% support “defunding”. For black Americans, the figure was a bit higher: 28%. But 43 percent of all respondents supported redirecting some police funds to social services. In New Haven, the predominantly black and Latino city where I live, the mayor’s office is working on a new community resilience ministry to address violence prevention and crisis response, as well as homelessness, mental health , drug use and re-entry into prison. But with the increase in homicides and shootings, the city is also investing more money in the police. Funding is a non-starter.

Democrats can appear cowardly when they disavow the passionate stance of their party’s left wing. Bill Clinton drew this criticism when he singled out activist Sister Souljah for her outburst of anger towards whites amid the Los Angeles riots of 1992. The “Sister Souljah moment” has since become a shorthand for any strategic split between Democrats, politicians and the militant base. Booker’s Senate drama not only struck the left, but also aligned Democrats in the House with President Biden, who has been in favor of more money for cops for decades.

If Booker is successful in pulling his party away from the fundraising movement, the question is what Congress Democrats will need to show for it. After all, the point of having the right policy on an issue is to create a space for making policies. Booker, who was one of the Senate’s most committed members on criminal justice reform, worked for months on the Senate’s version of a police reform bill named in honor by George Floyd. “I bent and contorted in every way to try to make a bill that could draw people from both sides of the aisle,” Booker told ABC News last month.

But it has been a thankless task. Booker negotiated with two major police unions in search of a broad deal that would pass with Republicans, but when he thought he had the basis for a deal, other law enforcement unions s ‘are opposed to it. This led Senator Lindsey Graham to publicly denounce the proposal. Booker’s talks with Republican negotiator Senator Tim Scott are continuing, but it’s unclear where they’re headed.

If Congress does nothing, despite all the promises and heartbreak of police murders, it will take responsibility for a half measure the country has seen many times before: more money for the police but no new money. checks on its power. Democrats who have found safe ground in fundraising politics must now continue to stand up for what they want to do when it comes to policing. Solutions, however, often don’t produce impactful TV clips.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Cory Booker overtook Republicans on "Defund the Police." Now what?
Cory Booker overtook Republicans on "Defund the Police." Now what?
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