During an interview on the Snapchat political show “Good Luck America” (because apparently that’s a thing?), former President Barack Obama decided to stick his foot in his mouth once again by telling host Peter Hamby that political candidates who use “snappy” slogans like “defund the police” could be jeopardizing their goals of enacting meaningful police reform. Brushing past the fact that people calling for the police to be defunded aren’t saying their ultimate goal is police reform, now we’re supposed to take unsolicited slogan edits from a man whose most memorable Presidential campaign slogans were the wildly creative zingers “Change” and “Yes We Can”? Sounds pretty “snappy” to me.
Explaining the reasoning behind shying away from slogans such as “defund the police,” Obama claimed: “you [lose] a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.”
But what changes does Obama believe people actually want? Have none of the Democratic politicians disavowing slogans coined by prison abolitionists considered the possibility that the people calling for the police to be defunded.... actually want to defund the police? Not reform, not change, but actually defund. Sure, it might sound obvious, but it’s clear some people *cough* Congressional Democrats *cough* are missing the message.
Obama continued on to say “the key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?”
Unintentionally, Obama provided a perfect encapsulation of one of the central issues of the current Democratic Party Establishment as he dismissed the potential validity of a clear and coherent political demand and reduced it down to something people were just saying to make themselves “feel good.” I know it might be unfamiliar to career politicians, but a lot of regular people actually advocate and protest for the specific changes they want, instead of developing a long term strategy that involves obscuring their goals for the sake of partisan posturing and bureaucratic niceties.
Just because the Democratic Party does not take the idea of prison abolition seriously, doesn’t erase the long history of organizers, activists, and politicians who have been working towards the goal of liberating all incarcerated people for decades.