“[T]he left’s social-justice warriors have grasped that the control of prosecutorial power may be the most effective route to rapid societal transformation.”
A critical mass of people… have bought into narratives about the racialist bias of law enforcement… These narratives are no longer up for debate in a growing number of cities where progressives dominate the political system, the media, and, increasingly, top-tier positions at law-enforcement agencies.”
How and why the nation’s crime busters are becoming criminal enablers
A newly minted district attorney for a major American city vows to establish an immigration unit. At first blush, that would seem entirely normal for a prosecutor’s office. Immigration laws require enforcement, and prosecutors are in the law-enforcement business.
But no—the new San Francisco DA actually has in mind an immigration defense unit. He wants to assign a staff of prosecutors to protect undocumented aliens—those who are either illegal and thus deportable to begin with, or for whom a criminal conviction could result in loss of lawful status and thus eventual deportation. The unit’s enforcement target would be not the law violators but the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who enforce federal laws, along with any local police and corrections officials who have the temerity to assist ICE in that endeavor. The prosecutors’ mission, in the words of their new boss, would be to “stand up to Trump on immigration”—the president having made signature issues of border security and the stepped-up deportation of aliens who flout the laws.
That kind of immigration unit is not something you’d expect to find in a district attorney’s office. But of course, neither would you expect, upon this new DA’s election, a victory party marked by ear-splitting chants of “F*ck POA!” The POA is the Police Officers Association.
May I introduce to you, then, a new and uniquely destructive actor on the 21st-century scene: the progressive prosecutor.
For such law “enforcers,” the obstruction of immigration-law enforcement barely scratches the surface. The agenda here is to obstruct prosecution itself. It is, to quote Chesa Boudin, the newly elected progressive prosecutor described above, “a movement…rejecting the notion that, to be free, we must cage others.”
The movement he mentions is self-consciously racialist. It is not merely heedless of, but fiercely hostile to acknowledgement of, one signally inconvenient fact: The disproportionate incarceration rate for African Americans in comparison to their proportion of the overall population (like the closely related higher rate of crime victimization suffered by African-American communities) is due to striking differences in behavior. For all the chatter about “reform,” what the left calls “mass incarceration” is not principally a criminal-justice issue. It is the glaring symptom of a cultural issue, inextricably intertwined with what progressive governance has done to erode bonds of family, faith, and intermediate institutions that not so long ago had pride of place over the individual’s ties to (and dependence on) the state.
But you are not to see it that way. For progressive prosecutors, it is not that young black males commit strikingly more crimes than other demographics; it is that the system is endemically racist, both willfully and unconsciously. And pay no mind to the record-high minority recruitment in police departments and prosecutors’ offices, many of which are now led by black and other minority officials. Far from serving as the solution to systematic racism, they simply serve as cover when they join these indelibly bigoted institutions. The mass-incarceration “crisis,” we are to believe, stems from the bigoted targeting of “oppressed” populations for investigation.
We are told we inhabit not a constitutional republic but a “carceral state” when 2.2 million people, out of a population of 330 million, are in custody after being proved guilty of felonies beyond a reasonable doubt, followed by multiple rounds of appeal in a justice system run predominantly by political progressives—a “carceral state” that is the envy of the world (or haven’t you noticed that our immigration enforcement “crisis” involves millions seeking to enter and stay in the United States).
By the movement’s lights, the very act of policing, of enforcing the laws enacted by the people’s representatives, is an exercise in race-based persecution. Indeed, in its most triumphalist iteration—and it is really feeling its oats these days—the movement would eliminate police departments. Not tame them. Not scale them back. Eliminate them.
Criminal-justice “reform” is all the rage these days. Not just on the political left but across the bipartisan Beltway, with more momentum under President Donald Trump than it has ever enjoyed. (His Super Bowl commercial touted his work in this area.) This periodically astonishes those of us still mindful of our good fortune to live in an era of historically low crime, wrought by the intelligence-driven revolution in policing begun in the early 1990s.
The Manhattan Institute’s Steven Malanga crunches the numbers that a generation of domestic tranquility has bleached from memory and reports: “The nation’s violent-crime rate blasted from 161 crimes per 100,000 people in 1960 to 364 a decade later, reaching a terrifying summit of 758 in 1991.” In the early 1990s, however, law-enforcement principles guided by information technology and gimlet-eyed social science were pioneered by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, along with his police commissioner, Bill Bratton. They included such innovations as “Compstat,” a system that enabled precinct commanders to allocate police assets based on timely crime statistics, and the “broken windows” theory posited in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, which championed the cultural and intelligence-gathering benefits of taking action against petty crime.
The results were transformative, and they spread across the country. Law and order were restored as the norm of the streets, gentrifying neighborhoods that had been riven by decades of gang violence and law-breaking. In the past 30 years, violent crime in New York City has plummeted an astonishing 70 percent. In 1990, there were 2,245 people murdered in New York City; in 2018, the number was 289, a decline of 80 percent, even though the city’s population had increased by more than a million (to about 8.5 million) in that span. (Murders ticked up to 318 in 2019, but that’s still just a fraction of 1980s carnage and compares favorably to the worrisome but still historically low 335 murders recorded in 2016.) New York is a trailblazer but not an outlier: Violent crime has been cut in half nationwide since 1990, and property crimes reduced slightly more than that.
Nevertheless, success can be its own undoing. The crime waves that washed over America from the tumultuous 1960s into the 1990s are not in the conscious memory of young Americans. New Yorkers graduating from college today were toddlers when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. Americans of a certain age, especially those of us who spent much of our professional lives fighting crime, remember the Bad Old Days and scoff at the conceit that they could not come back—and do so far more quickly than it took to suppress this manifestation of evil, an enduring human condition. Yet, as Malanga adroitly observes, the revival of urban neighborhoods has lured the well-to-do to cities. Among those relocating are college graduates attracted by the prospect of tech-sector careers. Those products of American higher education have “the progressive beliefs typical of their demographic.”
To say this demographic is spearheading a resurgence of progressive urban governance understates the matter. It is one thing to be soft on crime. Today, the hard-left shock troops who are ascendant in Democratic Party politics are fighting The War on Cops, to adopt the fitting title of Heather Mac Donald’s deeply researched book.
And ingeniously front and center in the waging of this war is the Progressive Prosecutor Project.
Progressives grasp, in a way their political adversaries mostly do not, that executive power is the change agent in modern society. The Framers had in mind a vision of limited government in which power was divided and distributed among components that would be motivated to check one another—separate state and federal sovereigns, and within each, discrete executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It is a cliché to speak of the latter as “co-equal” branches of government. The founding conception was that legislative power—close to the people, endowed with the authority to enact law, create courts and agencies, make rules for them, and control their budgets—would be primus inter pares.
A century-plus of progressive governance has dramatically overhauled this construct. The executive is now the principal locus of power. The complexity of modern society, the theory runs, requires ever greater interventions by bureaucracies to which legislatures delegate their regulatory authority. Most of this administrative state ultimately answers to the chief executive, who is empowered to make key appointments and impose policy direction. Legislative authority is marginalized. The executive both manages the bureaucracy and, more significantly, exercises discretion regarding which laws get enforced.
In the arena of criminal justice, this implicates the venerable doctrine of “prosecutorial discretion.” Properly applied, prosecutorial discretion is nothing more than common-sense resource-allocation guidance. Law-enforcement assets (police, prosecutors, administrative support, and, ultimately, courts and prisons) are finite. It would not be possible to prosecute every crime, no matter how trivial. Nor would such overbearing enforcement comport with a free society. Therefore, prosecutors are given broad discretion to prioritize the enforcement of some laws at the expense of others (say, to focus more on gang violence and drug trafficking than financial-institution fraud if that’s what local conditions call for). Government attorneys also get to determine which offenders merit prosecution as opposed to some form of diversion (e.g., unconditional non-prosecution for a given offense, adjournment of an arrest case in contemplation of dismissal without formal charges after a period of good behavior, counseling or community service in lieu of indictment, and so on).
Prosecutorial discretion, picking and choosing which cases to pursue, should be and has historically been unremarkable. But like any discretionary authority, it can be abused. If the weighing of the merits of prosecution based on the facts of individual cases morphs into a programmatic decision not to prosecute various categories of crime, it becomes an executive veto of the community’s right to define and punish penal offenses through its legislative representatives.
This flouts the foundational executive duty to execute the laws faithfully. Similarly, if what is rationalized as “prosecutorial discretion” devolves into charging decisions that are based on class distinctions, particularly race, as opposed to a color-blind assessment of the criminal histories of suspects in individual cases, this eviscerates the bedrock principle of equal protection. It undermines the rule of law itself.
And here we see how muscular, how potentially transformational, is the power of the prosecutor.
