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The purely vibe-based case for lock-’em-up politics


Nellie Bowles, the progeny of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest families, has a lengthy celebration of the recall of Chesa Boudin. As Partrick Redford notes, the core of the piece is Bowles really, really hating seeing homeless people when she visits from LA, something the DA’s policies…have virtually nothing to do with but anyway.

The most remarkable and telling part of the essay, to me, are these grafs following one another with whatever the opposite of self-awareness is:

Berlinn has five children, and is also raising Sylvester’s daughter. Since she posted that comment, she’s become an activist, calling on the city to crack down on drug sales, put dealers in jail, and arrest her son so he’s forced to become sober in jail, which she sees as the only way to save his life. She told me that she feels San Francisco has failed people like him: “Nothing that is being done is improving the situation.” Her work is nonpartisan, she said, but “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I really want to see Boudin recalled.”

Not long ago, we met on a stoop by the Civic Center, where her son used to hang out. She hadn’t seen him in months, but she spoke with him periodically. She cried as she talked about his journey into drugs. She said he was a heroin addict. He’d get sober after stints in jail, but it wouldn’t last. “I’d see him sometimes, and he didn’t look that bad, and that was how it was for 10 years,” she told me. “But then the dealers started putting fentanyl in everything, and being on fentanyl, it’s changed him, deteriorated him so rapidly … Before, he looked pretty healthy and smiling. And now he’s got this stoop. He walks almost at a 40-degree angle, like an old man.”

“We need to solve the drug problem by arresting people and putting them in jail. For example, take my son, who has been arrested and put in jail repeatedly, and is still a drug addict.” Well, I’m convinced! But this is pretty much “tough on crime” politics in a nutshell — nobody can explain how the recall of Boudin will solve the problems they identify, but what the hell let’s throw some marginal cases in jail anyway.

Bowles does eventually get to the real reason for the homelessness crisis — NIMBYs winning political battles to keep housing completely unffordable for countless people — but after noting the hypocrisy of progressive NIMBYs quickly moves on without discussing of the structural changes that would be necessary to disempower them. Stopping NIMBYs is just never going to be a priority for people whose first solution to problems is putting people in prison.

Stay tuned for the next installment: “why did the DA allow people to steal my car when I left the keys inside?”

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