In the state where “defund the police” became a progressive rallying cry after the killing of George Floyd, the phrase is being blamed for harming down-ballot Democrats both in Minnesota and nationally after some suburban voters were repelled by the message, the Wall Street Journal reports.
President-elect Joe Biden easily carried Minnesota, but the push to cut police funding contributed to Democratic losses of a U.S. House seat and six state Senate races, say political strategists.
“It definitely impacted the regional results,” said Blois Olson, a communications strategist who publishes a newsletter about the state’s politics. “Republicans just hammered Democrats on ‘defund the police.’”
The outcomes in Minnesota were echoed elsewhere, too, as Republicans found success in local and congressional races by turning progressive slogans such as “defund the police” into political weapons. Democrats might lose close to 10 U.S. House seats.
The defund theme is playing in television ads in two Georgia runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. In one sponsored by Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue, the phrase is highlighted along with other liberal proposals as a narrator suggests they would “radically change America.”
In Minnesota, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a progressive Democrat, received a vote share more than 15 percentage points lower than Biden’s. She supports dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department and reallocating its resources. This year, there have been 73 murders in Minneapolis and 3,425 car thefts, compared with 48 murders and 2,873 car thefts for all of 2019.
The defund message is viewed as a mistake by many, including those who want to see changes to policing.
“It was a catastrophe,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil-rights activist and lawyer in Minneapolis. “Within the Black community, we don’t have a rallying cry, per se, for no police,” she said.