If a state or local legislature dared to enact a law that made such distinctions as race, ethnicity, or sex dispositive of, or even relevant to, the decision to prosecute, such a law would promptly be invalidated on constitutional grounds. It would either be thrown out by the courts or repealed due to public outcry. Similarly, a judicial ruling that endorsed such invidious discrimination would quickly be reversed by appellate courts or legislative action.
District attorneys, by contrast, can achieve the same noxiously discriminatory result without any fuss—through the pretextual exercise of prosecutorial discretion. At first, it would be done subtly, ostensibly on a case-by-case basis, as if the merits of each suspect, rather than class distinctions, were driving the result. But as the public grew gradually inured to the notion that such distinctions were a legitimate factor in prosecutorial determinations, our assumptions would change, and so would the facts on the ground.
Eventually, we would come to the stage the left believes we have now reached: A critical mass of people in urban centers have bought into narratives about the racialist bias of law enforcement, so much so that progressives are comfortable brandishing them in campaigns for public office. These narratives are no longer up for debate in a growing number of cities where progressives dominate the political system, the media, and, increasingly, top-tier positions at law-enforcement agencies.
The key to understanding the Machiavellian brilliance of the Progressive Prosecutor Project is this: As a matter of constitutional law, no legislature or court has the power to order a prosecutor to charge any crime against any person. In our system, prosecution is exclusively an executive call. Practically speaking, short of voting a rogue district attorney out of office, there is no remedy for abusive discretionary omissions—decisions not to prosecute. To be sure, if a prosecutor performs some affirmative illegal act while enforcing the law, there are legal remedies available—motions to suppress evidence, lawsuits against government, potentially even prosecution. But omissions are a different story. It is nigh impossible to force prosecutors to take enforcement action. Thus, a willful district attorney has enormous power to install non-prosecution as the default policy.
Realizing this, the left’s social-justice warriors have grasped that the control of prosecutorial power may be the most effective route to rapid societal transformation. It is transformation driven not by law, logic, or a half-century’s empirical data on offense behavior and policing methods, but by cultural Marxist narratives: the criminal-justice system and its law-enforcement agencies as a superstructure reifying America’s pervasive racism, xenophobia, and forcible oppression of The Other.
Equally important, prosecutorial power is attainable at the ballot box. For the most part, district attorneys, who oversee state prosecution at the municipal level throughout the United States, are elected officials. (By contrast, United States attorneys, who oversee federal prosecutions, are Senate-confirmed appointees of the president.) But the vast majority of DA elections have not traditionally been high-profile, high-dollar affairs, in the way contests for governor and mayor tend to be. This, despite the fact that top prosecutors wield enormous power, setting the priorities and parameters of police enforcement action, which determine whether order or chaos reigns supreme on the streets.
DA candidates tend to be politically active lawyers who have gained prosecutorial experience as young attorneys before moving on to respected law firms. They are slated by their party to run for the chief prosecutor position. Often, these races are not competitive. In de facto one-party governance (Democratic), which controls most urban centers, the DA candidate runs virtually unopposed, the real contest limited to any intraparty vying for the nomination.
Consequently, DA positions have been ripe for the taking. Over the last few years, a network of progressive activists backed by big money has seized the day.
Most notable is George Soros, the 89-year-old billionaire investor and currency trader, whose Open Society Foundations lavishly fund leftist causes and politicians. As noted by the left-leaning scholar Rachel Elise Barkow (in her provocative bestseller, Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration), DA campaigns are traditionally modest affairs, with budgets that seldom exceed five-figure fundraising. This creates an opportunity, and the Soros network has pounced, overwhelming the field by pouring millions of dollars into the coffers of favored candidates.
The Open Society Foundations network is joined in its effort by other progressive actors—Democratic trial lawyers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Civic Participation Action Fund, such political action committees as Color of Change and Real Justice, and Black Lives Matter. Together they have backed and supported the electoral efforts of progressive prosecutors in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Orlando, St. Louis, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, New Mexico, and elsewhere.
Barkow intuits that the lesson is that overtly progressive agendas can win if they have sufficient financial support to get their message out. I’m more inclined to believe that, at least for now, in cities living off the low-crime legacy of the intelligent policing revolution, hard-left community organizers resonate with heavily Democratic constituencies because they now outspend, as well as outwork, left-leaning moderates.
