Politics & Policy

The Squad Pushes Back after Obama Criticizes ‘Defund the Police’ Slogan

Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019 (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Members of the progressive “Squad” on Tuesday pushed back against former President Barack Obama’s criticism of the “defund the police” slogan. 

In an interview with Good Luck America, previewed on Tuesday and released in full on Wednesday, Obama criticized the phrase as a “snappy slogan” that led Democrats to alienate a large swathe of centrist voters.

“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased, and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘Defund the Police,’ but you know you’ve lost a big audience the minute you say it. Which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama told the political talk show that is aired on Snapchat.

Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) defended the phrase, saying in a tweet, “We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand.”

“And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety,” she added. 

Representative-elect Cori Bush (D., Mo.) similarly argued that the phrase is “not a slogan.”

“It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police,” she said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) invoked Rosa Parks, saying the civil rights activist was “vilified & attacked for her civil disobedience.”

“It’s hard seeing the same people who uplift her courage, attack the movement for Black lives that want us to prioritize health, funding of schools & ending poverty, rather than racist police systems,” she wrote.

Representative Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) said the “murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific,” adding that “lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists.” 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) has not responded to Obama’s comments, but has been feuding with Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) for nearly a month after the senator criticized calls to defund the police, saying, “Defund, my butt.”

Ocasio- Cortez responded by sharing a photo of herself glaring at Manchin when he applauded President Trump’s second State of the Union address.

After Democrats lost an unexpected number of House seats in last month’s election, moderate Democrats criticized the party’s progressive members, saying the “defund the police” movement and their embrace of socialism had hurt the party.

Representative Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), warned fellow Democrats during a conference call that “we will get f***ing torn apart again in 2022” if Democrats continue to push a radical left agenda.

Obama echoed this, saying, “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,” he added.


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