Updated Feb 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Cori Bush isn't backing down on "defund the police" slogan

Rep. Cori Bush is seen standing in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Cori Bush. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) says she's not going to stop using the slogan "defund the police" ahead of this fall's midterms — even though some of her colleagues have made that request.

Why it matters: Progressives — and that slogan specifically — were blamed for Democratic losses in 2020. The 2022 midterms are even more challenging, yet Bush said during an hourlong conversation with Black reporters that she's sticking to her activist roots.

  • "I always tell [fellow Democrats], 'If you all had fixed this before I got here, I wouldn’t have to say these things,'" she said.
  • Bush acknowledged her party needs to do a better job of explaining exactly what it means with its call to shift some law enforcement monies to preemptive social services.

If Democrats lose their House majority this November, Bush says she'll blame their inability to pass crucial pieces of legislation upon which members campaigned a year ago.

  • "'Defund the police' is not the problem," she added. "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," Bush said.

Between the lines: Progressives are always viewed by moderates as a thorn in the side of the larger party, and Democrats are already staring at a difficult election cycle.

The last thing the party needs is internal division about a slogan Republicans love to use against it.

  • "Oh, absolutely," Bush said when asked by Axios whether she feels pressure from others in her party to change her rhetoric.
  • "I’ve had colleagues walk up to me" and say that "defund the police" doesn't help in their districts. Bush didn't name to whom she was referring.
  • Bush said she won't alter her stance until there's meaningful reform. She said that should focus on ending the mechanisms by which police have killed Black people, including chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

What they're saying: There's been some discussion among members of the Congressional Black Caucus about breaking up the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act into smaller, individual pieces to try to pass some elements of federal policing reforms.

  • Bush disagrees.
  • "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?" she said.

What to watch: At one point during the conversation, Bush hinted at frustration with her progressive cohort in the House — suggesting there's a divide with or within the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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