The progressive prosecutor is perhaps best instantiated by the aforementioned San Francisco DA. He is 39-year-old Chesa Boudin, the honoree at that raucous anti-cop victory celebration and pioneer of the anti-enforcement approach to enforcement. If the name has the faint ring of the dim and distant past, there is a good reason. Yale- and Oxford-educated Boudin is the son of Weather Underground terrorists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert. Alas, his parents were not around for his formative years. Still an infant on October 20, 1981, Chesa was left with a sitter as they went off with their Black Liberation Army confederates to execute the infamous Brinks armored-car robbery in Nanuet, New York—a blow against the indelible racism of AmeriKKKa, in which the plotters murdered a private security guard and two police officers, including Waverly Brown, a U.S. Air Force combat veteran who had become Nyack’s first African-American police officer.
Airbrushed into an “author and activist,” Gilbert is still serving his murder sentence. Released after decades in custody, Kathy Boudin is now—you’ll no doubt be shocked to learn—the co-founder and co-director of Columbia University’s Center for Justice. There, she studies the effects of (what else?) mass incarceration while agitating for criminal-justice reform.
Chesa was raised in Chicago by their Weatherman comrades Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, two other terrorists who escaped prosecution due to the excesses of the FBI’s COINTELPRO scandal (“Guilty as sin, free as a bird,” as Ayers himself put it). They, too, have been reinvented as distinguished academics. Dohrn, co-author of the terrorists’ “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States, recently retired from her perch as a clinical law professor at Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center. Ayers retired as a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois. In 1997, he penned A Kind and Just Parent, a scathing indictment of the American justice system, which he analogized to South Africa under apartheid. Barack Obama, then a young Chicago pol and acquaintance of Ayers and Dohrn, raved that the book was a “searing and timely account.”
As he recounts in his memoir Gringo: A Coming of Age in Latin America, Chesa Boudin cut his political teeth as a translator and think-tank researcher for Hugo Chavez’s regime. In this, he was tracing the footsteps of Ayers, a frequent visitor to Venezuela and devotee of the Bolivarian revolution’s education “reforms”—and how well that is all working out! Boudin eventually joined the San Francisco public defender’s office but did not try cases and had no prosecutorial experience when he ran for DA.
In that progressive paradise, though, he is radical royalty, his candidacy lauded by Senator Bernie Sanders, Communist icon Angela Davis, Islamist apologist Linda Sarsour, and Shaun King, the civil-rights activist and Black Lives Matter promoter. His fundraising blew away the field, led by Soros ally Chloe Cockburn (program manager for criminal-justice reform at the Open Philanthropy Project, a left-wing mega-donor, after a stint as counsel to the ACLU’s “campaign to end mass incarceration”). Also included among Boudin supporters were such Soros-backed ventures as the Tides Foundation and the Brennan Center for Justice.
No one will ever describe the new DA as abashed. He vows to dial back what he frames as undue police focus on people of color, the implication being that it is police animus against people of color—not the fact that communities of color are inordinately victimized by crime—that generates arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. Boudin would halt prosecution of minor “quality of life” offenses—essentially rejecting the “broken windows” approach.
His campaign promises included ending both the cash bail system and enhanced sanctions against gang members. Repealing cash bail is a hard-left hobby horse, a storyline that accused felons languish in prison for nonviolent crimes because they are minorities of minimal means, while the well-to-do are sprung. In reality, bail is presumptively granted to all arrestees (they are presumed innocent until proven guilty), but it is denied in cases that present some combination of a serious offense, an accused with an extensive criminal history, and strong indications that the accused is apt to abscond. It is fair enough to argue that the rich should not escape pretrial detention in cases that call for it; but it is preposterous to contend that, to achieve equal justice, we should just indiscriminately release everyone, heedless of the risks of danger to the community, intimidation of witnesses, and flight.
In the eyes of the left, anti-gang measures such as intelligence databases, enterprise prosecutions, and sentencing enhancements are seen as pretexts for surveillance and harassment of poor communities—vehicles by which the dominant white class keeps people of color checked and “caged.” In point of fact, gang-related crime results in higher punishments because (a) it is inherently violent (even the ostensibly nonviolent offenses are abetted by the well-earned reputation for brutality), (b) it accounts for an inordinate amount of total crime, and (c) the heinous effects of gang crime are disproportionately inflicted on poor communities. In New York City, for example, City Journal’s Robert A. Mangual notes that gangs are responsible for between 30 and 40 percent of homicides and nearly half of total shootings. Fully 20 percent of shootings in the city occur in public housing projects, though only 5 percent of the population inhabits them. That is precisely because they are hotbeds of gang activity and rivalry.
