In the wake of last summer’s mass uprisings against the police state that killed Geoge Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among so many others, many on the progressive left believed that real change was imminent. An unprecedented number of people took to the streets, day after day, week after week, amid a global pandemic. The surveys showed a massive increase in support for the Black Lives Matter movement. So-called establishment politicians seemed to be on the defensive, and Minneapolis lawmakers went so far as to commit to abolishing their police department and replacing it with a community-based model of public safety. Large municipalities across the country saw a wave of action, from calls to remove police officers from schools to more demands to withdraw funds from police departments. Politicians and public figures who had previously been reluctant to get into issues of police brutality unequivocally recognized the need for drastic reform. Floyd’s gruesome death at the hands of the police, and the months of protest that followed, felt like a turning point: Elected officials and the general public finally seemed shaken by the usual refrains. Enough was enough.
However, a little over a year later, the state of police activity seems practically unchanged. Almost no city in the US has cut its police budget; some, in fact, have expanded they – and efforts toward the goals of the defunding movement have mostly stalled. In addition, a small but notable increase in crime since last summer has changed the landscape. While some of this comes from cynical and clearly misleading Crime statistics produced by police departments, and much of it is media narrative, the truth is that many people do not feel safe. Support for BLM has dropped in the past year, while support for the police has increased dramatically. This is something that people care about, and defensive explanations that it is a false narrative are not going to be enough. The left needs a compelling crime narrative in addition to our criticism of the police. It is clear that street action and grassroots legislative pressure are not enough: the left needs to win power at the local level, where most police budgets are controlled, with a clear mandate for radical action around crime and crime. policeman.
However, since the protests, many Democratic cities have chosen candidates who are openly pro-police. Most notably, the mayoral election in New York City, the epicenter of the resurgent American left, where all major candidates openly rejected the defunding efforts, some after supporting these efforts last summer. The apparent victory of former police officer Eric Adams, who heavily focused his campaign on opposing any effort to defund the police, has been portrayed What a referendum in calls to defund the police. His campaign was fueled by widespread support among working-class black voters in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, the same voters who gave progressives a surprising victory in 2013. Even if Adams loses the election due to the new election system by ranking, polls show him taking a staggering 83% of black voters in the final round. He framed his support for a more muscular police department through a lens of racial justice, stating that cutting policing would harm communities of color as “Black and brown babies are shot in our streets”. This is a narrative that has been difficult to counter for a left that is comfortable talking about police but may at times feel uncomfortable talking about crime.
The goals of the left and the defunding movement seemed so close just a year ago, but as the momentum of street protest alone has once again become the organization’s long-term work in the electoral arena, we need a reassessment and a change in strategy. This means building an overarching shared agenda on crime that connects with working-class voters at the polls in the same way that left-wing candidates across the country do on jobs, housing, and police brutality. While the nascent left now has an electoral constituency and it has increased its elected representation many times, it has not yet been able to build a base in large swaths of black working class communities in particular. To fix this, and to truly implement the demands of the defunding movement, the left needs a message on crime rather than just surveillance. Crime overwhelmingly affects the working class more than the rich and is a symptom of neoliberalism as much as job insecurity, student debt, lack of access to health care, and all the other issues the left talks about. The police itself is, in effect, an austerity program: replacing needed social services with a punitive force that addresses these problems after they occur. After all, prison cells are cheaper than houses.
The solution is a redistributive agenda that improves these causes and prevents crime. As long as we live in the conditions of neoliberal austerity, without satisfying the basic needs of citizens, crime will continue to exist. The left cannot escape from this; we must acknowledge it and respond vigorously. Talking about crime can be a winning theme for the left if it is an explicit part of a general program of redistribution of wealth, investment in communities and guarantee of a society that provides security to all its members, not just those at the top. . We must emphasize that people have a right to safety, and this is the only program that truly provides it.
Although the left has not achieved its policing goals at the municipal level, it is also true that the underfunding message is not necessarily anathema to voters. Left-wing candidates who have campaigned to strip police funds and abolish prisons have won a series of decisive victories, including in many areas with large black populations. After much media talk about a backlash to his criminal justice reform efforts, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner won a resounding victory, capturing more than 80% of the vote in many black majority districts. Last year, after a relentless opposition campaign By attacking her support for defunding the police, Janeese Lewis George won a council seat to represent a black majority neighborhood in Washington DC. In particular, former Queens district attorney candidate and abolitionist Tiffany Cabán, won the support of the majority in the black majority areas of the working class who Adams comfortably swept on the same ballot.
Adams’s choice has a number of confounders: he made his political bones largely like a black police officer who was willing to publicly defend for police reform. What its success reveals is that voters can have confusing, often contradictory political views: Surveys show, for example, that a majority of black voters support the Black Lives Matter movement, I think the police try blacks unfairly, distrust the police, and simultaneously I want more police in their neighborhoods. Basically, people want to feel safe in their communities. Although many people of color do not trust the police, we have yet to successfully articulate an alternative. While left-wing activists cannot follow public opinion, changing our views to follow only what is popular, we also cannot afford to be out of touch with the working class. Instead, we must be the next link in the chain, connecting the organic demands of the working class with more radical demands, propelling the movement forward without losing the chain as a whole.
While there is little evidence that defunding the police is a surefire issue among working-class communities of color, it has also not had enough of a buzz to provide a decisive electoral mandate. Defunding the police, which calls for the reallocation of public funds from a bloated and militarized police force to necessary life-saving services, is both a moral necessity and common sense politics. However, to achieve this, the left needs a comprehensive program on crime and police that resonates with working-class voters. This requires connecting our views on crime and policing with proven, election-winning problems such as good jobs, Medicare for all, and housing; in other words, the immediate material needs of people and the desire for safety and security. The key is to make the connection between the elimination of funds for the police and other fundamental elements of any program of the left: investment in communities and an overview of a society that ensures that everyone’s needs are met.
On the same day that Adams appeared to win the mayoral race in New York City, a Socialist candidate on the opposite side of the state got an unexpected surprise in Buffalo. India Walton, an abolitionist of the open prison, dethroned former incumbent Byron Brown to win the Democratic nomination for mayor in the state’s second-largest city. Walton is a prison abolitionist, and his platform in effect, he called for restitution of funds to the police on a large scale, although, in particular, the words “restitute” and “abolish” do not appear on his campaign site.
Walton told the New York Times that instead of emphasizing underfunding, “[W]We say that we are going to reallocate funds. We are going to fully fund the community centers. We are going to make the investments that naturally reduce crime, like investments in education, infrastructure, living wage jobs. Nothing stops crime better than a person in paid employment. “Her message is heavily focused on the kinds of social programs that provide material benefits to their constituents. She links underfunding the police to a broad redistributive agenda in a way that emphasizes the role of class struggle and the problems inherent in the police without using alienating or activist-oriented language His victory in a working-class city offers a clear path for leftist candidates.
This is not to say that the left should abandon the phrase “defunding the police.” It is a clear and evident demand that has mobilized millions, spawned progressive coalitions, and opened the door for people to imagine what a future would be like without prisons and police, or at least one that depends less on them. But to take the next step from protest to policy implementation, the left needs both to keep the energy in the streets and to elect legislators who can exercise power and achieve the demands of the movement. The left must emphasize a positive program and defend the redirection of funds from violent and irresponsible police departments to the community. This is the only serious approach to preventing crime. Our task is to win; To do this, we need a message on crime that not only refuses to circumvent the problem, but also provides a clear and mobilizing vision for the future.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism