Stacey Abrams's campaign to become Governor of Georgia features the popular democratic strategy of pretending to be progressive while advocating for right wing issues, such as allocating more money to the police.
Since the beginning of the uprisings that swept the nation in 2020, in response to anti-Black state violence, Democrats have pushed back against calls to "defund the police" at every step. Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign platform called for an additional $300 million in federal incentives, “to reinvigorate community policing in our country,” while South Carolina congressman James Clyburn insisted that “defunding the police” hurt Democratic congressional candidates. Despite riding the coattails of an anti-police movement with platitudes of reform, the Democratic party has continuously cemented their belief in the institution of policing.
The institution of policing in the U.S, however, is used to enforce the status quo of white power and colonial control over the lives of Black, Brown, and other oppressed nations of people. The economic and social crisis facing the Black working-class in the U.S. has repeatedly gone unresolved by elected officials. The U.S is in a crisis of austerity. Lack of equitable and affordable housing in favor of gentrification, food deserts, and low wages have been pressing issues in the U.S as inflation grows, with no safety net policies during an ongoing pandemic. These unrecognized violent acts against colonized communities across the country have had no resolution in the form of allocating resources to build and sustain necessary institutions, but instead have been met with exuberant calls from democrats to “fund the police!”
So when Georgia's “progressive” democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, tweeted on June 23rd, “Law enforcement are often paid less than a living wage, and that is wrong,” it should come as no surprise. The absurd claims of underpayment in a sad attempt to align cops with workers serves as another example of the typical campaign strategy of the Democratic Party — punch left and move right. Abrams’ tweets comes after her opponent, incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp, released a targeted ad accusing her of supporting grassroots “defunding the police” campaigns. Abrams, of course, doubled down on her centrist-right politics insisting she has never advocated for defunding law enforcement.
There’s a lot of confusion around Abrams because of her impressive ability to wield progressive messaging in order to move up the political ladder in furtherance of her career goals. Yet the actual political moves Abrams has made are a clear reminder that being Black does not make one inherently progressive. One does not move from tax lawyer to Democratic leader in the Georgia House to two gubernatorial races without making concessions. For instance, although grassroots Black- led organizations did the heavy lifting on changing the voting demographics in Georgia, Michael Bloomberg’s $5 million donation to the Fair Fight Political Action Committee platformed her as the woman who turned Georgia ‘purple.’ The misdirected investment in securing democratic wins in the state made it easy to dismiss the criticisms of what it meant for Abrams to cut deals with the man that criminalized Black communities through “Stop and Frisk” and other mechanisms. Just as the criticisms of her recent tweets advocating for the basic welfare of police officers will be dismissed because we have once again arrived at, “the most important elections of our lives.”
Abrams lied. Police officers, on average, are not underpaid. The national median annual wage for police and detectives was $66,020 in May 2021. Furthermore, in her very own state, there are efforts to build Cop City, a $90 million police-training facility south of Atlanta. Abrams has yet to speak on this deforestation effort being pushed through with a completely undemocratic process. While expressing empathy for cops in a state where Black people are under tremendous economic pressure, with the the second highest inflation rate in 2022, suffering from brutal police abuse, not much has been said by Abrams about The Atlanta Police Foundation, the main force behind cop city, providing free housing for cops throughout Atlanta while workers maneuver through surviving gentrification. When she insists that alongside increased wages, she will “develop guidelines for police department policies that govern community relations and transparency,” she is merely repeating a proven fallacy that increasing funding for police will transform into reforming the institution of policing.
Politician(s) who are choosing to center funding policing in lieu of funding and sustaining necessary institutions, as the masses plummet further and further into despair, are merely preparing for the inevitable. Increased prices in gas, food and housing as countless billions of dollars continue to be sent to Ukraine has exposed “U.S democracy” as the joke that it is. Coupling the existing material conditions of the masses of workers in the U.S with the recent Supreme Court rulings overturning Roe v Wade and stripping away the power of Miranda rights, the strategy of “punch left move right” to save the U.S. becomes clearer. The U.S government can only fend off another uprising for so long under these circumstances. It is clear that particular moves are being made to ensure that protests are contained as much as possible, if not altogether stamped out.
Abrams and other political officials calling for more funding and protections for police, despite how “important” their electoral races may be, are the class enemies of workers. As yet another “most important election” draws nearer, instead of looking for democratic politicians (including Black ones) to save us, we should start to accept that they’re incapable because they don’t want to help, and take seriously the ideas of organizing to build toward people-centered human rights solutions of our own.
Erica Caines is coordinating committee and outreach team member of The Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black working-class centered Ujima People’s Progress Party in Maryland. Caines is the founder of Liberation Through Reading. She is also co-editor of the African revolutionary blog, Hood Communist.