Besides thwarting immigration enforcement, Boudin plans to prioritize investigations into excessive-force claims against police. For felons, by contrast, he would establish a unit specializing in the reexamination of prior convictions for legal flaws—i.e., diverting resources from protecting the public against ongoing crime to the mitigation of convicts’ criminal histories.
Overarchingly, Boudin rejects the premise that prosecution and imprisonment are the proper way for, you know, prosecutors to address crime. Alternative techniques, such as “restorative justice,” would be implemented. This is the newfangled theory that crime is not a matter of willful predator and innocent victim. Rather, crime is a societal phenomenon in which there is no individual agency or culpability, just a congeries of players (the person directly wronged, the accused defendant, the families of each, the investigators and administrators), all victimized, all assuming the roles imposed by a “broken system.” Instead of prosecution, instead of all that handwringing over who mugged whom, shouldn’t we all just talk it out?
Boudin is the paragon of the Progressive Prosecutor Project’s aspirations. But the project has been underway for a number of years, providing good examples of progressive prosecutors in action. In 2017, Philadelphia elected Larry Krasner. Named for brotherly love, the city is better known today for its cauldrons of crime. Krasner, as progressive pols like to say, has a plan for that. Because high levels of arrest, prosecution, and mass incarceration are caused by the justice system, this dolorous situation can be reversed only if we stop prosecuting so many people, stop seeking bail for arrestees, water down the charges against people who are prosecuted, and then accelerate the release of people already in custody.
Krasner has thus homed in on a favorite piñata of the Progressive Prosecutor Project: mandatory-minimum sentencing provisions. These statutes instruct judges, upon a defendant’s conviction for certain serious felonies, to imprison that defendant to some minimally required period of time (say, five years for rape; or 10 years on a second violent felony conviction). Probation and similar slaps on the wrist are not options.
The left howls that this divests judges of the discretion to administer individual justice with empathy and compassion, the hallmark of judging. In fact, mandatory minimums are enacted by the people’s representatives because they reflect the community’s judgment that serious crimes warrant prison time. The purpose of punishment is not merely to address the accused’s need for rehabilitation but the public’s need for retribution, incapacitation of (typically) habitual offenders, and deterrence. Judges are legal elites who hail from the same self-proclaimed progressive academic institutions as the new breed of prosecutors. Many of them buy the narrative and prioritize the interests (and the perceived victimhood) of the accused over those of the community. Without mandatory minimums, they would not incarcerate sociopaths whom it is imperative to sideline.
Now, there is a worthy argument that some mandatory minimums are too draconian. Again, though, these provisions are statutory, so they can be (and in some cases have been) tapered back. Plus, if real injustice is done in individual cases, the governor’s pardon power (or the president’s at the federal level) can alleviate it by reducing sentences. But if our choice is between unaccountable judges or elected representatives answerable to the people most affected by crime, most of the public would favor putting in the legislature’s hands decisions about what prison terms are minimally necessary for serious crimes.
Knowing that, the progressive prosecutor usurps the decision for himself. Krasner’s office defeats these minimum-sentencing statutes by not invoking them, even if the criminal conduct at issue fits the statute prescribed by the legislature. Rather, it engages in fictional “fact-pleading”—pretending, at the charging or pleading stage, that the offense did not occur, or reimagining it into vanilla crime. In so doing, Krasner’s people erase indicia of violence, firearms, drug-weight, and other factors that trigger statutory minimums. In one case that left many Philadelphians speechless, a defendant shot and nearly killed a store owner during a brutal hold-up, and thus potentially faced decades in the slammer on attempted murder, aggravated assault, and robbery charges. Krasner struck a plea deal that will allow the felon to serve as little as three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. Alas, this is what Philadelphians voted for when they elected their new DA.
The same was true when Chicagoans, the residents of the nation’s murder capital, elected Kim Foxx the DA of Cook County in 2016. She is yet another Soros progressive prosecutor, who campaigned on the standard “disparate impact” delusion: The justice system must be structurally bigoted because minority defendants are prosecuted at numbers that vastly overrepresent their proportion of the population. But it was the Jussie Smollett debacle in 2019 that thrust Foxx into the national spotlight. An openly gay African-American actor who was starring in a cable-television drama, Empire, Smollett claimed to have been subjected to a vicious attack by Trump supporters shouting racist and homophobic slurs. The incident spurred a major police investigation, with dozens of personnel working long hours to interview witnesses, pursue suspects, and conduct forensic analysis. The effort yielded powerful evidence that the actor himself had staged the “assault.”
