Willie Brown: ‘Defund the police’ is bad policy, terrible politics

The call to “defund the police” as part of the anti-racism, anti-police-brutality movement is either one of the dumbest ideas of all time or the hands-down winner of the worst slogan ever.

I shouldn’t have to explain that actually defunding police is a nonstarter as a practical matter, let alone as a political one. But many defenders of the concept say they don’t really mean defund — they mean reimagine. Take away dealing with homeless people from police, for example, and re-steer the money for that to social services programs.

Fine. Let’s talk about how to do that. But we’re starting from a terrible disadvantage because of that “defund” slogan.

It instantly moved the discussion from race and real police reform to disbanding police altogether. That gave President Trump the distraction he was desperately looking for to deflect attention from his disastrous handling of the race issue. He’s already hammering on Democrats for supposedly wanting to get rid of police.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d suspect that those calling for “defunding the police” are deliberately out to destroy whatever progress we’re making in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd.

People are legitimately shocked by the police misconduct they see on TV and social media. But everyone still wants the assurance that when they dial 911, a cop is on the way.

You take away people’s feelings of personal safety, and you lose voters.

Demo dynamics: If the protesters throughout the nation can be channeled into voting come November, it could mean a Democratic landslide.

Not just for Joe Biden. Democrats could flip GOP-held U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, Arizona, Montana, Iowa, Maine and Colorado, and maybe even defeat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.

A net four-seat gain would guarantee Democrats a Senate majority. And I have every faith that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ensure that Democrats hold the House.

If all that happens, and Biden wins the White House, we’ll truly be able to make America great again.

Great line: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a great comeback when asked whether she’s embarrassed the Ku Klux Klan was once allied with the Democratic Party.

“Of course,” she said. “We’re embarrassed Donald Trump was a Democrat as well, and for similar reasons.”

Back on: Ready or not, we are reopening. And I doubt that even a spike in coronavirus cases would get us back into shutdown mode.

That “toggle switch” that Gov. Gavin Newsom said might be needed has been disconnected. Many people are no longer afraid to go out, and they are not going to be as cooperative if asked to return to microwaving and bad TV seven nights a week.

Those of us who had to cook for ourselves during the shutdown lost a lot of weight. I for one am ready for a hot dog prepared by someone who knows how to do hot dog.

Race reality: I’ve been hearing for years that America needs to have an “honest conversation” about race, but I have yet to hear one.

Looking back, I’d have to say the last time I heard an “honest” response to a racial question was in 1968.

I was the California co-chair of Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign, and we took him to Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in Oakland.

The place was packed with ministers, activists, Black Panthers. You name it and they were there.

Bobby addressed the crowd. There was back and forth, and it got a bit heated.

Suddenly a booming voice came out of the crowd and said, “Senator?”

“Yes?” Kennedy said.

“Do you like black people?”

I was expecting the usual song and dance you get from politicians, but Kennedy just paused, took a moment to look over the crowd, then smiled and said, “Some.”

Now that was honest.

Want to sound off? Email: wbrown@sfchronicle.com