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Citations Needed

Dec 16, 2020

"Sen. Mark Warner said progressives' calls to 'defund the police' were in part to blame for Democratic losses in the House in a cycle when the party was expected to gain seats," The Hill tells us. "How ’defund the police' sabotaged Democrats on Election Day," Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune writes."'Defund the police’ is killing our party, and we’ve got to stop it," said South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn. In the wake of the Democrats’ disappointing Congressional showing in last month’s elections, centrist Democrats and their media mouthpieces were quick to blame Black Lives Matter and the "defund the police" movement for their subpar results.

There’s only one problem: there is no empirical basis for this claim in any of the above comments or reports. No studies, no evidence––not even anecdotally––is provided. Before the printer ink was dry on the ballots, centrist Democrats who lost or underperformed––or made a career out of defending those that do––rushed to blame the so-called "defund the police" movement, highlighting rightwing attack ads featuring the label. After some initial goodwill immediately following the global outpouring of protests after the horrific police murder of George Floyd, mainstream democratic party line has reverted back to it’s old playbook of blaming the Left and Black activists for offending or alienating a nebulous cohort of moderate white voters.

As the economy crashed and the world was turned upside down in the Spring of 2020, Democratic leaders had a chance to lobby for robust social welfare programs, guaranteed income, mortgage and rent cancellation and single payer healthcare to get us through this ongoing crisis, whose disastrous implications will extend well beyond the introduction of a vaccine. Instead, however, they lowered expectations, blamed Trump for their own unforced ideological limitations and almost never publicly took credit for the extension of unemployment benefits––the one good thing Democrats actually did achieve, albeit fleeting.

The result was a once in a generation opportunity blown, a possible leftwing shock doctrine that was crippled by unmovable austerity ideology. So when the elections came around and the Democrats underperformed, who was to blame? It can’t be party leadership blowing the COVID-19 response and it can’t be the security state-curated centrist tofu candidates who lost or barely won. It has to––once again––be those pesky far left activists. Because Democratic party leadership cannot fail they can only be failed, a scapegoat was needed.

On this week’s episode we discuss why "defund the police" and the broader abolitionist movement was that scapegoat, the long history of concern trolling Black activism and perennially blaming movements for justice for right-wing, white backlash from bad faith actors. We also detail how activists are now on the defensive as Democrats, having successfully exploited the broad sentiment of the George Floyd protests for Get Out The Vote fodder, now seek to lower expectations, purge Black Lives Matter of its truly radical elements, and go back to business as usual.

Our guest is human rights lawyer and abolitionist Derecka Purnell.