When Smollett was finally arrested for filing a fraudulent police report, Foxx was contacted by a friend, Tina Tchen, who vouched for the Smollett family and admonished that there were “concerns” about how the police conducted the investigation. (Tchen just happens to have been chief of staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama.) Foxx intervened, contacting a Smollett family member and trying to pressure Chicago police to let the FBI take over the case. In the resulting uproar, she intimated that she had recused herself but did not do so formally. After Smollett was indicted on 16 counts, Foxx’s top aides abruptly dismissed the case for a song: a few hours of community service and the forfeiture of $10,000 in bail, while the court sealed the case file from prying public eyes.
Foxx insists this was not sweetheart treatment but the level of punishment commensurate with a nonviolent crime committed by a first offender. Having been extraordinarily taxed by the demands of the investigation, the police remain livid and the FBI is said to be exploring potential federal charges (a tough case for the feds to make when it is state law enforcement that has been obstructed). Foxx’s kid gloves, meanwhile, extend liberally to violent criminals, too. As she hews to the progressive prosecutor template of minimizing prosecutions and sentences, police increasingly find that suspects arrested for serious felonies are preying on the streets despite lengthy rap sheets. Crime is beginning rise again, and, naturally, the spike is mainly detectable in the poorest neighborhoods.
Prepare to spot a trend. With its foundation built on scandalous fictions, the Progressive Prosecutor Project cannot help but imperil the public and squander the urban flourishing achieved by the historic reduction of crime. This becomes clearer each day. The racial scapegoating of cash bail, for example, has been taken to parodic heights in New York, which has dispensed with bail entirely for broad categories of crime regarded as “nonviolent.” Gotham, the original laboratory for intelligent policing, is becoming the Progressive Prosecutor Project writ large. The results would be comical if not so dangerous.
In the first weeks of the new law, a bank robber named Gerod Woodberry was released multiple times during a string of six attempted heists—sometimes detained just long enough to have lunch between robberies and marvel that he was not kept in custody. The rationale? Woodberry’s modus operandi is to hand tellers a threatening note rather than confront them at gunpoint. Hence, he is deemed a “nonviolent bank robber.” (Federal authorities, who are not subject to state anti-bail provisions, finally stopped the madness, charging and detaining Woodberry pending trial, under U.S. law.) Meantime, a raging anti-Semite named Tiffany Harris physically assaulted three women while screaming “F-U Jews” at a Hanukkah observance in Crown Heights. She was released—not violent enough, you see—only to sucker punch another young woman the following day in Prospect Heights.
Of course, bail is only an issue because we have police making arrests. In Seattle, progressives are thus working on a “reform” that would simply abolish the police department. Documentary filmmaker Christopher Ruso recounts in the City Journal that Sean Scott, who came within a hair of winning election to the municipal legislature, campaigned on a platform of defunding the “police state” that “steer[s] many black and brown bodies back into, in essence, a form of slavery.” One of Scott’s allies in “build[ing] towards a world where nobody is criminalized for being poor” is Kristen Harris-Talley, who briefly sat as an appointed city councilwoman. She traces the origin of policing to slavery: “How do you reform an institution that from its inception was made to control, maim, and kill people?”
Now, Americans are not going to abolish the police any time soon. And there are glimmers of hope that the Soros funding network has become sufficiently notorious that it will no longer sneak up on unsuspecting cities and towns. In the last cycle, its DA candidates were defeated in California and upstate New York, with voters more antagonized than enticed by the anti-enforcement agenda and the incursion of out-of-state progressive ideologues and funding streams, seeking upheaval, not sensible reform.
Then again, Chesa Boudin’s candidacy, and the agenda he champions without apology, would have been inconceivable a decade ago, even in San Francisco. Now, he is the elected DA, an undeniably charismatic leader of a movement that, however patently destructive upon close scrutiny, has real traction in our cities. It has become a commonplace for clueless pols to wax delirious over criminal-justice reform—craving any glimmer of bipartisan light in our deeply divided politics. We’d do well to resist the kumbaya moment. Crime was suppressed, to the nation’s great benefit, by clear thinking about the willfulness of offenders, and the realization that compassion is owed, first and foremost, to the aggrieved. The reformers prominently include progressive prosecutors and their patrons, who would have us unlearn those hard lessons. They are making real strides toward the dystopia we thought we’d left behind.
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Andrew C. McCarthy is a contributing editor at National Review and a former federal prosecutor.