The Larry Krasner Experiment Starts Now

After decades as a brash lefty outsider, Larry Krasner finds himself in a place even he didn’t expect: He’s the city’s new DA, with a mandate to shake up a deeply flawed criminal justice system. If you think change is going to come easy, well, you haven’t lived in Philly very long.

Larry Krasner | Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Larry Krasner unplugs his car from the wall of a parking garage and throws his suit jacket in back. It’s rush hour. Krasner is running late. But as he gnaws on a fresh stick of gum, he seems loose, which is easy, perhaps, when you’re driving a Tesla. “It’s a modern American car for a modern American DA,” he’d told me earlier.

It’s an October evening, and Krasner’s car — the color of a McIntosh apple — pulls onto a Center City street as Krasner heads to La Salle University for a debate against Beth Grossman, his opponent in the upcoming district attorney’s race. Even by Philly standards, their head-to-head has been rife with strange subplots, including Hungarian billionaire George Soros buying ads to influence the outcome (advantage Krasner); the quest by former-Phillies-ace-turned- Breitbart-radio-host Curt Schilling to stop him (advantage Grossman); and the sentencing of the city’s most recently elected DA, Seth Williams, to five years in prison on bribery charges two weeks before Election Day (advantage no one). Only a few local Democrats endorsed Krasner before he won the primary, though he was supported by UPenn alum John Legend. In the age of President Trump, once-humdrum local elections like this one appear to be anything but.

Krasner, a political outsider with zero experience as a prosecutor, much less in running for office, will win in a landslide in 19 days. But this evening, his twilight as a defense attorney begins with him toying with commuters on Broad Street. Krasner slips in and out of traffic lanes with the deftness of a taxi driver and pilots the Tesla past Temple University Hospital. In the backseat, a campaign staffer recites a few lines from the opening remarks Krasner’s about to give: This system has broken people, broken families, destroyed our public-school system. A system that is neither safe nor is it just. It’s a system that has discriminated against poor people and people who are black or brown in a systemic way. Krasner repeats the lines out loud, rhythmically, like a stage actor in the mirror before a show.

After parking on the street, he hustles to make it inside La Salle’s Founders’ Hall for some pre-debate pleasantries. He hugs Grossman, a longtime Democrat turned Republican who has the endorsement of the Inquirer and the Fraternal Order of Police. Then, quibbling with a dapperly dressed student ambassador who’s performing the coin toss, Krasner complains, in a charmingly smart-aleck kind of way, that the winner gets to go first in opening remarks and last during closing remarks. “It’s not like football,” Krasner says. “That’s a different kind of fairness.”

Onstage, Grossman touts her 21-year career as a prosecutor in the DA’s office and Krasner’s dearth of prosecutorial experience as the foundation of her candidacy. Krasner uses a Chris Rock quote to illustrate his points.

There’s little doubt about the seismic change Krasner stands for. “This district attorney’s office has wrecked our public schools,” he tells the crowd. “We have been hijacked by the criminal justice system that has spent money like a drunken sailor.” To his supporters, Krasner isn’t just a symbol of fundamental change within the DA’s office; he’s an unlikely torchbearer of progressive values — a man who vows to retire the death penalty, free the wrongfully convicted, reform police practices like stop-and-frisk, resist Trump’s reboot of the War on Drugs, and scale back 30 years of policies in Philadelphia that have resulted in doublings of both the incarceration rate and the average length of a prison stay. After the debate, college students swarm him like he’s the wokest white guy this side of Joe Biden.

For the past 30 years, Larry Krasner has slipped in and out of the public eye, playing the role of a dogmatic defense attorney — one who repped activists and sued the police department dozens of times, winning numerous six-figure settlements for his clients. Then, last winter, he decided to run for office, crushing a crowded field of Democrats in the primary with a coalition of supporters similar to the one that swept Jim Kenney into office. Krasner is a male cisgender Caucasian with silvery hair who, somewhat surprisingly, showcased an incredible amount of street cred en route to the victory. In the culture wars of our day, Krasner embodies the ethos of “allyship” to a tee, albeit an ally on caffeine pills.

“Transformational change in criminal justice and this district attorney’s office” is what Philadelphians voted for, Krasner said at the onset of his election-night victory speech: “This is not a story about kings and queens. This is the story of a movement.”

