Monday’s with Ms. Marvel: snappy slogans


Morgan Kong

In her weekly column, Monday with Ms. Marvel, Wingspan’s Trisha Dasgupta reviews different political issues and relatable topics in everyday life.

Trisha Dasgupta, Editor-in-Chief

In an interview last week President Obama commented on the use of “snappy slogans,” specifically a phrase popularized during the protests following the death of George Floyd earlier this year: “defund the police.”

The call to defund the police became increasingly used in this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, as the leaders of the movement fought for an end to police brutality. 

It was short, simple, and straight to the point. However, according to the former President, the phrase was also damaging to the Democratic party’s platform and image. 

“You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama said in an interview with Peter Hamby. “The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?”

Many have echoed these beliefs, both on the left and the right. Republicans weaponized the phrase against Joe Biden during the Presidential debates and many moderate Democrats were also put off by the call to defund the police in the months prior to the election. 

Defund is a scary word. Defunding the police sounds radical. 

That’s why activists use it. That’s also why politicians shouldn’t use it. 

Politicians aren’t activists, they’re politicians and the only party that consistently muddies that line is the Democratic party. Prominent Democratic leaders are often quick to condemn and chastise activist groups and activist leaders under the guise of respectability politics and reaching across the aisle, but it’s time to stop blaming activists for Democrats losing elections. 

Activists aren’t the ones running for office, politicians are. Joe Biden is not an activist, Kamala Harris is not an activist,  Nancy Pelosi is not an activist. The Democratic Party is in control of their own image, and if Democrats running for office didn’t like the phrase “defund the police” they should have made that distinction themselves. 

Obama said that people should throw out the phrase, and focus on explaining the issue and the proposed solution. In other words, phrase it in a way that’s less radical, one that’s more appealing to the moderate. 

And that’s exactly what Democratic politicians should have done. However, they didn’t. Instead, blue candidates either used the phrase and lost Republican voters, or didn’t, and lost voters from the left. 

That was a failure on the Democratic party- not activists. Change isn’t going to happen by lowering the voice of a movement to seem less scary to moderate voters, just like it hasn’t happened like that in the past. 

It may be easy to forget, but Martin Luther King Jr. was also relentlessly criticized and declared a radical by the public. The civil rights movement, the push against the Vietnam war, every activist movement in history has been radical and scary because pushing when you’re pushing against the structures of society, it isn’t possible to make everyone happy. 

Activism is about bringing change, radical change, and there is little merit in watering down a cause for the sake of linguistics. “Snappy slogans” are effective for movements, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, because they get to the point and peak interest, or at least curiosity, which in turn opens the door for a better understanding. 

An activist’s job is not to please everyone. That’s a politicians’ job. Democrats can keep blaming leftist activist groups for supposedly ruining their image, but it’s time to confront the idea that if the Republican party can continue to win elections despite groups like the Tea Party and MAGA nation, then it might be the fault of the party and not the activists.