As the old line goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If you want proof of this, look no further than Philadelphia politics.
District Attorney Larry Krasner recently won reelection despite a myriad of corruption scandals and a sharp rise in Philadelphia’s violent crime rates.
Mirroring the city’s roughly 7:1 Democrat to Republican voter registrations, Krasner declared victory over Republican A. Charles “Chuck” Peruto with a 152,846 to 59,842 tally. This means only 213,304 votes were cast in a city of 1,585,010 residents.
Speaking from his campaign night party at the swanky Sonesta Hotel in Rittenhouse Square, Krasner said: “This is about a movement,” referring to the wave of progressive prosecutors sharing the same PAC and donor funding who been elected in cities where the nation’s sharpest rise in crime has been recorded. “It is not about us as individuals.”
As of Nov. 5, 466 people had been murdered this year in Philadelphia, the vast majority of whom were people of color killed by people of color. Still, Krasner continues to blame this carnage on the very Philadelphia Police Department and criminal justice system that had kept the annual total of homicides to a mere 277 prior to his 2017 election to office.
Is this because people in the city are apathetic? Dumb? Cynical? Maybe it’s a combination of all three.
At his victory party, Krasner, a wealthy 60-year-old white male from Chestnut Hill said; “In Philadelphia, this is a movement that has been led by Black and brown and broke people, and progressives. And if you’re Black or brown or broke, you better be progressive because there isn’t much of an alternative.”
Unwittingly, Krasner makes a salient point. There isn’t an alternative in Philadelphia.
Despite a tremendous number of reasons to reject Krasner’s demagoguery and mismanagement of the state’s largest District Attorney’s Office, general elections for municipal elections here are never expected to be an actual contest. For generations, the state and local Republican party has refused to back their qualified candidates who offer an alternative to “business as usual” in a city that exemplifies machine politics. This was evident in the last District Attorney’s election, when Beth Grossman, a lifetime public servant and former Chief in the District Attorney’s Office who was endorsed by numerous public safety unions and even the left-of-Stalin Philadelphia Inquirer – only received 26% of the vote against Krasner.
This year, a different tactic was taken when Carlos Vega, the state’s first Puerto Rican Chief Homicide Prosecutor took on Krasner in the Democratic primary. Even then, Vega only received 36% of the vote with an abysmally low voter turnout, despite being backed by influential leaders like former Gov. Ed Rendell.
Then, as if it didn’t matter, Peruto, another defense attorney with no prosecutorial experience, ran as the unopposed Republican candidate against Krasner. Despite a flashy persona and great deal of personal wealth, Peruto didn’t launch much of a campaign, bought no television ads, and failed to get any citywide media. It’s no wonder that Krasner refused to debate Peruto, writing his reelection off as a forgone conclusion.
Peruto, 66, acknowledged his campaign was a longshot and that fundraising was a challenge, resorted to political stunts like renting a school bus painted with “stop murdering us” and towing a massive campaign sign around Krasner’s Center City office, using a microphone and speaker blaring “vote Republican just this once.”
Despite many reports showing Krasner’s office has been incompetent and lenient in prosecuting armed felons, Krasner has not shifted course. Even his political allies, Mayor Jim Kenney and Commissioner Danielle Outlaw have gone public in saying conviction rates for those crimes are too low, leading to released criminals graduating to committing murders. The conviction rates for illegal gun possession in the DA’s office fell notably under Krasner, from 63% to 49% between 2017 and 2019, the last year before the pandemic delayed trials and threw conviction rates into disarray.
Krasner admits this, and thinks some of that change was good. The office purposefully kept select offenders from conviction by routing them through a diversion program meant to reduce incarceration, then blames the police for giving him “weak cases.” This of course is utter nonsense: public safety is 8dependent on law enforcement interrupting an offender’s cycle of criminality before it graduates to more brazen, violent acts. As criminology shows, you can’t have diversion without prosecution, trial, and conviction. At sentencing, you can assess alternatives only after a risk assessment to the community is conducted. Krasner’s practice of undercharging and simply releasing violent suspects back on the streets is not interrupting this cycle of criminality.
Worse, with a recent reelection to embolden him and zero oversight from Attorney General Shapiro and U.S. Attorney Williams, our streets are about to get even more dangerous. As Philadelphians, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.
President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” This is more important than ever, considering the concerted efforts by Bay-Area social media companies and left-leaning political groups to highlight the importance of voting. Of course, voting is important, and the fact that only 10% of our city came out to do it is a disgrace. However, uninformed voting based on identity or false narratives is extremely dangerous. This is proven by the election of Larry Krasner, who claims to be a champion of civil rights, who has presided over a historic rise in murders correlating directly with his tenure as the city’s top law enforcement officer.
As state elections are coming next year and state oversight is on the agenda – we should all do the right thing, get off our collective asses, and vote to save lives.
A. Benjamin Mannes is a decorated former municipal and federal law enforcement officer before being thrust into a legal battle over Washington, D.C.’s unconstitutional firearms prohibition in 2005. Following his 2007 reinstatement to the D.C. police, Mannes served as a consultant and expert witness; and as the director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine from 2008-2017. He is a regular contributor to Philadelphia Weekly, Broad + Liberty, and other publications, and serves on Lou Barletta’s Public Safety Advisory Board.