But the man at the center of that movement will test the boundaries of Philadelphians’ collective patience, by virtue of his personality if not his policies. Local Democrats fear him, the police hate him, and a lot of people who made their careers in the DA’s office are flat-out insulted by him. Krasner has taken the torch from Bernie Sanders in riding an anti-establishment wave into office. “Millennials found Bernie to be genuine, and to them, he sounded authentic,” Krasner says. “He’s very far off the archetype of a politician. And I think I am, too.”

Unlike Sanders, however, Krasner actually won, meaning he now faces the challenge of executing a reformer’s agenda in a notoriously conservative office — an institution he’s made a career of railing against. This city has been clamoring for criminal justice reform for years. But is Larry Krasner the right guy to get us there?

Krasner in his Center City law office. “The other candidates were a little against the death penalty,” he says. “I guess that’s sort of like being a little pregnant.” Photograph by Christopher Leaman

On the wall of Krasner’s legal practice/campaign office in the Gayborhood, a piece of woodwork above a fish tank is inscribed with a verse from the Old Testament: “He who would have friends must first prove himself friendly.”

At first glance, the sign is unexpected. Krasner, who’s 56, isn’t Ed Rendell. He describes himself as a “peculiar old man” with curmudgeonly tendencies, a lover of art but not the art of politicking. His clothing arsenal includes a linen suit, weird socks, and Bernie Sanders t-shirts. One City Hall insider told me Krasner is the guy at a political fund-raiser who “walks in and stands in the corner” — not because he lacks charisma, but because he seems dismissive of the company: “He doesn’t like politicians. He probably washes his hands after shaking mine.”

But a few hours with Krasner on the campaign trail suggest that he’s far from a stiff and certainly no super-villain. With an uncanny recollection of names and faces, plus a biting wit, Krasner is a natural politician in many ways. And if he has a little less charisma than Seth Williams — whose Achilles’ heel (one of them, at least) was an infatuation with his own image — that might not be the worst thing.

The display from Proverbs fits Krasner, who’s a Quaker, in another regard: He obsesses over questions of moralism and justice. At times during this campaign, his message seemed to be that he inhabited a moral high ground far above the other candidates. “None of the other candidates were real reformers. None of them were really going to resist the Trump administration,” he says, seated on antique upholstery beside the fish tank a week after being elected DA. “The other candidates were a little against the death penalty. I guess that’s sort of like being a little pregnant.”

Krasner, who says he took on more than 10,000 cases as a defense attorney, describes his record as a “righteous” duty. He tends to depict actors in the criminal justice system who are less virtuous — he includes in this group everyone from racial-profiling cops to former DA Lynne Abraham, whom he describes as “the bottom of the barrel” — in categorically stark terms.

To no one’s surprise, the fact that a white liberal who drives a Tesla is regarded by activists as the patron saint of criminal justice reform has pissed a lot of Philadelphians off. Chief among them are law-and-order types who believe Krasner’s track record portends an agenda that is soft on crime. Not only has Krasner sued the police department 75 times; he’s likened bad cops to the Gestapo in the press and poked fun at their Clint Eastwood fantasies. When former Eagle LeSean McCoy was involved in a brawl with off-duty police, Krasner repped the running back and got the DA’s office to drop the case. He’s repeatedly gone after corruption in the narcotics unit. All of which explains why the head of the local police union, John McNesby, called the idea of Krasner as DA both “hilarious” and “catastrophic.”

But Krasner’s detractors also include some liberals who cast stones at his elite pedigree — a Stanford Law grad who’s married to a judge and lives in Mount Airy — and wonder whether hubris has driven his run. “Maybe when he was a public defender he was doing the Lord’s work. But let’s not make this man out to be Jesus,” says a Democratic campaign operative. “He made a shitload of money. I’ve never heard Larry acknowledge his privilege once. He’s a white guy. Ultimately, he, too, has a ton of biases.”

Not that such criticisms mattered much on Election Day. Krasner got a whopping 75 percent of the vote.

Quelling his detractors will require Krasner to demonstrate that he has the same passion for protecting the rights of victims as he does for defendants who’ve had their rights trampled. Otherwise, opponents will continue to paint him as a wild-eyed radical full of far-out ideas. That depiction of Krasner, though, might say more about Philly being behind the times than it does about his outsider ideology.

