Cori Bush won't drop 'defund the police' slogan even though Dems fear it's poison at the polls

The lawmaker's comments come amid growing Democratic concerns about the midterm elections

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., is refusing to back away from the "defund the police" slogan, despite pushback from members of her own party who fear political consequences from its use.

"I always tell [fellow Democrats], 'If you all had fixed this before I got here, I wouldn’t have to say these things,'" Bush told Axios Tuesday.


Rep. Cori Bush (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)


The progressive "Squad" member's commitment to defunding the police comes amid growing concern about the 2022 midterm election among members of the Democratic Party, who fear "defund the police" rhetoric may have led to disappointing results in the 2020 election.

But Bush said that the party needs to do a better job of explaining to voters what it means by "defund the police," arguing that some funding could be better spent on preemptive social services.

The Missouri Democrat also dismissed concerns about Democrats losing this year's election, saying a defeat should be blamed on the party's inability to pass sweeping reforms such as President Biden's Build Back Better legislation.

A demonstrator in New York holds a "defund the police" sign

  (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

"'Defund the police' is not the problem," Bush said. "We dangled the carrot in front of people’s faces and said we can get it done and that Democrats deliver, when we haven’t totally delivered."

"If [Republicans] take the majority, it’s just done as far as trying to get the legislation across," she added.

Bush's comments come as violent crime has been on the rise throughout the U.S. in the past two years, with murders rising 5% last year and 44% since 2019, according to a Council on Criminal Justice study.

The rise in crime and 2020's difficult down-ballot election results have caused Democrats to attempt to distance the party from the "defund the police" movement, with Bush saying that some colleagues have told her the slogan is unhelpful in their districts.

Not all Democrats agree with Bush. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who is running for Mayor of Los Angeles, called for more police Tuesday, saying that residents of Los Angeles "don't feel safe," while vowing to get the city's police department back to its 9,700 authorized officers.

"Whether you’ve had your car broken into, your backpack stolen, your property damaged — or you’ve seen news coverage of home robberies, or violent assaults — more and more Angelenos I speak with tell me crime has touched them personally, and they feel scared," Bass said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some in the party have discussed a piecemeal approach to larger police reform bills, such as the failed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but Bush argues there's little chance of seeing even small reforms come to fruition.

UNITED STATES - MAY 6: Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., testifies during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing titled Birthing While Black: Examining Americas Black Maternal Health Crisis, in Rayburn Building on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Rep. Cori Bush (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

"If we couldn’t get George Floyd done back when millions of people were marching in the street, then how do we expect to get more than one thing done [on policing] over the next few years?" Bush said.


Bush also hinted at potential fissures within the party's progressive wing.

"What is a 'progressive' here in the House? We need to hone in more on what that really is," Bush said.