In thirty years of living in Philadelphia, I’d almost forgotten what principled political leadership looked and acted like.
And then my wife and I visited relatives in Florida, visiting now in fact, and the reality rushed back – peace of mind, safety, low taxes, quiet evenings – perhaps even the occasional forgotten unlocked door with no price paid for the thoughtlessness.
But back to Philly.
Philadelphia ought to be a gem of a city, located on prime real estate, with a storied past, and a reasonably well-kept (although declining) infrastructure. But it’s no gem. Far from it.
Philadelphia is the poorest of America’s 10 biggest cities, with a 24 percent poverty rate in spite of constituting one of the most heavily taxed cities in the nation. In fact, poverty, violent crime, and high taxes are hallmarks of the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia is more dangerous than 94 percent of other cities in the United States. Last year’s 561 murders was the highest number in more than 30 years. This year, the city boasts 409 homicides, with more than two months to go. Audiences nationwide have witnessed videos of dozens of looters vandalizing a convenience store. If you get the idea that Philadelphia might not be the best place for family living, you’d be correct – in fact, it’s one of the worst.
If this is the sorry condition of Philadelphia, who is responsible?
The answer is obvious, the problem clear, but the solution is as out of reach now as when Democrats began their long tenure of administering the city in the 1950s.
I look around at the shuttered businesses, pawn shops, graffiti, and I contemplate the latest spike in homicides and armed robbery under Soros-funded district attorney Larry Krasner and Mayor Jim Kenney. This is the same Mayor Kenney who literally danced a jig when he succeeded in establishing Philadelphia as a “sanctuary city,” and who reflexively intones about gun control after every shooting in his city – and we have many shootings. I’m regularly pinged with public safety texts about robberies, shootings, carjackings, and random gunshots in my neighborhood that borders Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Yet the city leadership seems strangely disconnected from all of this. The surreal atmosphere of politics in Philadelphia cannot be exaggerated, a place where frontline police officers tell me that the Mayor and his administration do not have their backs, will not prosecute the criminals they arrest, and at the same time expect police to continue in thankless jobs that risk their lives daily.
Can we vote the rascals out, you ask? Chances of that are slender and none. That would require my fellow denizens of Philadelphia to connect the dots between crime, poverty, and decades of Democrat rule. But they do not. They seem addicted to Einstein’s apocryphal definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Moreover, the disaster that is Philadelphia is compounded by thoughtless policies from the governor in Harrisburg, ranging from strict COVID restrictions to a 38 percent rise in crime under the current attorney general, who happens himself to be running for governor – presumably to continue the same disastrous policies to guarantee the Commonwealth state’s decline for the foreseeable future.
Even so, near my neighborhood, where the occasional gunshot rings out and where police sirens are a nightly staple, posters are clipped high on signposts and telephone poles along Lancaster Avenue:
“Defend Freedom, Vote Democrat!”
It’s not hard to imagine that these signs are a way of rubbing our noses in unbroken decades of Democrat mismanagement, as if to say: “Shut up, and enjoy the crime and poverty.”
And things won’t change any time soon, if ever. “Election integrity” is a bad joke in Philly. Example? In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, my wife and I received five mail-in presidential ballots. We never asked for them. We surely knew then that the election would be rigged – indeed, we experienced the rigging in action – but we didn’t foresee the magnitude of what was to come. In retrospect, it should have been obvious. Such is political life in Philadelphia, which has been dominated by the Democrat political machine for more than 70 years.
My wife and I are visiting Florida now, vacationing in Jacksonville, and we arrived by train just as Ian was bearing down. The storm brushed Jacksonville, moved on, and now we bask in the almost idyllic Florida ambiance of safety, tranquility, proverbial sunshine, and good government.
The difference in atmosphere from Philadelphia is almost palpable, and by this, I mean not just literally, but also the metaphorical atmosphere of liberty that is increased almost daily by strong, commonsense statements and actions by Florida’s governor. This stands as a refreshing contrast to the frank idiocy of Mayor Kenney and his bumbling responses to social pathologies in his city, many of which his own foolish policies have exacerbated.
Florida is a place where cause-and-effect isn’t a mystery, a place where a strong and loyal people do not fear the night, and which gives me hope that pragmatic, honest, and responsive government is indeed possible elsewhere.
We’ll take that hope back north soon enough. Alas, too soon.
Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D., IMBA is clinical full professor at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and author of Brutal Minds: The Dark World of Left-Wing Brainwashing in Our Universities (Humanix Books, 2023). He is a former military intelligence officer and has taught in Russia, China, India, Spain, and Colombia.