On a friday night roughly a month before Election Day, Krasner ducks into Broad Street Ministry in Center City, where a guy with a topknot and sideburns is performing a song written by an inmate. It’s an event put on by a group called Songs in the Key of Free, which runs music education inside Pennsylvania prisons. Later, audience members share stories of how music has played a restorative role in their lives. When the microphone gets to Krasner, who doesn’t think to tell the audience that he’s running for office, he lifts up his slacks and reveals that his socks bear a mug shot of Johnny Cash.

It’s an image from the depths of Cash’s addiction to pills, which Krasner spins off into an allegory about the modern-day opioid epidemic. For a brief 90 seconds, he moves in front of the audience with the fluidity of a lawyer pacing the courtroom; shortly after the applause ends, he slips out the door. Only then do I realize his story had nothing to do with him and little to do with healing.

Krasner is a skillful storyteller who resists stories about himself. It’s a quirk that a number of longtime acquaintances bring up with me. “Larry can be quite outgoing but not necessarily vulnerable or revealing with his emotions,” says Brad Bridge, a public defender who’s known Krasner for 30 years.

During the Democratic primary, third-place finisher Rich Negrin rarely made a campaign appearance without sharing the gruesome tale of his father’s assassination in New Jersey, which the young Negrin witnessed and used as inspiration to pass the bar. Krasner, on the other hand, took three months to let even his campaign manager know that he, too, had a harrowing story to tell, of getting stabbed in the face right outside his legal office. (The assailants were never caught.) For a candidate who was being accused of a lack of sympathy for victims of crime, it was the perfect anecdote, but he hardly uttered a word about it on the stump. “Larry thought it was such a politician-y thing to share,” says his campaign and transition staffer, Ben Waxman. “He doesn’t like to put himself as the protagonist of the story.”

In telling his own narrative, Krasner downplays moments of epiphany, instead choosing to see his outlook on the world as the incorporated sum of his experiences. That includes a natural affinity toward passionate outsiders. Krasner’s mother was a tent preacher who graduated from high school at 16. “It turns out it wasn’t the easiest time to become a female minister in the Protestant-Christian church in the United States,” Krasner said on the Philly Mag podcast Pushback, which was recorded in July. His father, whom Krasner describes as “a secular Jew,” enlisted in World War II and then wrote novels for the rest of his life. “All of my uncles served in Germany, the Pacific or elsewhere in Europe,” Krasner says. “A lot of them died, some with medals and the flag on the coffin. Pretty much all of them hated war.” Although he describes his early years as a prototypical childhood of the ’60s and ’70s, complete with Beatles records and anti-war protests, the strong dedication to service that ran through his family left an indelible mark on him.

After spending his earliest years in an integrated neighborhood in St. Louis, Krasner moved to Chester County. He majored in Spanish at the University of Chicago; then, in his early 20s, while considering divinity school and working a construction job, he saw his life pivot unexpectedly. He was randomly selected to serve on a sequestered jury for a death-penalty case that involved the beating, raping and slaying of an elderly woman.

Thus begins the proverbial Super Lawyer origin story. “I saw how amazing and wonderful the court was, but I also saw how frail it was,” Krasner said on Pushback. “For example, one of our jurors was so mentally ill that he had to be removed from the jury during deliberations. There were people in the jury room using explicitly racist terminology to talk about the defendant, and other jurors who disagreed with them on anything. So it was a real lesson in how wonderful and how terrible this giant brain of 12 people can be. Especially in a case where you’re asking people to decide if a person should live or die.” The defendant in the case, Roy Staten, avoided death row and was sentenced to life in prison.

After the trial, Krasner changed course and went to Stanford’s law school, where he grew emboldened in his opposition to the death penalty. It’s also where he met his wife, Lisa Rau, and was introduced up-close to the AIDS epidemic (which would later play a role in his career as an activists’ attorney).

Krasner took on his first case as a public defender in Philadelphia in 1987, during an era in which preliminary hearings in criminal cases took place inside district police stations. “I wouldn’t call it enemy territory, but the potential for mischief was sometimes greater when you were in that scenario,” Krasner recalls. “Court officers were sometimes more emboldened to abuse public defenders. There was also the reality of a lot of police officers standing around looking at you.” Krasner remembers a judge once presiding from the lectern with a vigil card for a fallen cop tacked on the front.

