The ouster of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin in a recall election is a cautionary tale for progressives, says the Washington Monthly. Boudin never appreciated that the mandate from his 2019 election was thin, a 50.2 percent victory. He acted as if he had a mandate for a controversial agenda, from eliminating cash bail to charging immigrant drug dealers with misdemeanors instead of felonies so they are not at risk of deportation. Boudin’s critics said thieves had stunningly brazen because they no longer fear getting arrested. The rate of prosecution for misdemeanor petty theft cases presented to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office by police dropped from 70 percent in 2019 to 44 percent in 2020. When retailers complained about rampant shoplifting and Boudin critics spread viral videos of store thefts in broad daylight, they fed a perception of lawlessness.
Boudin’s approach to drug dealers produced a strong reaction that aggregate data could not defuse. He obtained just three convictions for possession with intent to sell drugs in 2021. Predecessor George Gascón had 90 drug-dealing convictions in 2018. Boudin deflected blame toward the police department instead of accepting criticism and adjusting accordingly. “A recall, or replacing me with another DA, is irrelevant when police are only arresting less than 3 percent of people in reported thefts,” Boudin said. Crime-concerned voters don’t want the district attorney feuding with police. Boudin went to war with the police in one of the most progressive cities, and the police won. Most Democratic politicians know that most voters believe we can improve the criminal justice system without shortchanging the fight against crime. The Monthly concludes that "Boudin ignored the recent history from other cities and didn’t listen to what San Franciscans were telling him throughout his now-truncated tenure."