Former President Barack Obama says that political candidates often lose support when casually throwing around terms like “defund the police” and should, perhaps, learn to meet voters and activists in the middle when it comes to police reform.
What are the details?
In an interview released on Wednesday, the former Democratic president told journalist and Vanity Fair contributor Peter Hamby for his podcast, Snapchat-hosted “Good Luck America,” that politicians saying such things will likely sabotage their efforts to effect change.
During the interview, Hamby asked, “If you’re a young activist today and you believe really passionately in a slogan, like Defund the Police, what is your advice to that activist? Knowing that a lot of politicians won’t go near that phrase, even if the nuts and bolts of the idea might be popular.”
Obama responded, “If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like Defund the Police, but, you know, you lost 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.”
He continued, “But if you instead say, Hey, you know what? Let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly. And not just in policing, but in sentencing, how can we divert young people from getting into crime? And if there was a homeless guy, can maybe we send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy?”
“You know, suddenly a whole bunch of folks who might not otherwise listen to you are listening to you,” the former president mused. “So 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? And if you want to get something done in a democracy, in a country as big and diverse as ours, then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are.”
In speaking with Hamby — a press stop for his latest book, “A Promised Land” — Obama also said that President Donald Trump definitely rose in popularity with black males in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.
“I think men generally are more susceptible to public figures who act tough, try to project a stereotypical macho style,” he admitted. “I don’t think black men are immune to that any more than white or Hispanic men are.”
You can read a full transcript of the interview here.