Republicans often blast Democrats for wanting to defund the police. But Democrats have a new rebuttal: The GOP won’t defend the police.
In the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the GOP’s love for law enforcement — a longtime hallmark of the party — is being called into question as some members on the right continue to whitewash the insurrection and even foist blame on the police officers who protected lawmakers that day.
Democrats are ramping up attacks on Republicans who refused to investigate the riots or formally honor the cops who responded, some of whom were tasered, maced and beaten with flag poles by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Members of President Joe Biden’s party are not only painting their colleagues across the aisle as disrespectful of law enforcement, but also arguing that the GOP’s unflinching loyalty to Trump has compromised its core values.
That dynamic was on full display in the Capitol Wednesday as D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who suffered a concussion and heart attack while fending off the Jan. 6 mob, visited the Hill seeking meetings with the 21 House Republicans who voted against a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to police officers for their service during the attack. Fanone says freshman Rep. Andrew Clyde — the Georgia Republican who recently downplayed the insurrection by comparing it to a ”normal tourist visit” — refused to shake his hand after the officer introduced himself in an elevator.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), one of the House’s impeachment managers during Trump’s second trial, was quick to seize on the interaction, tweeting “that to honor Trump, @housegop will dishonor the police.”
“It’s hard to accuse Democrats of defunding the police when you are dishonoring the police,” Swalwell said in an interview. “It makes me wonder: Was there prior support [in the GOP] for law enforcement? Or just phony political pandering? Because when the rubber meets the road, they’re choosing Trump over the cops.”
It’s a clear attempt to flip the script on Republicans, who yoked Democrats in key battleground districts to liberal calls to “defund the police” as part of an effective messaging strategy that Democrats struggled to counter in the 2020 election cycle. But now, Republicans may find themselves on their heels — and see their own narrative undermined — if these Democratic attacks stick.
Yet Republicans aren’t sweating the prospect of being tagged as anti-police, arguing that Democrats are just trying to deflect from their own problems on an issue where they know they’re politically vulnerable.
“All you need to do is ask Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez if Democrats support law enforcement,” said National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Michael McAdams, referring to four members of the House liberal alliance known as “the Squad.”
“After elected House Democrats spent the last year calling police instruments of white supremacy and advocating for their complete abolition, no voter will believe House Democrats support law enforcement,” McAdams added.