The broken windows election

Boudin’s defeat will likely be seen as part of a broader backlash against criminal justice progressivism—one that has installed Democratic New York City mayor Eric Adams in Gracie Mansion, put moderate Rick Caruso neck and neck with far-left Karen Bass for the mayoralty of Los Angeles, and produced an about-face from municipal Democrats across the country. This backlash is a response to surging violent crime rates, which spiked in the wake of the “Defund the Police” movement and has driven the homicide rate to record highs.

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Though this movement is doubtless part of Boudin’s loss, Tuesday’s results tell us something else. Specifically, San Francisco voters were responding not so much to violent crime—with which the city has struggled less than others—as to disorder, which has become rampant. Boudin’s now-former jurisdiction has become infamous for rapidly growing homelessness, public defecation, and organized shoplifting which has shuttered some retailers. The situation has become so hostile that numerous companies have decamped to redder states, citing relative quality of life.

Boudin, however, long maintained that he had no role in addressing such issues. If Boudin’s brand of progressivism sets itself against the idea of addressing “broken windows” problems, then his recall is decisive evidence that the public still wants them fixed.

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