House majority whip says Democrats lost seats in Congress this year because of calls to ‘defund the police’

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Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC). Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images
  • Democrats lost seats in the House and Senate this year because of calls to “defund the police,” Rep. Jim Clyburn said on Sunday.
  • Clyburn specifically referenced Jaime Harrison, the challenger to Sen. Lindsey Graham who lost the South Carolina Senate race.
  • “Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘defund the police’ showed up with a caption on TV right across his head,” Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, said.
  • The call to defund the police has gained steam nationwide after a string of incidents of police brutality against people of colour.
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House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said on Sunday that Democrats lost seats in both chambers of Congress because they aligned with “defund the police” efforts.

Speaking to Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Clyburn cited the South Carolina election between Sen. Lindsey Graham and Jaime Harrison, a former state legislator.

Graham won against Harrison with more than half the vote, according to Decision Desk HQ.

“Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘defund the police’ showed up with a caption on TV right across his head,” Clyburn said.

“That stuff hurt Jaime. And that’s why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I’ve always said that these headlines can kill a political effort,” he continued. “We are all about making headway, and I just hope that going forward, we will think about each one of these congressional districts and let people represent their districts.”

Harrison has said he does not support defunding the police. But he did advocate for other initiatives to reform communities and limit police power.

“It’s clear we have been investing too much in force and need to reinvest in understanding and serving our communities,” he said. “We need a national use-of-force standard. We have to end cash bail. Qualified immunity needs to be a thing of the past, along with chokehold techniques. And we need to invest in community policing.”

Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, has repeatedly said he is not a proponent of the Defund the Police movement.

“Nobody is going to defund the police,” Clyburn said in June on CNN’s “State of The Union.” “We can restructure the police forces. Restructure, re-imagine policing. That is what we are going to do.”

Demonstrators rallied behind calls to “defund the police” earlier this year after several incidents of police brutality toward people of colour.

Calls to defund the police gained steam nationwide over the summer with support from top human-rights groups like the ACLU and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the movement’s most prominent supporters.