Rep. Clyburn: 'Defund the police' could be used against Democrats in November

Majority Whip and longtime Democratic Party leader James Clyburn joins Yahoo News Editor in Chief Daniel Klaidman and Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff to discuss the use of "defund the police" as a rallying cry for protest against police brutality. Comparing the phrase to the 1960s protest slogan "burn, baby, burn," Rep. Clyburn tells the "Skullduggery" hosts that while he agrees with sentiment of defunding the police, "if you allow the soundbite to lead, then you are going to lose the argument."

Video Transcript


MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Do you see defund the police as the equivalent of burn, baby, burn in the 1960s?

JAMES CLYBURN: Well, it's familiar. Certainly anytime you give the other side cover to deny or reject, then, I don't think you're doing a good service. You know, if we mean restructure the police, say restructure. If we mean deconstruct policing, say deconstruct.

That is my problem here. I don't have a problem with people who tell me what they mean when they say defund the police. I believe in the meaning. The problem is if you allow the soundbite to lead, then you're gonna lose the argument.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Explain what you mean when you say you believe in the meaning, but not the soundbite.

JAMES CLYBURN: Everybody I've talked to, it's usually what-- they will tell you, well, this is what I mean by that. I mean this, and I mean the other.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: What do you make--

JAMES CLYBURN: And what they're saying is exactly what I believe ought to be done. So-- but you-- it's almost like saying burn, baby, burn means get off the back of the bus, integrate the lunch counters, start a new city. Does that mean that?

That's what we were trying to do. We were trying to desegregate transportation, desegregate public accommodations, open up schools. The 1954 Supreme Court decision has still not been adhered to, and we were trying to get schools integrated. So how does that mean-- how does burn, baby, burn contribute to that?

DANIEL KLAIDMAN: Do you think that if Democrats were to take up that slogan, defund the police, that that would lead to electoral routs, that it's essentially handing Donald Trump and the Republicans a kind of political battering ram to go against the Democrats? Now, we know that Biden has said he doesn't support that, but in terms of congressional races, for example?

JAMES CLYBURN: Jim Clyburn doesn't support that either. And I've worked on congressional races. And that's one reason I'm speaking out. George Santayana told all of us years ago that we should learn the lessons of history or we're bound to repeat them. That is a lesson of history that I have learned. And I don't want to repeat it. And I'm not going to stand idly by and watch anybody else take us back there.


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