GOP Election Crime Hysteria & Larry Krasner Impeachment
Republicans, who have long used crime to win elections, are now determined to remove democratically elected progressive prosecutors from office.
News Beat is a multi-award-winning podcast that melds hard-hitting journalism with hip-hop to inform, educate, and inspire. In this episode, we examine the GOP’s virulent crime rhetoric during the 2022 midterms, which ended up being a dud for Republicans despite their taking back the House. Also, we explain the impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a Democrat, and perhaps the most prominent figure in the nascent reform prosecutor movement.
Why We Covered This Topic
As Republicans geared up for an election cycle that they thought would result in huge gains in Congress, state houses, and other down-ballot races, they resorted to a time-honored tradition: spreading fear about the ostensible rise in crime by inundating people with ads on television and social media. Candidates talked about crime endlessly in interviews and during debates. Unsurprisingly, the top three cable news outlets, led by a wide margin by Fox News, all saw their mentions of crime spike in the few months leading up to the November midterms.
And when people finally went to the ballot box to have their voices heard they rebuked both the GOP and media (save for Florida and New York, though the latter is a different story entirely), and gave Democrats key victories in an election that prognosticators so confidently proclaimed would end in a red wave.
Meanwhile, those same media institutions breathlessly exalting the sanctity of democracy since the 2020 presidential election have largely been silent about recent efforts by Republicans and corporate elites to overturn elections and effectively disenfranchise voters. Apparently, just yelling “Crime!!!” is justification enough.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is the latest target in the GOP-led effort to remove democratically elected reform prosecutors while also undermining criminal justice reform efforts meant to scale back America’s mass incarceration regime and reverse decades of punitive policing practices. And it’s all happening in the actual birthplace of U.S. democracy, no less.
Perhaps the most potent example of this was the successful recall of former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a staunch progressive who campaigned in 2019 on reform and restorative justice principles. George Gascón, who formerly held Boudin’s post before being elected district attorney of sprawling Los Angeles County, has also been the target of multiple recall efforts, though those attempts have failed.
The battle has shifted to Pennsylvania, where Krasner is attempting to fend off an impeachment effort that would make him only the third-elected official in the history of the commonwealth to be removed from office. As of this reporting, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted on Nov. 16 to impeach Krasner. The measure now moves to the State Senate, where Republicans lack the two-thirds majority needed to remove Krasner from office.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
Along with inflation and the state of the economy, there was no issue that Republicans spoke more about than crime. They made a concerted effort to tie even moderate Democrats to criminal justice reform efforts, including "Defund the Police.” Sen.-elect John Fetterman, who defeated millionaire TV doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, was on the receiving end of a torrent of negative ads on crime.
There’s little evidence to support claims that the rise in certain crimes amid the pandemic, including homicide, was the result of policies implemented by progressive prosecutors. Actually, as one of our guests explains, the increase in homicides was greater in cities with traditional prosecutors, according to an analysis of data from 65 of the largest U.S. cities.
The GOP made a concerted effort in this election cycle to target reform-minded prosecutors. As another guest explains, a GOP memo outlined a strategy to “make them famous,” referring to progressive-minded alternatives to traditional law-and-order prosecutors.
Republicans in Pennsylvania have tried to undermine Krasner since the moment he took office. Despite those efforts, he easily won re-election in 2021 with nearly 70 percent of the vote. Yet, despite the mandate given to him by the voters of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Legislature is moving to impeach and remove him from office.
Who We Interviewed & What They Said
Akela Lacy covers politics and criminal justice for The Intercept.
“I think this is a really crucial point. And this is what advocates in the criminal justice community in Philadelphia make their top priority for people to understand…at its core, this is an effort to tell majority Black and Brown voters in Philadelphia who have been disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, that they don't know what's good for them, and that they're wrong, and that they don't deserve to elect people who have policies that they want to see implemented.”
Todd Foglesong is a fellow-in-residence at the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Foglesong and his colleagues published an analysis that found no connection between the spike in pandemic-era homicides and policies instituted by reform prosecutors.
“The evidence that there is a relationship between progressive prosecution and violent crime, specifically homicide and robbery, is very, very weak. In fact, we find no evidence of that.”
Check out the analysis of homicides in areas served by progressive and traditional prosecutors published by Todd Foglesong and his colleagues.
Read Akela Lacy’s work over at The Intercept. Her reporting on politics, criminal justice, and how they intersect, is critical.
We’ve done a lot of work on criminal justice and progressive prosecutors here at News Beat. So here are a few things to check out: Our episodes on the progressive prosecutor movement, restorative justice featuring then-candidate Chesa Boudin, and our interview with Boudin after he was elected San Francisco D.A.
If you’re looking for an analysis of last week’s midterms, check out our recap.
For more context on how the media drives narratives around crime, read this important piece from Bloomberg News, which found a huge spike in news coverage around violent crime after Eric Adams was elected mayor of New York City.
As we mentioned in the episode’s outro, here’s the full statement from Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky slamming the Pennsylvania GOP’s undemocratic impeachment effort.Today's vote in the PA House to impeach is a dangerous abuse of power that undermines the will of the voters in Philadelphia, who have twice chosen DA Krasner based on his commitment to reform. Read our full statement from : fairandjustprosecution.org/wp-content/upl…
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