The Black Lives Matter Movement brought a direct spotlight on the institutional racism, corruption, and abuse of power within the American police force. The killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, by active police officers, sent reverberations throughout society which was felt globally. With this came calls to defund the police service and invest the money elsewhere within society to aid in building communities, bettering education to provide more opportunities for young people. Many local advocacy groups have been calling on institutions within the USA to provide “jobs not jails”, “care not cops”, and “books not bars”. The main premise is that preventative measures such as investing in the community with education, healthcare, and homeless services reduce crime more effectively than increased police funding, which is indicated by repeated research.
After 40 years of pleading, 20 cities have reduced their police funding, notable mentions with the biggest cuts being in the cities of Austin, New York, Minneapolis, Seattle and Denver. However, despite the US being a world leader in incarceration and police killings, the Republican Party has been staunchly against calls to defund the police, often portraying themselves as a pro-police party. This sentiment has been a continued narrative within the party with ex-President Donald Trump stating that he was “appalled” by demands to “defund the police” in June 2020. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority leader, also previously claimed that the demands were “outlandish”. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy made promises to police officers throughout the US that “Republicans will never turn our black on you” before the elections in November 2020.
Driving division within the American society is an intrinsic part of the fabric of the party
However, despite promises and portrayals of being a pro-police party has taken a complete turn recently with twenty-one House Republicans voting against awarding the police officer who defended the Capitol during the 6 January riots the Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian honors a police officer in the United States can receive. Despite the “no” vote from 21 Republicans the legislation received landslide support from 406 other lawmakers within the house.
This vote by those 21 Republicans highlights that the party does not put the “care” of police at the top of their agenda. The only time when this is marginally true is when they are utilizing the police force to drive forward their populist agenda. It is evident that driving division within the American society is an intrinsic part of the fabric of the party, their ex-leader and President Donald Trump is a perfect illustration of this. He tapped into the negative side of populism of the American public to gain more votes and create a legion of staunch supporters. However, his and the Republican party’s fueling of this negative populism has only created deepened division and induced political polarization within the country. Equally, this fueling also led to the Capitol riots on 6 June 2020, riots encouraged by the President at the time.
They value votes and control by any means above any values they claim to promote
The Capitol riots were extremely dangerous and reflect the negatives that come with extreme populism. It was not only dangerous for the police officers there protecting those who work within the Senate but was also dangerous for the status of democracy worldwide. It elucidated to the world that the linchpin of Western democracy, the United States of America was weak and on the verge of collapse. Of course, those police officers who placed their safety on the line sustained injuries, who protected the staff and one of the most important buildings in the USA should be awarded. The fact that Republicans in the house think otherwise clearly demonstrates that they are for populism rather than care and equality, they are a party that only utilises the police force as a political tool when it benefits them in attacking the opposition.
Their previous leader Donald Trump tweeted that “The Radical Left Democrats have gone crazy!” in the summer of 2020 in response to certain Democrats supporting the notion of defunding the police. This is a huge contrast to now, with Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, declaring this as a new low for the Republican party as this vote alongside voting to overturn the election seals their “part of the insurrectionist mob”. This vote above affirms the Republican party that prioritises their insurrectionist values over any values they claim to reiterate such as being “pro-police”, “pro-American”, or “for the people”. They value votes and control by any means above any values they claim to promote. If the party believed any values they leaned towards such as the “pro-police,” stance they would have never inducted a leader who put these American values at risk through inciting domestic terrorism by encouraging the Capitol riots.