Pressure on the incoming administration to reform the police could hurt Democrat party chances in the Georgia Senate runoffs, President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday during a private two-hour meeting with civil rights leaders.
Republicans’ ability to brand Democrats as the party of defunding the police is “how they beat the living hell out of us across the country,” Biden said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Intercept.
Civil rights leaders described the meeting with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a discussion on “racial equity, social justice, and increased diversity in the Biden-Harris Cabinet,” ABCNews reported. Attendees included the National Action Network led by Rev. Al Sharpton, the NAACP, the National Urban League and four other heads of prominent civil rights organizations.
They discussed a range of topics including police reform, the Georgia runoffs, health disparities, civil and voting rights and the need for a diverse Cabinet.
Biden insisted that he was committed to police reform but argued that the branding effort had done too much damage.
The former vice president defeated President Donald Trump and expected to gain seats, but the results were ugly down the ballots. Democrats’ once-robust House majority dwindled and they’re on track to start 2021 with the slimmest majority in decades.
Former President Barack Obama said “defund the police” was a snappy slogan that cost votes. Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other moderate House Democrats blamed “defund the police” for House and Senate losses in the 2020 election.
If “we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win,” Clyburn warned on a caucus call.
Police reform should be avoided before the Georgia runoffs, Biden said in the leaked meeting audio. “I don’t think we should get too far ahead ourselves … because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police,’” he said. “Anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing — which I promise you, will occur. Promise you.
“That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country,” Biden said in the meeting. “Saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable. We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things. We’re talking about putting more psychologists and psychiatrists on the telephones when the 911 calls through. We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.”
Alicia Garza, a Black Lives Matter co-founder and principal of the Black Futures Lab, has criticized Democrats’ attacks on efforts to defund the police. Their dismissal of the slogan, she said, is an insult to activists who helped secure Joe Biden’s victory, Politico reported.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.
“This movement, which really helped to push (Biden’s) campaign over the finish line, was used as a political football all throughout this election cycle and that was true in 2016 as well,” Garza said in an interview for Politico’s Women Rule Capstone event.
Activists have been calling for defunding the police in the wake of protests over the May 25 murder of George Floyd while in police custody. It’s not a new concept but it gained new energy from the rash of Black citizens being murdered by law enforcement.
“How Biden was talking to the civil rights leaders on the leaked audio. You will notice similarities with Biden’s ‘angry you ain’t Black’ tone towards Charlamagne. Some of you Obamacrats can want good things to happen but you’re not changing the true character of Biden,” tweeted The Moguldom Nation founder Jamarlin Martin.
After the meeting with Biden, National Urban League President Marc Morial told reporters, “I think this meeting is the most important meeting that the president-elect and the vice president-elect have held.
“This president-elect, as a candidate, made a historic commitment to racial justice. He reaffirmed the commitment to racial justice as one of the four pillars that will guide his incoming administration.”