Don’t Blame Larry Krasner

In what can only be described as a move of laughable cynicism, the Republicans in the Pennsylvania House voted to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. They formed a committee to impeach Krasner. They held a party line vote to impeach Krasner. And voted to impeach Krasner.

What’s breaking their hearts is that Krasner, the original progressive prosecutor, not only turned out to be the real deal when it came to doing what he said he was going to do, from not prosecuting petty offenses to aggressively prosecuting cops who engaged in crime to reviewing old convictions of dubious merit, not only was elected the first time, but was re-elected by the people of Philly a second time, winning 69% of the vote. They kinda liked Larry. This blew up heads in Harrisburg.

The Republican-controlled House last week voted 107-85, largely along party lines, to impeach Mr. Krasner, blaming his policies for the city’s rise in violent crime. Republicans rushed the vote during a lame-duck session, a day before the final results of the midterm elections showed that Democrats have won control of the chamber. It will now be up to the Senate to decide whether and when to hold a trial. A two-thirds vote would be needed to remove Mr. Krasner; Republicans have a majority but not enough to convict without support from some Democrats.

The argument against Krasner is that his progressive policies are responsible for crime in Philly. There is, of course, no evidence to support this logical fallacy, that correlation implies causation, but on the other hand, the cops in Philly are still smarting since their Rizzo-days power was lost, and they haven’t been doing a very good job of copping since.

An audit last year by the Philadelphia City Controller reported that the city’s police department was shockingly disorganized, wasteful, and ineffective. Among its findings: Between 2016 and 2020, the department had the lowest homicide clearance rate among the 10 largest cities in the country, even as its budget ballooned during that same period.

The Pennsylvania House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, created to investigate Krasner and Philadelphia’s rise in violent crime, released a report in October that found that “a jaw-dropping 81% of non-fatal shootings and 61.5% of fatal shootings did not result in arrests,” a failure the committee attributes to staffing shortages.

Krasner can’t prosecute them if the cops can’t identify them and arrest them. Sequence matters. But then if the low-hanging fruit of blaming Krasner for the crime that’s happening in Philadelphia, as it is pretty much everywhere, and most notably in cities with tough-on-crime prosecutors who are generally doing worse than the reform prosecutors, why would the Washington Post equivocate about Krasner’s impeachment?

Though Mr. Krasner’s approach to law enforcement raises genuine concerns, especially in light of the peril that crime poses in Philadelphia, the effort to oust him is misguided, an affront to local control and democratic choice. If successful, the recall would set a dangerous precedent.

Genuine concerns?

But as Philadelphia’s murder rate has risen, taking a high toll in minority neighborhoods, he has also become a growing target of criticism. When Mr. Krasner declared last December that there was no “crisis of crime” in the city, former mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat who is Black, wrote a scorching op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It takes a certain audacity of ignorance and white privilege to say that right now,” Mr. Nutter wrote. (The district attorney subsequently apologized for what he said were ill-chosen words that “did not acknowledge the pain and the hurt that people feel in the city of Philadelphia.”)

This reflects a rather shocking problem, that the public’s concern about crime being disconnected from actual crime statistics is one of the fairly obvious lines a great many progressives, including their elected proseutors, have failed to appreciate. Some crimes are up significantly over the past couple of years, even if they remain far below their highs back in the good ol’ crack epidemic days. And people on the street, particularly in black neighborhoods which still exist whether they should or not, feel it. Don’t tell them there’s no crisis of crime even if the statistics say there technically isn’t. They’re the ones watching the bullets whizzing, and they don’t want to be told they’re wrong.

But none of this is why the Pennsylvania House republicans impeached Krasner. Rather, they watched as San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled, blamed not for anything he did but the general sense of chaos that swirled through the city, and saw a way to make Krasner the scapegoat.

Will it work?

Republicans rushed the vote during a lame-duck session, a day before the final results of the midterm elections showed that Democrats have won control of the chamber. It will now be up to the Senate to decide whether and when to hold a trial. A two-thirds vote would be needed to remove Mr. Krasner; Republicans have a majority but not enough to convict without support from some Democrats.

Since Krasner was first elected, his policies raised hackles in Harrisburg, where his decision not to prosecute categorical crimes despite the lege having duly enacted the laws which Krasner decided were ungood and shouldn’t be prosecuted. For someone in the lege, the actions of progressive prosecutors are a smack in the face, a superveto by some local yokel that their laws only mattered to the extent the progressive DA decided they deserved to matter. And if the local DA didn’t like the law, it was as if it didn’t exist, as least in his jurisdiction. If you were a state representative, would you be happy about some local DA telling you that what you did only mattered to the extent he decided it mattered?

But WaPo is right about one thing, and it’s likely the most important thing. Larry Krasner may not be loved in Harrisburg, but they dig him in Philly, as reflected in his landslide win for his second term as district attorney. The brotherly love folx knew who they were voting for when they cast their ballot for Larry Krasner, and their choice didn’t have to make the kids in the capital happy. That’s how democracy works.

6 thoughts on “Don’t Blame Larry Krasner

  1. Joel B Silver

    Krasner is certainly blameworthy. His conviction rate is awful, experienced prosecutors have left or been discharged. He is sending inexperienced prosecutors to prosecute serious offenses including murder, a practice roundly criticized by his predecessors. He has drawn the ire of Mayor Nutter, Mayor Rendell and far more effective prosecutors. It is absolutely inexplcable that votes from the black and brown neighborhoods where violent crime is a deadly threat support this man who is happy to release violent offenders. Chief Outlaw has expressed her frustration that after arrest violent offenders are back on the street. It is clear that Krasner’s policies do not work. Among the lame comments in the article is reference to violence during the crack era. It is a comment that mirrors claims that post pandemic all cities are more violent. Hopefully Democratic State Senators will cross the aisle and vote to convict Krasner.

  2. Dan

    “[H]is progressive policies are responsible for crime in Philly” is a lame reason to impeach. “He’s categorically refused to do the job he’s sworn to do,” however, seems like a much better reason. That he’s doing just what he promised to do, and that the people of Philly love him for it, are both meaningless if what he promised (and is doing) is unlawful.

  3. orthodoc

    “landslide win” overstates it. Mr Krasner got 69% of the vote, running about 15 points behind every democratic presidential nominee in the last 20 years in Philadelphia county. That is, the voters “kinda liked Larry”, but not more than that. (By contrast, Rebecca Rhynhart was elected as Philadelphia City Controller with 99.5% of the vote, outpointing Stalin’s 99.3% total in the 1937 Soviet Union legislative election. Now that’s a landslide)

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