The Local Lens: Post-Primary Politics
I don’t get to hang out with my brother very often, but when I took the train to Exton this past weekend to spend some time with him, I expected that part of our time together would be talking politics.
My brother and I used to be on opposite sides of the fence when it came to politics. He likes to point out how I was once a billboard-carrying liberal. In those days, I was an early version of a social justice warrior and I was damn proud of it. Back then I kept score: I always knew who said what and why this-or-that aunt or uncle was offensive because they said such-and-such on such-and-such a date. Well, maybe I wasn’t that bad, but you get the picture.
Today I consider myself a classic liberal and a firm believer in free speech, even if that speech is considered by some as hateful or obscene. If I could have molded the perfect candidate for president in the last election it would have been a hybrid drawn from certain aspects of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, “skin grafting” Trump’s views on immigration and Islam, which I like, with Sander’s socialistic economic and healthcare policies. That to me would have been the perfect presidential candidate.
My brother’s political views used to infuriate me. Then I saw that he was right on many issues, but certainly not all issues. A little disagreement is a healthy thing.
My brother and I got the political ball rolling when he mentioned some cousins of ours out on the West Coast. We were all close as kids but that has changed since the election of President Trump. My brother, who would call these cousins periodically and shoot the breeze, was not shy about voicing his political opinions with them. What would begin as a polite call would morph into an intense, emotional debate with raised voices and terse “I have to go” hang-ups. The roof blew off the situation several months ago when one of two of these cousins called my brother to express their sympathy at the death of his wife of 38 years.
“I’m really sorry about the death,” the cousin said, “but you really need to work on your politics.”
If this isn’t the definition of high camp tacky, I don’t know what is. But the insensitivity of this comment speaks volumes about the current state of the nation.
My brother wanted to know who I voted for in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s race and I told him that I voted for Joe Khan, the candidate endorsed by Ed Rendell. I told him that most of my friends cast their votes for Rich Negrin and that I didn’t know a single person who voted for the controversial Larry Krasner.
“The turnout on primary day in my Riverwards neighborhood near Aramingo and Huntingdon was really pathetic,” I said. “Not many people were going to the polls.”
I told him I was very disappointed when I learned that Larry Krasner had won the Democratic nomination. As far as I was concerned, the people who supported Krasner were the same people trying to shut down Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter lectures. They were the same people who wore black bandanas at campus protests. They were the same people who spend all of their time on Facebook posting nothing but anti-Trump messages — not that Trump doesn’t sometimes deserve a lot of negative commentary but no president is wrong 100 percent of the time. It is not humanly possible to be wrong 100 percent of the time, not even for a Donald Trump. Fanaticism turns me off. The anti-Obama brigade with their Michael/Michelle lump in the crotch dress photos and birth certificate paranoia were just as obnoxious and tiresome.
I told him if I was 29 and not the age I am now I would probably have voted for Krasner. When I was 29 I had a very dim view of the police. The police in my twenty something mind were about oppression and repression. I’ve seen police throw tear gas bombs at peaceful hippie protestors at the University of Colorado when I lived in Boulder. I’ve seen police harass homosexuals along Boston’s Charles River Esplanade. I’ve seen bored police go out of their way to harass innocent civilians, whether questioning someone walking on the wrong side of town or telling someone that they were “loitering” when they were just stopping to rest and take in a particular stretch of urban scenery. In those days I nicknamed the police “the harassers.” A bored officer sitting in a parked patrol car doesn’t like your face, so he pulls up beside you and asks for your ID just because he can, just because he has the power to do it and get away with it. “I don’t like the looks of that guy. Let me check him out.”
I suppose it boiled down to me having a big problem with authority in my twenties. I’ve changed my opinion since then because I realized that police officers are individuals just like everybody else. Case in point: When I wrote my columns on the homeless, I was often told by the homeless that six officers can alight from three patrol cars at a convenience store and five of them can walk past a panhandler and say nothing — some might even say hello to the panhandler — while the sixth officer tells the panhandler to “get moving.” While technically the law may forbid loitering, here you have five cops who don’t seem to mind while the sixth cop comes down hard. It’s the classic bad cop/good cop routine, of course, although most of the homeless do say that the majority of cops in the city are far more understanding than they used to be.
Not all cops are bad, and anyone who tells you differently suffers from skewed thinking. This is why I was irked when I read in the Philadelphia Inquirer that during Larry Krasner’s victory party at the John C. Anderson Apartment Building on South 13th Street, some Krasner supporters began chanting of “F*** the FOP” and then later “No good cops in a racist system.”
To his credit, Krasner campaign spokesperson Ben Waxman and other Krasner staff did shut down the first chant but that did not stop a second chant from erupting. No good cops in a racist system. Really, not even one good cop?
Immediately after the election, Christine Flowers in the Daily News wrote about Krasner:
“He deliberately traveled with those who attack the police, who challenge the idea that drugs laws are necessary, who think that the death penalty should be reserved only for the innocent victims of crime and not the perpetrators, and who think the Constitution is, as a great judge once argued it was not, a suicide pact,” she wrote.
According to Flowers, Krasner is a disaster. “Perhaps it’s wrong to blame all of Philadelphia for what happened, because only a small percent actually ventured out to slit our collective throats with their votes, but the result is the same: We are doomed.”
The head of the city’s Spanish American Law Enforcement Association labeled the chants at Krasner’s victory party “disgusting.” Meanwhile, John McNesby, President of FOP Lodge 5 called Krasner “anti-law enforcement” and dubbed the chanters at Krasner’s victory party as “parasites of the city.”
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch, however, praised Krasner’s victory as a revolutionary development:
“What was that sound? Nothing less than the stirrings of a whole different kind of revolution from the city that gave America the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights — a revolution aimed at finally undoing draconian justice regime that had turned the Cradle of Liberty into a death-penalty capital and the poster child for mass incarceration,” Bender wrote.
What does all of this mean for the general election in November? Perhaps we can expect a backlash and Republican Beth Grossman, a former Democrat, will experience a slight bump in her poll numbers. But that’s about it. Grossman has absolutely no shot in Philadelphia. If she was running against Benito Mussolini, the “progressive” Democrats would line up to vote for Mussolini. That’s the way Philadelphia is. Flowers commented in a recent column that Philadelphia is so staunchly Democratic that it might as well be called “Moscow on the Schuylkill.”
My brother wanted to know if I had any predictions about Krasner’s future. I told him that he will change slightly once he dons the DA’s mantle and that during his watch the very people that he defended so staunchly as a grassroots civil rights attorney will be out on the streets protesting a number of his decisions.
Philadelphia may never be delivered from the dangerous, corruption of one-party rule, but it will always be subject to the self interest foibles of career politicians in the halls of power. •