A decision by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to impeach Larry Krasner is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin.
But perhaps it’s best to start with basic principles. Impeachment in US or Pennsylvania constitutional law was never thought of as a means to pursue policy goals. It is not meant to be a way for the majority of the legislature to replace officials who follow policies they do not favor. It was designed to enable the General Assembly to protect the separation of power against officials who overstep its bounds or to remove officials who are corrupt.
The General Assembly’s disagreement with Larry Krasner is over his policies. There are ways to influence those policies short of impeachment. Legislators can revise state laws that give the DA discretion in certain areas. They can give, and have given, concurrent authority to other prosecutors in certain kinds of cases. Impeachment is a totally inappropriate response to a policy disagreement.
And then there is the issue of democracy. Our fundamental principles of government, as well as the Constitution of Pennsylvania, gives the people of Pennsylvania the right to elect their local officials. Larry Krasner has been elected District Attorney by the people of Philadelphia twice, and the second time it was by an overwhelming margin. It is entirely contrary to the spirit and letter of our constitution for the General Assembly to impeach him on policy grounds. Though, sadly, it is not out of keeping with the Republican Party’s more recent disdain for the will of the people that they are taking this step. One would have thought that the decisive rejection of leading opponents of democracy, including the Republican candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, would give Republicans some pause before they pursue their anti-democratic agenda again.
Turning now to policy issues, the Republican effort to impeach and remove Larry Krasner from office is based on a false understanding of the problem of crime in the Commonwealth. As we pointed out in our earlier piece, there is no evidence that the murder rate has risen in Philadelphia because of the policies of District Attorney Krasner. The city’s murder rate has gone up at the average increase for all large cities and is substantially lower than many. The Philadelphia murder rate has also increased less than that of a number of rural counties in Pennsylvania, including the counties represented by some of DA Krasner’s leading critics in the PA House of Representatives.
And, finally, we cannot ignore the hypocrisy of Krasner’s critics in the Pennsylvania House. The evidence is incontrovertible that the cause of high murder rates around the world is access to guns and high rates of poverty. Yet not only have Republicans in the PA General Assembly been unwilling to take action to reduce poverty and the availability of guns in our cities and counties, it has also taken steps to prevent local communities, including Philadelphia, from taking action on these issues.
It is likely that the impeachment of Larry Krasner in the PA house will ultimately have no effect as it will die with the end of the legislative session and will not be revived in the newly rejected House. So this effort is part of the Republican Party’s continuing, politically inspired effort to blame high crime rates on Democrats. That political ploy failed dramatically in the November election. It will no doubt continue to fail because the people of Pennsylvania do not respond to fear tactics based on lies.