That culture only deepened when Lynne Abraham became DA in 1991. Abraham would belittle judges who defied prosecutors, taking issue with their actions in the press. (In the early 2000s, Abraham went after Krasner’s wife in a high-profile manner.) “The criminal justice system in which we functioned was a universe that favored mandatory sentences, lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key policies and the War on Drugs,” says Ben Lerner, who headed the defenders’ office in the 1980s, when Krasner got his start. Lerner was later elected a Common Pleas Court judge. “Mass incarceration was something to be proud of in those days,” he says.

Being indoctrinated as a young defense lawyer at a time when Abraham was being dubbed the “deadliest DA” was just one small piece of Krasner’s evolving paradigm. He also had blossoming relationships with local activists. In 1991, Philly police roughed up a group of gay-rights activists in Center City with whom Krasner was friendly. Then-police commissioner Willie Williams appointed Krasner to a commission that would review practices during the incidences of police brutality — and ultimately release a report citing “an irrational fear of AIDS” and “hostility to gay people” as contributing factors in the police overreaction. The report began to build Krasner’s reputation as a rabble-rouser in the eyes of law enforcement. After he left the public defender’s office in 1992, his private practice represented scores of activists of all shades, from 420 demonstrators arrested at the Republican National Convention in 2000 to Black Lives Matter protesters more recently.

Krasner with Wayne Jacobs, founder of X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, last spring. Photograph courtesy of Charles Mostoller

Repping activists shaped him as a person even more than as a lawyer. He often did such work pro bono, in part because it energized him. “I think Larry feels more comfortable around the activist community than he does around the legal community,” says Jody Dodd, his longtime legal assistant and a local activist in her own right.

It doesn’t sit well with some people that Krasner at times defended the most heinous criminals in the system. Someone connected to one of Krasner’s primary opponents, for example, was eager to share the transcript of a preliminary hearing for a 2011 trial in which Krasner cross-examined a four-year-old who was allegedly raped by her grandfather, Krasner’s client. “I am concerned we have a four-year-old whose competency is at this point not verified, who has said she does not know what happened and who’s being led,” he pronounced. “I think it’s extremely dangerous in terms of justice.” During the hearing, Krasner, who is known as an aggressive cross-examiner, poked holes in the credibility of the young girl — who said she’d been given beer by her grandfather before being subjected to sex on five occasions — questioning if she could differentiate between a “pecker” (of the genital region) and a woodpecker.

While Krasner’s courtroom mannerisms might seem brash, they can be exceedingly effective. Most of the charges against the grandfather were dropped; he received a few years of probation.

The job of a defense attorney is to play one side of an adversarial system, Krasner says, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lawyer from the other side. “I did represent people who weren’t good people at times. It doesn’t mean I planned those crimes. I did not wear a mask during that bank robbery, I assure you,” he said on Pushback. “But that’s the kind of experience you have as an outsider that guides you on how there are certain reforms you could bring to the DA’s office.”

Krasner’s election-night victory party at the William Way LGBT Community Center didn’t have the look of a run-of-the-mill political christening. Hardly any elected officials showed up; the ones who did were outnumbered by alumni of social justice movements like Occupy Philly, Black Lives Matter and ACT UP.

Despite his references to “a movement,” Krasner insists that his shift from the outside to the inside is only temporary. “My entire career has been spent fighting as an outsider with my fingernails,” he says. “I came out of law school really wanting to do criminal justice work and be a trial lawyer. I was willing to do it on the defense side or the prosecution side, as long as it was righteous. But the longer I was in the system, the more I realized what the leadership in the DA’s office looked like. And it looked like a train wreck.”

Krasner only declared his candidacy for DA after waiting for another bona fide progressive to enter the fray — a call that ultimately went unanswered. After Trump’s victory last November, billionaire George Soros — who, through a series of super PACs, has spent $10 million on local DA elections since 2015 — tried to recruit Philadelphia chief public defender Keir Bradford-Grey to run. It wasn’t until she declined that Krasner — who says he’s never met the billionaire who would buy more than $1 million in ad time on his behalf in the lead-up to the primary — jumped in.

Krasner’s motivations for running, and running just now, remain opaque. It would have been safer to remain a gadfly, lobbing grenades of criticism at the police department and Trump, than to risk the public scrutiny that will come with filling a job in which he’s made a legion of enemies even before day one. But Trump’s victory, followed by his appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the potential of another War on Drugs, drove Krasner to closely consider a campaign. While the presidential election ignited his sense of urgency, he insists he’s pursuing the job the same way he’s pursued his entire career in law — with a certain sense of humility.

