The party of white grievance led by a doddering, racist president insistent that military bases bear the names of traitorous white nationalists is in no position to respond to the dramatic shift in public opinion on race. Their only hope is to claim Democrats want anarchy. They choose to pretend “defund the police” is the actual agenda of the Democratic Party. Rather than grapple with demands to minimize violent interactions between police and African Americans and take social welfare functions (e.g., homelessness) away from the police, they prefer to demonize Democrats. Unfortunately, the media — ever eager for “Democrats in disarray!” — have failed to make clear that this is no more than a fringe slogan.

Congressional Democrats and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, have said flat-out they have no interest in literally defunding the police. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) left no doubt what Democrats support: “Nobody is going to defund the police. We can restructure the police forces. Restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do.” He added, “The fact of the matter is that police have a role to play. What we’ve got to do is make sure that their role is one that meets the times, one that responds to these communities that they operate in.”

Similarly, Stacey Abrams on ABC’s “This Week” said bluntly, “I think we’re being drawn into this false choice idea.” What we need, she said, is real reform: “We know that the murder of Breonna Taylor means we have to reform no-knock warrants. We know that in the state of Georgia, we also have to look at the larger judicial issue of the fact that people can use citizen arrest laws to murder men like Ahmaud Arbery in the streets.” She added: “I also know that we have to have a transformation of how we view the role of law enforcement, how we view the construct of public safety and how we invest not only in the work that we need them to do to protect us, but the work we need to do to protect and build our communities. And that’s the conversation we’re having.” She reiterated: “We’ll use different language to describe it. But, fundamentally, we must have reformation and transformation.”

In fact, I have heard no big or midsize city mayor, governor or lawmaker say getting rid of the police is the answer to our problems. President Trump and Republicans keep bringing it up, but that does not mean the media has to play along as if this is a legitimate debate. There are two stories here: 1) Democrats, backed by a dramatic shift in public opinion, have a bold reform agenda and 2) Republicans have nothing so far, with many elected officials still disputing there is systemic racism and virtually none of them willing to part company with a president who deliberately fuels flames of fascism and incites violence. Voters in November may have a different take, given the parties’ response: Republicans are a big part of the problem.

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