Articles

Democrats Run for the Memory Hole

October 20, 2022
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Rarely do candidates admit they’ve changed their minds about extreme views they once held. More often, they ignore what they previously said, as if they have always held reasonable opinions. What’s unusual about this election cycle is how many high-profile Democrats—even in this era of video and social-media archives—claim Republicans are lying when they remind voters of their old, now-unfashionable positions. 

Take Robert Francis O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat running for governor. Following George Floyd’s death in 2020 in Minnesota’s largest city, the Minneapolis City Council moved to dismantle the police department. Protesters applauded their action. At a Twin Cities rally, one activist declared: “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.”

In response, then-noncandidate O’Rourke said in an interview, “I really love that Black Lives Matter and other protesters have put this front and center, to defund these line items that have overmilitarized our police.” He added that in “necessary cases” he supported “completely dismantling those police forces and rebuilding them.” The Minneapolis council, he opined, “made the right decision.” But after enduring more than a year of fallout from the City Council’s decision, 56% of Minneapolis voters in 2021 rejected a ballot measure to replace their police with a new agency emphasizing public health.

Once he started running for governor last year, Mr. O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune, “I don’t think I’ve ever advocated for defunding the police.” Maybe that’s convenient memory failure. Or maybe Mr. O’Rourke finally recognizes his extreme views don’t play well in Texas. No matter: His words are a matter of public record.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, running for the U.S. Senate, is more direct. When GOP ads castigated him for saying “we could reduce our prison population by a third and not make anyone less safe,” he went on Pittsburgh radio to say “that’s just a lie.” Republicans were taking a quote by someone else “out of context,” he claimed. “This is nothing that I’ve believed, and it’s nothing that I’ve advocated.”

But Mr. Fetterman backed the idea of releasing a third of inmates in the state’s prisons at least 14 times, all captured on video. He wasn’t merely drawing attention to someone else’s utterance. He pronounced this wacky view “profound,” saying “we absolutely must” do it.

At least Mr. Fetterman limited it to a third of his state’s jail population. Wisconsin’s Democratic Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes, also running for the Senate, in 2012 tried to put an initiative on the ballot to cut Wisconsin’s prison population by 50%. After the 2018 election, he tweeted “cool, let’s cut our prison population in half.”

Rarely do candidates admit they’ve changed their minds about extreme views they once held. More often, they ignore what they previously said, as if they have always held reasonable opinions. What’s unusual about this election cycle is how many high-profile Democrats—even in this era of video and social-media archives—claim Republicans are lying when they remind voters of their old, now-unfashionable positions. 

Take Robert Francis O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat running for governor. Following George Floyd’s death in 2020 in Minnesota’s largest city, the Minneapolis City Council moved to dismantle the police department. Protesters applauded their action. At a Twin Cities rally, one activist declared: “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.”

In response, then-noncandidate O’Rourke said in an interview, “I really love that Black Lives Matter and other protesters have put this front and center, to defund these line items that have overmilitarized our police.” He added that in “necessary cases” he supported “completely dismantling those police forces and rebuilding them.” The Minneapolis council, he opined, “made the right decision.” But after enduring more than a year of fallout from the City Council’s decision, 56% of Minneapolis voters in 2021 rejected a ballot measure to replace their police with a new agency emphasizing public health.

Once he started running for governor last year, Mr. O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune, “I don’t think I’ve ever advocated for defunding the police.” Maybe that’s convenient memory failure. Or maybe Mr. O’Rourke finally recognizes his extreme views don’t play well in Texas. No matter: His words are a matter of public record.

 

Read More at the WSJ

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