Final exit polls taken a week before election day predicted a landslide victory for Joe Biden and corresponding “blue wave” in congressional, senatorial, and local elections.
The result: Donald Trump was repudiated, barely; a mere ~75,000 votes across five swing states will prevent him from returning to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, at least not in 2021 (see endnote below).
More worrisome to Democrats was the shellacking they took down ballot. The GOP will probably retain control of the Senate (there are two runoff contests in Georgia on January 5th. Republicans need to win 1 of 2 races to retain their majority). In the House of Representatives, political pundits foresaw Dems picking up ~15 seats and solidifying their majority. Instead, the GOP appears to have gained ~10 seats, significantly narrowing their deficit. Democrats also failed to flip any state legislatures blue, which many analysts said they would do.
In a desperate attempt to save face, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi deemed the election results “a great victory.” Centrist Abigail Spanberger of Virginia was more accurate, saying what many moderate Dems were thinking, "If we are classifying Tuesday as a success from a congressional standpoint, we will get f***ing torn apart in 2022.”
Why did Democrats severely underperform relative to expectations? The answer is not that all ~70 million people who voted for Donald Trump and other members of the GOP are racist. As Brett Stephens argued in a recent New York Times Op-Ed, “Motives are complicated: It is perfectly possible to see Trump for the reprehensible man he is and still find something to like in his policies, just as it is possible to admire Biden’s character and reject his politics.”
One important driver of the underwhelming performance on election day is the radical fringe of the Democratic party and members’ calls to “defund the police.” That rhetoric is nonsensical, but it is costing Democrats votes, and seats. Unsurprisingly, most people who align with the GOP do not want the police defunded. But seemingly unbeknownst to the extreme of the Democratic Party, is that most Democrats do not want the police to be defunded either.
It is important to keep in mind that typically, the loudest voices in congress (and the streets) stem from the extremes, not the mainstreams. Point being, while “defund the police” is a mainstay on the Twittersphere, it is not the position of voters who lean right…or most voters that lean left.
At TQC, we do not support defunding the police. In our view, the vast majority of people who truly want the police to be defunded – and let us be clear, not some monies re-allocated towards better training and improving community relations (which we support) - but truly defunded, are either criminals, anarchists, elitist limousine liberals, or radical lawmakers. No police would make a criminal’s objective easier. No police would enable an anarchist. No police would not matter to a wealthy limousine liberal: they can simply pay for their own private security. All members of Congress, including “The Squad,” Democratic (socialist) lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D:NY), Ilhan Omar (D:MN), Ayanna Pressley (D:MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D:MI) who together have screamed “defund the police,” are protected by The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
Defund Does Not Really Mean Defund
Added Spanberger: "The number one concern in things that people brought to me in my [district] that I barely re-won, was defunding the police. And I've heard from colleagues who have said 'Oh, it's the language of the streets. We should respect that.' We're in Congress. We are professionals. We are supposed to talk about things in the way where we mean what we're talking about. If we don't mean we should defund the police, we shouldn't say that." Congressman Henry Cuellar (D:TX) echoed Spanberger’s thoughts, arguing that many of his constituents, which happen to be disproportionately Latino, were bewildered and turned off by rhetoric about defunding the police.
House Majority Whip and former Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, James Clyburn (D:SC) is a staunch liberal who also identifies as progressive. Said Clyburn in a recent interview, 'Defund the police' is killing our party, and we've got to stop it…and I'm just as progressive as anybody else.”
One retort we have heard numerous times is that progressives need to fine tune their message; “defund does not really mean defund.” Defund means redirecting funds within police departments with the objective to mend relations with the communities they serve, particularly in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods. Better terms and mutual respect would yield enhanced cooperation, render more crimes solved and more repeat violent felons off the streets. With proper training, funding, community engagement, hard work and education, this can become a reality.
This makes sense; we are in favor of it. But if “defund” does not literally mean defund…Democrats must say what it does mean! And if defund really does mean defund, Dems will probably continue to hemorrhage seats in both chambers of Congress.
Endnote: Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. To date, he is the only president in American history to serve two nonconsecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897).