The country is living under the effects of the progressive DA movement. San Francisco, New York, Cook County (Chicago), Philadelphia... City by city, voters have voted in Democratic district attorneys who have promised to tackle crime with very progressive policies.
A radical change
One of the most outstanding examples is Chesa Boudin. He counts among her forebears Louis B. Boudin, patron saint of American judicial progressivism. A Yale Law graduate, and a member of the Democratic Party, in 2019 he was elected district attorney in San Francisco on a platform that promised radical change. The focus of the policy would not be on punishing criminals; in fact he forged a goal of reducing the inmate population. He promised to eliminate money bail. He would focus his efforts on reviewing sentences and fighting police malpractice. And he would raise his hand on petty crimes, which are the inevitable result of a non-functioning society and insufficient medical services.
In the case of Chesa Boudin, the social justice warrior unites the son who had to see his parents in jail for decades. Both were convicted of murder and bank robbery, although they were not the shooters that day in 1981. In the absence of his parents, Boudin was raised by fugitives from justice Bill Ayers and Bernandine Dohrn, founders of the terrorist-pacifist group called Weather Underground, to which Chesa's parents belonged.
An increase in crime
His arrival at the district attorney's office marked a change. And it was radical. But the expected results have not come. According to a careful analysis by the left-wing newspaper Mother Jones, based on data handled by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), property crimes fell 11% between 2019 and 2021. But homicides are up 36% in the same period.
Impunity for criminals and fear for ordinary citizens... True or not, that feeling has prompted an electorate response to Boudin's policies. A group of small and medium-sized businessmen, concerned with the drift of crime in the city, promoted a recusal of the prosecutor. Chesa Boudin had to face the polls again three years into her term, and in June was defeated by candidate Brooke Jenkins. Jenkins supports so-called "reform policies," but also in her pitch is concern about the incidence of crime in the city.
"Refusing to enforce the law."
Boudin was the epitome of a generation of district attorneys willing to turn the system upside down, to show the social injustices that foster crime, to end brutality and racism in the police forces. Attorney General William Barr, appointed by President Donald Trump, denounced at the time "the emergence in some of our big cities of district attorneys who call themselves 'social justice' reformers, who spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook, and refusing to enforce the law".
The police are under enormous pressure. On the one hand, in many cities they do not have the sympathy or support of district attorneys. On the other hand, police forces are under scrutiny by Democrats, who accuse them of structural racism, in the context of the Black Lives Matter campaign. In this situation, police forces have lowered the number of arrests, which has resulted in an increase in crime.
Beyond Chesa Boudin
A recent analysis by Kimberley A. Strassel in the Wall Street Journal shows that this situation is beginning to sink in with voters, who no longer have the enthusiasm of years ago for progressive prosecutors who are soft on crime and tough on police. In midterm elections, more than 2,000 counties vote on their district attorneys. Is the defeat of Chesa Boudin just an anecdote, or is it part of a larger movement?
Strassel picks up several cases that all point in the same direction: "In Mecklenburg County (encompassing Charlotte), District Attorney Spencer Merriweather trounced with 70% of the vote an activist challenger who promised to “stop the mass incarceration policies” of the incumbent. In Buncombe County (Asheville), incumbent Todd Williams beat back a liberal public defender who opposed cash bail. District Attorney Lorrin Freeman of Wake County (Raleigh), targeted by an array of civil-rights groups, prevailed over a defense lawyer who ran on a pledge never to prosecute abortion, even if the state restricts it. Ms. Freeman now faces a general election against Republican Jeff Dobson."