By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘Defund the Police,’” said former President Barack Obama in a Snapchat interview Tuesday. “But, you know, 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 becomes the latest top Democrat to wade into the party’s intramural post-election debate over the role terms like “defund the police” played in costing them seats in Congress and there’s little doubt he’s right.

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Republicans seized on that slogan after it emerged this summer and used it in ads to help win a number of races. One poll showed a “defund the police” Trump attack ad cut eight points off Joe Biden’s approval rating among Democrats who saw it.

That’s why you won’t find any language about defunding the police in the police reform bill approved by the Massachusetts Legislature this week. That measure is controversial enough without having to carry extra baggage, and Democratic leaders in the house and senate knew it.

The term “defund the police” was originally a call for reforming the way police operate, not abolishing them. But it quickly became a political football, because that’s what our political culture does with competing ideas these days.

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On Tuesday in Washington, a bipartisan group of representatives and senators, including our former Governor Mitt Romney, offered a compromise plan to get $900 billion worth of emergency relief funds out the door to Americans decimated by the pandemic economic collapse.

But it’s dead on arrival. Why?

Because it includes $160 billion in funds for state and local governments, which Republicans have been deriding as a bailout for wasteful Democratic politicians, and a temporary moratorium on some virus-related lawsuits against businesses, which many Democrats are denouncing as a bailout for careless bosses.

Nobody likes the idea of bailouts for elites, so they’re gridlocked and not getting anything done to help those who are suffering.

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The art of politics is compromise – if you get half a loaf, take it, come back for the other half later. Pathetically, it’s a dying art, replaced by an apparent doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

Jon Keller