The Democratic Party is navigating a crossroads in realtime. The left, more broadly, has chosen its path. Joe Biden is now an unlikely bulwark.
It all comes down to one viral video. The relevant clip documents Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a progressive Democrat, paying lip service to George Floyd protesters before being booed out of the crowd for meekly refusing demands to defund the police. Throw all the national polls and focus groups away—that constituency may soon be the only one that matters.
Democrats have lurched leftward for years, and their drift is certainly accelerating. That’s also true of the cultural left, which bypassed this crossroads sometime in the last decade, as evidenced by the media’s conduct last week, from the shameless double standard on pandemic protests to the New York Times’s institutional meltdown over an innocuously reasonable op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
#DefundThePolice recalls #AbolishICE, a far left campaign that quickly caught steam on the cultural left, forcing the political left to appease activists. But there’s a key difference. Democrats had no immediate way to “abolish ICE” when the movement found momentum. While some far-left lawmakers were certainly serious, it was much easier for others to go along with the hashtag for the sake of political expediency when the threat was less immediate.
Democrats are, however, in charge of major cities around the country. Police departments could actually be “defunded,” to whatever extent satisfies the party’s loudest activists. Minneapolis is already proof.
If one major political party accepts #DefundThePolice, it will lead to rapid, sweeping changes around the country. That, of course, is the left’s point. I fully understand their frustrations with corporatist Democrats. But this is a ridiculous idea that sounds good to campus radicals who traffic in abstractions from Ivory Towers. It’s not practical, it’s dangerous and, ironically, it will mostly benefit elites.
If they get their way on this, a proposal so radical it tests their ability to resist nonsense, the crowd that booed Frey will be the only focus groups national Democrats have to please. And as Frey’s failed attempt to quell the crowd illustrated, it’s not an easy group to please. Picture every Democrat presenting every part of their platform to the crowd of protesters in Minneapolis, then modifying it leftward until they pass the test. The crowd is small but growing; it already controls Hollywood and the media, and is loud enough on social media to inflate its influence.
At some point, academia’s exportation of inflexible cultural leftists into the working world hit critical mass. Abstract poststructuralist notions like “silence is violence” became mainstream because the left accrued enough cultural power to enforce the radical binary: progressivism or bigotry. It’s intimidating, from the classroom to the newsroom to the boardroom.
We’ve seen Democrats in power create sanctuary cities and deny the realities of biological sex. Defunding the police would complete the party’s transformation, which would be an ironic development during Joe Biden’s time as nominee, given that much of his constituency is averse if not hostile to the far left.
Biden and Frey and some other prominent Democrats are holding firm and resisting #DefundThePolice for now. Protesters and celebrities and the Twitter cohort are not representative of public opinion. Smart politicians and their advisors understand this. Yet the creep continues.
That’s because it’s no longer merely about posturing. A significant chunk of my generation has been radicalized by my-way-or-the-highway leftism (via academia and elite media) and exported into the adult world, where they enforce the progressive-or-bigot binary to advance their agenda. That’s how you convince a major political party to defund the police.
This is a historically tense political moment. If Democrats do not widely resist the pressures that drove Frey from that protest, they will give the boo chorus veto power over their entire platform. That’s welcome news to the far left. It’s also politically toxic. More importantly, however, it’s astoundingly bad policy.