Lost in the hyperbole about Krasner is the fact that his policy platform is hardly novel. It doesn’t call for socialized medicine or a Hamsterdam-like approach to law enforcement borrowed from The Wire. Effectively, Krasner wants to bring Philly out from underneath the shadow of Lynne Abraham’s tenure as DA — a promise numerous politicians, including Seth Williams, also ran on. For Krasner, it’s not just the death penalty. He wants to take steps to reverse mass incarceration by eliminating cash bail for nonviolent offenses and jail time for low-level drug busts and petty crimes.

“These positions are not off the charts. It’s just that Philly has been a backwards city for years,” says Marc Bookman of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a nonprofit death penalty resource center. Sure, Krasner’s pledge to never seek the death penalty has drawn ire, but Philly is the only major city in the Northeast that continues to pursue it. “This was perceived as some kind of earth-shaking change,” says Bookman. “The controversy about the death penalty is entirely about spending resources.”

Indeed, nobody has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999, in part because of a statewide moratorium. Yet prosecutors in Philly still pursue execution on occasion. Just two days after Krasner’s election, prosecutors retried a 64-year-old murderer named Robert Lark, who’s been serving a life sentence since the mid-’80s, explicitly to try to get a death penalty conviction. When the jury deadlocked, Lark was sent back to prison. In the papers, it was called “Philly’s last death penalty case.”

Krasner says lawyers who spend time on cases like Lark’s, which could occupy two prosecutors for months, will be diverted toward dealing with repeat offenders and putting away more dangerous individuals. But preserving the option of a death penalty, which is frequently sought in the murder of police officers, has become a dog whistle for both supporters and detractors of Krasner. “This is all hype,” says Bookman. “This is kind of like how Trump keeps talking about ‘the wall.’ It borders on being a non-issue, but everyone keeps talking about it.”

Sometimes it takes the loudest guy in the room just to arrive at middle-of-the-road policies in Philly. For most criminologists, retiring death penalty cases and ending cash bail for non-violent offenses aren’t controversial. But to Old Philly, they are. “Look at the big picture. D.C. has had a law that says cash could not be an aspect of bail for 30 years,” Krasner says. “How radical is this stuff, really?”

It’s worth noting that Krasner might not even be able to enact a lot of these reforms. Not pursuing the death penalty is entirely in his control, but reforming cash bail, for example, would require legislation from the Republican-controlled legislature in Harrisburg. While there’s some bipartisan appetite for change, Krasner will be handcuffed on this issue. Same goes for civil forfeiture reform and expanding the role of the DA’s office in handling drug addiction.

Regardless of how much Krasner will be able to achieve, many outside observers see him as a scarier DA than Seth Williams. They believe he’ll escalate tensions between communities and law enforcement that have been simmering without spilling over in Philly for years. A local Democratic operative notes “the inevitability of a cop shooting an unarmed black person, which will go one of two ways. Either Larry is not going to prosecute the cop and the left-wing community is going to fucking riot. Or he chooses to prosecute and the cops stop doing their jobs. No one is ever going to believe him to be a neutral.”

The transformation the public will see (or won’t see, if all goes smoothly) inside the DA’s office, Krasner says, is simply a reorganization of priorities: “There will be a different range of compensation. The trial lawyers who are breaking their backs day in and day out, trying cases, are not going to find themselves being compensated one-third of supervisors who frankly aren’t leaving their offices and haven’t done much in a long time,” he says.

A more meritocratic pay scale, Krasner believes, will go a long way toward a new culture of fairness inside the office.

Assistant DAs aren’t buying it. Going-away parties reached a fever pitch after Krasner won the primary. For months leading up to the November election, there were whispers that Krasner would clean house. The Friday after he won, Krasner sent an email to the 300 lawyers in the office, trying to tamp down those rumors. But the ADAs I spoke to echo the last-ditch anybody-but-Krasner plea that a group of lawyers made in an op-ed days before the May primary. “While it might be demoralizing to work for someone who is federally indicted, imagine working for someone who has openly demonized what you do every day,” a dozen former ADAs wrote in the Philadelphia Citizen. “Why work for someone that reviles a career you are passionate about?”

The tabloid-worthy downfall of Williams made the DA’s office into a story about an individual. Anxiety over Krasner has been similarly microscopic. It shouldn’t be. “If you think the biggest problem with the DA’s office is that Seth Williams got a free roof and some suits, you’re not looking at the issues,” says Ron Greenblatt, a longtime defense attorney and friend of Krasner. “This is about reversing a system of mass incarceration.”

