Two weeks after the smashing electoral recall of San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, New York Times reporter Shaila Dewan, who covers criminal justice issues, defended the political sustainability of the far-left vision of criminal justice “reform” -- no cash bail, no jail time, and selective enforcement of crime: “Liberal D.A.s Draw Lessons From San Francisco Recall.” The “lesson,” according to Dewan? Everything’s actually fine, and the opposition is just fear-mongering.
When Chesa Boudin, the district attorney of San Francisco, was ousted in a definitive recall vote last week, his loss was a setback for a national movement to remake the justice system.
Elected in 2019, Mr. Boudin became one of the most visible and powerful of a wave of prosecutors who are fulfilling campaign promises to jail fewer people, reduce racial disparities and hold police officers accountable for misconduct.
His ouster is sure to embolden those who say the policies of liberal prosecutors are a threat to public safety in a time of heightened concerns about crime and violence….
But there are also signs that the Boudin recall hinged on factors particular to the city of San Francisco and may not represent a larger national backlash to the movement.
One big “factor” in Boudin’s loss she skipped: The case of career criminal Troy McAlister, who ran over and killed two people with a stolen car, free because Boudin’s office had previously negotiated a plea deal on McAlister’s armed robbery charge.
Lamely, Dewan noted that not every liberal district attorney lost, then hailed “Fair and Just Prosecution, a group of like-minded elected prosecutors,” which “includes a sizable contingent of women and people of color.”
But those gains have been met by “a growing and vicious counterattack” whose “fear narrative” has found traction in the context of elevated homicides, gun violence and the Covid-19 pandemic, said Miriam Krinsky, executive director [of Fair and Just].
The “factors particular to the city of San Francisco” were thin and unconvincing.
Yet even in San Francisco, it was not clear that the recall vote signaled widespread opposition to change. Supporters of the measure ran an ad insisting they were in favor of criminal justice reform -- just not of Mr. Boudin. A poll conducted by a Democratic firm showed that many of his policies, like unwinding wrongful convictions and creating a unit to protect workers from employment law violations, remain popular....
Is there truly a large San Francisco contingent opposed to “unwinding wrongful convictions”? Again, Dewan offered little evidence to suggest San Francisco supported left-wing-style criminal justice reform, but forwarded lefty opinions to bolster her own case.
One commentator, in a Chronicle opinion essay, warned of the emergence of what he called the “‘I’m a progressive, but …’ demographic” of affluent white people whose commitment to social justice and ending mass incarceration has limits and whose frustrations are real, even if the recall campaign was fueled by misinformation…”
Dewan’s soft-on-crime stand is predictable. The November 2021 story she co-wrote about career criminal Darrell Brooks (who sped through the barricades of a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six) engaged in damage control for the left-wing “bail reform” movement. Dewan seemed less concerned about the killing than the resulting “backlash” against ending cash bail.
A week before, she had co-written an article lamenting the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse of homicide charges during anti-police riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sewing doubt about the very concept of self-defense.