Even Joe Biden has been forced to confess that talk of “defunding the police” didn’t help Democrats at the ballot box this year.
According to Fox News, the former vice president and media-declared president-elect could be heard in audio recordings leaked Thursday saying that the Democrats got “the living hell” beat out of them by Republicans who capitalized on the left’s narrative in support of defunding local law enforcement agencies.
“That’s how they [Republicans] beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable,” Biden said at what Fox described as a virtual meeting with civil rights leaders.
“We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things,” he added, according to Fox. “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.”
“They’ve already labeled us”
Biden was reportedly joined by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) during the two-hour meeting, recordings of which were first obtained by The Intercept. At one point in the leaked tapes, those in attendance discussed how Democrats could best approach the upcoming Senate runoff races in Georgia.
Dems need to win both runoffs to hold control of the upper chamber in the next Congress, something that NAACP president Derrick Johnson suggested might be a challenge now that Biden has named Tom Vilsack as his Agriculture secretary, a move Johnson said “would anger Black farmers in Georgia, as well as Black voters generally in the state,” The Intercept reported. Vilsack once fired a well-liked “civil rights legend, a hero” in Georgia, Johnson said.
Biden was reportedly referencing Johnson’s comments when he spoke later in the meeting about Democrats’ strategy going into the runoff elections. According to The Intercept, Biden told Johnson that he “would soon learn more about Vilsack’s record” but that it “wouldn’t be prudent to have that fight before the Georgia runoffs.”
“I also don’t think we should get too far ahead ourselves on dealing with police reform in that,” the former VP said, “because they’ve [the GOP] already labeled us as being ‘defund the police,’ anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing — which I promise you, will occur. Promise you.”
“Behind closed doors”
After the recordings were leaked, Biden’s team put out a statement seeking to clarify his remarks, Fox News reported.
“President-elect Biden is the same person behind closed doors that he is public; honest, direct and realistic about the challenges facing our nation the day he is sworn in,” they said. “As he made clear throughout the campaign, he believes in supporting bold and urgent reform to our criminal justice system while continuing to support law enforcement’s mission to keep our communities safe.”
But while he may already be trying to distance himself from them, Biden’s comments echo remarks made by a number of Democrats over the last several weeks as the party licks its wounds following a series of devastating losses in the House on Nov. 3. “We have to commit to not saying the words ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who narrowly won re-election this year in Virginia, said last month, according to ABC News.
“We have to not use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” the Democrat added. “If…we run this way again, we will get f*****g torn apart in 2022.”