Neoliberalism Toppled Chesa Boudin

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was ousted from office last week in a recall election. The vote wasn’t close: 60-40 against Boudin.

And while mainstream media outlets – both liberal and conservative – have emphasized the recall’s support among San Francisco’s poorer communities of color, the reality is that Boudin was also rejected – perhaps even in larger numbers – by the city’s affluent white liberal (and conservative) residents. Like in New York City, where a mixed coalition of working class people of color and affluent white cosmopolitans elected Mayor Eric Adams based largely on the perception that he was “tough on crime,” a similar dynamic took shape in the effort against Boudin.

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Criminal justice reporter Tana Ganeva (Rolling Stone, The Intercept, The New Republic) cited these mixed results in her recent substack post in an effort to counter the narrative that the recall was mostly an organic working class uprising against a progressive DA. In it, she points out that while neighborhoods like Chinatown did vote mostly in favor of the recall, the pro-recall forces ran up higher turnout and margins in rich white neighborhoods like Pacific Heights, Presidio Terrace, and the Marina District.

Tana joined us on our podcast to do a deep dive into not only the results of the recall, but the political implications of the broader effort against progressive criminal justice reformers. Boudin’s recall in San Francisco, Adams’ election in NYC, and the looming recall effort against George Gascón in Los Angeles suggests a reactionary backlash in supposedly “liberal” cities to “soft on crime” politicians.

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Of course, these are the same cities whose residents have, through their full embrace of neoliberalism, ushered in an era of obscene inequality that has gentrified millions of poor and working class people out of their communities, and immiserated millions more who stayed. Rather than use their votes to reverse this trend, wealthy affluent liberals instead voted to shield themselves from culpability for the poverty and desperation they’ve wrought upon their cities’ underclasses by laying the resulting “crime problem” at the feet of progressive reformers like Chesa Boudin.

We discuss the recall in detail in the podcast below. Click the player to hear our full conversation, and subscribe to our podcast on any major podcast player.

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Photo: NBC