On Election Day, Krasner got trounced in the Northeast, as everyone expected. But on the night of the debate at La Salle, Krasner made an extra stop deep in that part of town, at a candidate forum hosted by the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association.

Krasner was checking his iPhone while a surrogate for an absent Grossman, Tim O’Brien, painted a picture of a lawless Philly with Krasner at the helm. Without cash bail, O’Brien said, wife beaters out on the lam would be free to attack or intimidate their spouses. (Ironically, O’Brien, a longtime bail commissioner, was charged with choking his girlfriend with a lamp cord in 2014 and pleaded guilty to simple assault.) “Ending cash bail is going to cause an explosion in recidivism and wreak havoc on quality of life in Philadelphia,” O’Brien warned. “I’m surprised that Women Against Abuse hasn’t exploded on the bail issue in this campaign.”

At that point, Krasner had heard enough. “I have to tell you honestly, I’m not sure what Mr. O’Brien is talking about,” he said. “If you’re a danger and you’re not likely to show up, you don’t get out! If you are beating your woman, you don’t get out! … That’s what I’m talking about.” Under his system, Krasner says, the dangerous defendants will be held on $20 million bail (in other words, not released), but people accused of low-level crimes who have no criminal history will go free until their hearings. “We’re talking about there are only two speeds on this car,” he says. “What’s happening is that this position, which is scientifically supported and has worked well for 30 years, is being made into a cartoon by people misrepresenting what [ending cash bail] is.”

Tepid applause followed. On Election Day, Philadelphians from seven wards in the Northeast — including the mostly white audience at the Upper Holmesburg meeting — accounted for 39 percent of all votes for Grossman. In other words, it was Philadelphians in neighborhoods with the lowest rates of violent crime, with the least interaction with the criminal justice system, who led the charge against Krasner — and failed.

Now that he’s been elected, there are plenty of insiders who’ll align with Krasner, too. They might include Mayor Jim Kenney, who ran as “Mr. Criminal Justice Reform,” according to this magazine in 2016. There was a clamoring for criminal justice reform well before most voters knew Krasner’s name. The DA’s office is already working with City Hall and multiple other partners, via a $3.5 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, to reduce the city’s prison population by 34 percent in three years. (Halfway into the grant, there are reportedly 18 percent fewer prisoners.) “One of the things that Larry is going to find when he actually takes over is that many of the programs and much of the philosophy that he has identified himself with in the area of criminal justice reform, the DA’s office has already been actively engaged in,” says Ben Lerner, who resigned from his judicial post to become the deputy managing director for criminal justice in the Kenney administration.

Krasner might have more allies than the opinion pages have made it seem. He had something of a beer summit with McNesby in the wake of the election, and rhetoric from the FOP boss has cooled considerably since. While it’s tempting to view the Krasner victory as the work of George Soros or millennials raging against Trump, it’s actually been a long time coming. “The story of Larry is not Trump. The story of Larry is Occupy and the politicization of Philadelphia,” says Rutgers professor Khadijah White, a onetime client of Krasner’s.

When victory came in November, Krasner didn’t have time to savor it. “I did not have a libation. I was probably in bed by midnight, on the road by nine the next morning,” he says. He had a panel to serve on at NYU’s law school, followed by a family memorial service for feminist icon Kate Millett, a relative of Lisa’s. “My wife actually spoke between Yoko Ono and Gloria Steinem,” he recalls.

Millett had a viral moment like Krasner’s almost a half century ago. When she wrote Sexual Politics in 1970, the book — a look at the implicit tropes of patriarchy and sexism in popular literature — quickly became one of the most important manifestos of second-wave feminism. A Time magazine cover that year featured an illustration of Millett, who refused to pose for a photo. “Kate Millett goes from being this brilliant and obscure individual to the cover of Time magazine,” Krasner says. But she didn’t want to be on the cover; she wanted the magazine to feature the feminist movement.

Weeks later, Time came out with another story: “Women’s Lib: A Second Look.” In it, Millett was deemed a hypocrite for admitting she was bisexual. “That’s what happens,” says Krasner. “What happens is that when people try to have the story be about a movement, it’s useful to their opponents to make the story about the individual. … I think it was a challenge for Bernie — and I think it’s a challenge for all of us.”

Published as “The Rebel Inside” in the January 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.