San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a former translator for Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez, has angered the wrong people in the city. Prominent businessmen, as well as tech’s elite in Silicon Valley, are calling for his resignation or, failing that, starting a campaign to recall him.
Boudin is one of the “new breed” of district attorneys who believes that sending people to jail is racist. He has emptied the jails in the city with his “no bail” policy and won praise from criminal rights groups. But ordinary San Franciscans aren’t quite as pleased with his policies as the criminals. Hence, Boudin could very well find himself recalled. If that happens, Boudin would be the third prominent politician in the Golden State to be forced onto the ballot to prevent his ouster.
Boudin was being hit with California’s unique variant of recall fever, a mix of traditional right-wing complaints about progressivism now boosted by a clique of tech elites. Other targets of their ire include Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who previously held Boudin’s position in San Francisco and, like Boudin, is part of a nationwide movement of progressive prosecutors seeking to make the criminal justice system less punitive.
Backlash against reform-minded district attorneys isn’t new—Black women DAs in particular have faced harsh opposition and even death threats. And it’s unclear whether the recall campaign will pose an actual risk to San Francisco’s DA—petitioners would need to gather more than 50,000 valid signatures to force him out. Boudin says he doesn’t feel threatened, and that he views it as an effort to divert attention from more important matters in the middle of a pandemic. “This is Trump politics at its core,” he says.
Raising the bogeyman of Trump might work with some leftists but not so much with people forced to live in the world being recreated by progressives like Boudin. They don’t see Trump releasing criminals back on the street, or issuing reduced sentences for convicted felons. And they hate the fact that they are made to be guinea pigs in Boudin’s little social experiment.
But Boudin comes by his radical politics naturally.
That’s because Boudin’s parents were members of the militant left-wing Weather Underground—an “activist group,” as Lowery describes it; a terrorist group, according to the FBI—and were sent to prison for taking part in a 1981 armed robbery that left two police officers and a security guard dead and several others severely wounded. For all intents and purposes, Boudin is presented as someone who is intimately familiar with the unfairness of the American justice system.
Boudin’s mother, Kathy Boudin, was released on parole in 2003 and is the co-director of the Center for Justice at Columbia University. His father, David Gilbert, is still serving a 75-year minimum sentence at a maximum security prison in New York. After his parents were incarcerated, Boudin was raised by Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground leader best known for his association with former president Barack Obama.
That’s quite a pedigree. To complete the circle of radicalism, his grandfather was a lawyer for Fidel Castro.
So his grandfather was the lawyer for a bloodthirsty revolutionary, his parents were terrorists, he was partly raised by a terrorist, and he himself has walked on the wild side by being a translator for the vicious thug Hugo Chavez.
But this is San Francsco. Boudin fits right in with the radical left clique that runs the city. Any effort to recall Boudin would be going uphill all the way, so that avenue to rid the city of his radicalism is probably closed for the time being.