Former President Barack Obama interviewed with Snapchat’s Peter Hamby for his original Snapchat show Good Luck America. Hamby asked President Obama about the Democratic Party, but then shifted and asked his advice for young activists.
“If you’re a young activist today and you believe really passionately in a slogan, like defend the police, what is your advice to that activist, also, knowing that a lot of politicians won’t go near that phrase?” he asked.
“It’s interesting, we take for granted, if you want people to buy your sneakers, that you’re going to market it to your audience. If a musician drops a record, (they are) going to try to reach certain audiences, speaking to folks where they are. It’s no different in terms of ideas,” Obama answered.
“If you believe as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police,'” he continued. “But you know, you’ve 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.”
“But if you instead say, let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly, you know, divert young people from getting into crime. And if there’s a homeless guy can maybe we send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy, suddenly, a whole bunch of folks, who might not otherwise listen to you, are listening to you,” he added.
“So 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, and if you want to get something done in a democracy in a country as big and diverse as ours, then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are and play a game of addition and not subtraction,” Obama concluded.
I’m going to write something I rarely write.
I agree with President Obama.
After a Minneapolis Police Officer killed George Floyd, there was momentum to address police reform. A broad spectrum of people could see the injustice of that action and agree that something needed to change.
“Defund the police” was a slogan that co-opted the issue. Suddenly, the discussion wasn’t about common-sense reforms; instead, the center of attention was the wish of people who live in a fantasy land that does not exist. It was radical; people reject what they perceive to be extreme.
People are sinful, and our world is broken. While there are ways law enforcement can and should be reformed, we still need law enforcement. If all men were angels, we would not need the police, but we know that is not the case.
This advice is not just useful for the left, but for the right as well.
I experienced this with my years-long opposition to Common Core and similar education reforms. There were people within the movement who ascribed all kinds of things to Common Core that had nothing to do with the math and ELA standards.
That may have garnered cheers for the anti-Common Core team, but it did nothing to convince people sitting on the fence.
We could go down the list on numerous issues. Are we talking about issues in a way that is winsome and will gain support?
Add, don’t subtract.