The call from corners of the GOP to defund the FBI and other federal agencies (outside of ICE and Border Patrol) is not new. Antagonistic mentalities toward the FBI and federal law enforcement have long been part of the militia movement.
The GOP’s need to defund the FBI has everything to do with the white racial order and the rejection of a multicultural democracy. They view the modern FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies as protectors of multicultural democracy and not upholders of the white racial order, tipping their hand by calling the FBI “woke.” Those who know the history of the FBI and their efforts to disrupt and dismantle civil rights and Black Power, their leaders, and organizations through COINTELPRO (the 1960s federal surveillance program) will know this to be absurd. The FBI even launched an effort to target so-called “Black Identity Extremism,” targeting modern Black activities and organizations.
What is reality isn’t important; what is essential is the right’s perceptions. The GOP views local and state police as defenders of the white racial order, opponents of multicultural democracy, and the FBI as upholders of a multicultural democracy. And they view such a democracy as un-American and as communist and/or Marxist—words and phrases that have long been dog whistles for diversity.
Any local and state law enforcement official or entity they see embracing a multicultural democracy no longer counts—for example, Jan. 6. Insurrectionists could attack, beat, and kill officers without an outcry from the Back the Blue crowd. Those officers, at that moment, betrayed the color line and the conservative cause, and were no longer worthy of being backed.
The GOP operates on fascist terms; if they don’t see you as fully for them, then you’re against them. The “with us or against us” mentality speaks about the institution of non-federal law enforcement and should give you great pause in your beliefs in the same institution—that it can be reformed and should not be abolished. Your cognitive dissonance views it as filled with mostly good people, with bad apples, and not a rotten institution. To put it another way, the GOP sees local police as on their side, and for good reason. I previously laid out how law enforcement across the county is part of their fascist movement and how the largest police union endorsed President Trump:
Massive investments in police are an investment in an institution thoroughly infiltrated by right-wing extremists and a place of right-wing radicalization itself. Large segments of law enforcement support the ongoing insurrection against the U.S. government, and there are lots of examples. In 2020 the Fraternal Order of Police, America’s largest police union, endorsed President Donald Trump. This was their first presidential election endorsement in its history. And the Chicago Police Union even defended the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Seeing the disparate way the GOP looks at local law enforcement versus the FBI gives away the game; it tells us who they see is on their side, with plenty of evidence to justify their views of local law enforcement.
Indeed there is good reason to defund the FBI and dismantle the surveillance state as author and sociology professor Alex Vitale lays out. But this does not mean abolitionists should take up a common cause; that’s because abolition is about dismantling, replacing, changing, and investing in alternatives. The GOP has no such interest. There is also an argument for institutionalism for the left at the moment—our institutions are so tattered, and embracing them gives the power to reshape them.
If you believe yourself to be rational, logical, and evidence-driven over emotionally driven, then follow the data, learn the history of policing and the failures of police reform strategies, and engage with the ideas of defunding and abolition openly. There are plenty of books on this, starting withThe End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale, Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom by Derecka Purnell, and Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis. There are also lots of good articles, backed up with good research, covering reform history, the flawed narrative of law enforcement, and police effectiveness.
It is easy to reject these ideas, but follow the evidence that challenges your perceptions. At the very least, the openly fascist GOP seeing local law enforcement as on their side should give you pause. Simply laughing and pointing at the GOP’s hypocrisy without understanding their lens and the why will lead us off and into the precipice of fascism.
This story was produced through the Daily Kos Emerging Fellows (DKEF) Program. Read more about DKEF (and meet the author, and other Emerging Fellows) here.