'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement

Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and other progressive Democrats are pushing back against comments former President Obama made in a recent interview in which he warned that candidates could risk losing support from some voters by using “snappy” slogans like “defund the police.”

“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,” Obama said of "defund the police" in an interview with “Good Luck America” host Peter Hamby released early Wednesday.

“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?” Obama added.


The comments drew immediate pushback from Bush and other progressives after they first surfaced in an Axios report published Tuesday afternoon ahead of the interview’s release.

“With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence,” tweeted Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist and nurse who rose to prominence earlier this year when she defeated longtime Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayCori Bush dismisses concerns of being 'co-opted' by establishment Rep. Bush calls Trump a 'white supremacist president' on House floor Democrats introduce legislation to strike slavery exception in 13th Amendment MORE (Mo.) in the Democratic House primary for Missouri's 1st District. 

“It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police,” Bush added.


Calls to “defund the police” grew among progressives earlier this year following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans, incidents that sparked months of protests against police brutality and racism nationwide.

Supporters of the movement advocate for money allocated for police departments to instead be shifted to community and social programs.

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocrats poised to impeach Trump again Pence opposes removing Trump under 25th Amendment: reports Pelosi vows to impeach Trump again — if Pence doesn't remove him first MORE (D-Minn.) wrote Tuesday night that the push is “not a slogan but a policy demand.”

“And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety,” she added on Twitter.

Not long after, Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyBelfast's Troubles echo in today's Washington Federal government carries out 13th and final execution under Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (D-Mass.) also took to Twitter to say she was “out of patience with critiques of the language of activists."

“The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific … Whatever a grieving family says is their truth. And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing,” she wrote.


In a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTexas man charged for alleged role in Capitol riots, online death threats to Ocasio-Cortez DC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Tensions running high after gun incident near House floor MORE (D-N.Y.) said it wasn’t until activists “said ‘defund’ that comfortable people started paying [attention] to brutality.”

“The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the 'polite language' policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore. It wasn’t until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do ANYTHING even if it wasn’t their full demands,” the New York Democrat wrote. 

“The whole point of protesting is to make ppl uncomfortable. Activists take that discomfort w/ the status quo & advocate for concrete policy changes,” she continued. “Popular support often starts small & grows."

"To folks who complain protest demands make others uncomfortable ... that’s the point,” she added.