In an interview on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders made the remarkable claim that he doesn’t know any Democratic colleagues who actually want to defund the police. In the days after the election, both Sanders and his progressive allies have pushed back on claims from moderate Democrats that radical ideas – like getting rid of law enforcement – are part of the reason that Republicans picked up seats in the House of Representatives. Indeed, Sanders has said that those issues contributed to excitement in the liberal base, leading to Trump’s loss in the presidential race.
In a conversation with CNN’s Jake Tapper, however, Sanders appeared to distance himself from those radical ideas, insisting that “nobody I know who’s running for office” is actually calling to defund the police.
“What we talk about is making police officers accountable, making sure that police departments do what they can do best, figuring out how you deal with mental illness, how you deal with homelessness, whether those are, in fact, police responsibilities, making sure the police officers are not killing innocent African-Americans,” Sanders said. “That is not defund the police.”
It was quickly pointed out by social media users, of course, that one of Sanders’ closest political allies – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – has been adamant that “defund the police” is EXACTLY what she means when she says it. This summer, AOC sharply criticized New York City’s proposal of cutting $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget.
“Defunding police means defunding police,” she tweeted at the time. “It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education’s budget so the exact same police remain in schools.”
And in June, another one of Sanders’ biggest elected supporters – Rep. Ilhan Omar – appeared on CNN to defend the Minneapolis City Council’s decision to abolish the police department, telling Jake Tapper (!) that “you can’t really reform a department that is rotten to the root.”
“A new way forward can’t be put in place if we have a department that is having a crisis of credibility, if we have a department that’s led by a chief who’s suited for racism, if we have a department that hasn’t solved homicide — half of the homicides in Minneapolis police department go unsolved. There have been cases where they’ve destroyed rape kits. And so you can’t really reform a department that is rotten to the root. What you can do is rebuild,” she said.
It’s worth noting that crime in Minneapolis has absolutely skyrocketed since Omar mounted that defense; the city is now looking to bring in outside police officers to help them deal with the violent crisis.
But sure, Bernie: No one actually believes in defunding the police. Whatever you say, guy.