Former President Barack Obama criticized the slogan “defund the police” on Wednesday as detrimental to Democrats in elections, in an interview on Good Luck America, a political talk show aired on Snapchat.
“You lost a big audience the minute you say” defund the police, “which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama told host Peter Hamby. “The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?”
Democrats from the party’s moderate wing have blamed election losses on their progressive colleagues’ embrace of the “defund the police” slogan and “socialist” label. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), a moderate who won reelection by less than 10,000 votes, warned colleagues during a conference call that “we will get f***ing torn apart again in 2022” if Democrats continue to cast themselves as radicals.
“We have to commit to not saying the words ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Spanberger said.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., Ga.), a staunch ally of president-elect Joe Biden, has also blamed Democratic losses on the embrace of the “defund the police” slogan by progressives. Obama echoed those remarks in his Wednesday interview.
“Socialism is still a loaded term for a lot of folks. Once again, instead of talking labels and ideology, we should focus on talking about getting certain things done,” Obama said.
However, Obama also indicated that the Democratic party should give more attention to its younger representatives, including progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) who has embraced the socialist label and endorsed calls to defund urban police departments.
“The Democratic National Convention I thought was really successful considering the pandemic. But, the fact that an AOC only got, what? Three minutes or five minutes?” the former president said. “New blood is always good. And I say that as somebody who used to be the young, shiny cool guy, but now is the gray-haired old grizzled vet.”