Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) is reportedly refusing to stop using damaging political rhetoric like "defund the police," a statement that many of her Democratic colleagues believe has severe political consequences.
"I always tell [fellow Democrats], 'If you all had fixed this before I got here, I wouldn’t have to say these things,'" Bush told Axios in an interview on Tuesday.
The real problem with the slogan, Bush claimed, is that Democrats have not sufficiently explained what "defund the police" means. She claimed the push to defund the police is about reallocating some law enforcement funding "to preemptive social services," Axios noted.
Bush told Axios that she will continue to use "defund the police" until meaningful law enforcement reform is achieved, citing the elimination of certain law enforcement mechanisms like chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
What is the problem with Bush's stance?
Moderate Democrats believe that "defund the police" is toxic rhetoric that sows catastrophic electoral consequences for Democrats.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (R-Va.), for example, blamed disappointing election results in 2020 on far-left policies. In a post-election call with House Democrats in Nov. 2020, Spanberger urged her colleagues to abandon far-left rhetoric like "defund the police."
"We have to commit to not saying the words 'defund the police' ever again," Spanberger said. "We need to not ever use the words socialist or socialism ever again."
"If we run this race again we will get f***ing torn apart again in 2022," she predicted.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the No. 3 House Democrat, agreed with Spanberger's analysis, explaining that if "[Democrats] are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine — we're not going to win."
What is Bush's response?
The Missouri Democrat admitted in her interview with Axios that her Democratic colleagues have "absolutely" pressured her to drop the "defund the police" rhetoric by warning her that constituents do not support the rhetoric.
But if Democrats lose in 2022, Bush told Axios she will not be responsible for any electoral failures. Rather, Bush said the failure to fulfill legislative promises, like the Build Back Better Act, will be why Democrats lose.
"'Defund the police' is not the problem," Bush said. "We dangled the carrot in front of people’s faces and said we can get it done and that Democrats deliver, when we haven’t totally delivered."