NYT Thomas Friedman: Defunding Police Will ‘Get Trump Re-elected’

A New York Times op-ed published on Wednesday warned a crime surge Democrat-run cities, in large part due to defunding police campaigns, along with Republican “voter-suppression” measures, will inevitably lead citizens to choose the security offered by former President Donald Trump “and his cult.” 

The essay, titled “Want to Get Trump Re-elected? Dismantle the Police,” and penned by Times’ foreign affairs opinion columnist Thomas L. Friedman, began by stating that “just beneath the surface calm in America, volcanic forces are gathering that could blow the lid off our democracy.” 

“We are living in a fool’s paradise,” Friedman added. “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

He then noted recent news stories that have “terrified” him, including “efforts by Republican-dominated state legislatures to pass voter-suppression measures to retain power and reinstall Trump and his imitators,” as well as increasing homicide rates in large, mainly Democrat-run cities.

“Soaring murder rates and policing are becoming huge Republican and right-wing-media talking points,” he wrote. “Democrats are vulnerable.”

According to Friedman, for the sake of democracy’s future, two of “many strategies” are needed to ensure the GOP’s power is “limited” so long as it remains a “Trump cult.”  

Firstly, “Democrats need to block Republican efforts to decertify elections,” and secondly, they must “resist efforts from their own base to defund/dismantle the police.”

 Both strategies are intended to maximize the amount of Democrat votes in an upcoming election.

“We need to get so many people out to vote in such overwhelming numbers that even Sean Hannity would be unable to deny the results,” he wrote.

If that fails, Friedman wrote, there must be strong resistance in the event that the “Trump-cult” GOP successfully decertifies Democratic victories. 

“You think Democrats will just say: ‘Oh, shucks, that was too bad. The Republicans gamed the system, but, hey, what can you do? Let’s try harder in 2026 and 2028’?” he wrote.

“No, they and other true Americans will see it as a big step toward unraveling the American experiment, and they will not stand for it,” he added, before warning that such moves on part of Republicans “could lead to civil war.”

Regarding the issue of policing, Friedman admits it has the potential to “really sink” the Democratic Party. 

Noting that since George Floyd’s death last year, “big swaths” of his old hometown, Minneapolis, have “turned into a dangerous and dystopian ghost city, racked by gun violence,” Friedman criticized the notion of “rushing to defund or dismantle police forces without a carefully considered plan,” despite claiming that “racism in metropolitan police forces is real.”

He also blamed the “defund battle cry” for having “diminished and demoralized” police, resulting in forces no longer able or willing to “risk getting embroiled in any kind of confrontation.”

To demonstrate, he quoted a recent piece from Minnesota’s Star Tribune which reported “the number of people shot citywide went up nearly 90 percent compared with the first half of last year,” with department officials saying “it is no coincidence that the rise in crime comes after the departure of at least 200 members of the city’s police force” in the months following Floyd’s death. 

As a result, the paper claimed, “Officers are spending less time doing the type of ‘proactive policing’ that can help fight crime, while detectives are carrying such high caseloads that some shootings with no obvious suspect sometimes aren’t even assigned.”

In addition, Friedman wrote, minority neighborhoods are being “terrorized by gang shootouts” as well as other crimes. 

He also noted the tragic death of a 9-year-old girl in Minnesota last week who was struck by a stray bullet while jumping on a trampoline.

In light of that incident, Friedman said that Sondra Samuels, who leads the Northside Achievement Zone, which aims to strengthen opportunities for black families, called him, urging for the need to address both “racial injustice” and “public safety.”

“We need BOTH a radical transformation in the culture of policing AND sufficient staffing of police to keep our neighborhoods and children safe,” she said. 

“That means re-funding the police, not defunding them,” Samuels added.

Samuels also noted, according to Friedman, that despite the state’s large disparity in shooting victim demographics, “you’d never know that from the public discussion” because such shootings “mostly don’t involve white cops.”

Friedman referred to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s order, at Democrat request, for the National Guard to prepare to enter Minneapolis, if needed, to assist local policing as “political dynamite for Democrats.”

“The Trump-cult G.O.P. will pound them on this policing issue,” he wrote, adding that President Biden must push for “transformed” and “sufficient” policing, not police defunding.

Friedman concluded by warning that if citizens feel the need “to choose security over democracy,” it would be to the detriment of Democrats. 

“Way too many will choose Trump and his cult,” he wrote. Friedman’s piece comes as President Joe Biden plans to address the rising crime in the country just months into his first term. Homicides and violent crime have dramatically increased as police departments and law enforcement agencies face defunding.

On Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) proposed hiring 100,000 police officers to combat the rising spike in violence under the Biden administration.

Hawley’s office said the increase in crime and low morale has led to many departments facing a glut of new recruits.

“American families aren’t safe, but they deserve to be. And they can be if we will act,” he wrote. 

“This is not the time to defund the police or vilify them, but to support the brave men and women in blue – and put more of them on the streets,” he added. “Immediately.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.

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