In California, crime is now public enemy No. 1 | RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.:

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his wife, Valerie Block, leave an election nig ...

Soft-on-crime Democrats have been slow to wake up to this reality, but a lot of Californians are dreamin’ of living in a safer state.

In last week’s primary election in the Golden State, crime wasn’t just on the ballot. It stole the show.

The liberal media missed the story. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin — a criminal justice reformer who thinks that not everyone who commits a crime belongs in jail — was recalled with ease. A news article in The Washington Post blamed “conservative donors” and “moderate Democrats” for his ouster.

Never mind that San Francisco is not exactly overflowing with either conservatives or moderates. In the overwhelmingly Democratic city, Republicans account for less than 10 percent of the electorate.

The San Francisco Chronicle, in an editorial, blamed low voter turnout for the Boudin recall. As the editorial notes, voter turnout was just 26 percent in San Francisco and lower elsewhere in the state. This, the Chronicle editorial suggested, because voters “couldn’t be bothered.”

It’s disgraceful that politicians continue to spread half-truths, break promises, underperform in office and turn a deaf ear to criticism. And then, after all that, their defenders in the media have the gall to blame the voters for not showing up. How about the politicians giving the voters something worth showing up for?

You want to talk about the integrity of our elections in the United States? OK, let’s do that. Republicans rattle their sabers over accusations of voter fraud, while Democrats worry about voter intimidation by goons standing outside polling stations. You know what really suppresses the vote? Untrustworthy and underperforming politicians in both parties. But the parties will never admit that.

California — which in the 1960s gave birth to a hippie counterculture that preached that people should do whatever felt right — now wants people to stop doing bad things. Voters want to arrest the spread of vandalism, violent crimes, property theft and general mayhem. The evidence suggests that voters are so fed up with career politicians and so-called progressive prosecutors that they will take a chance on candidates who have never before held public office.

In the most populous state in the country, we’ve gotten to the point where people’s opinions of politics and politicians are so dismal that candidates with zero political experience have the best chance of getting elected.

In Los Angeles, this phenomenon benefited mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer and political novice who — stop me if this sounds familiar — wound up pitted against career politicians and came out on top. Caruso got the most votes in Tuesday’s election but not enough to avoid a runoff with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles. The two will face off again in November.

I’ve often described my home state as 12 states in one, sectioned off by geography. You have mountains, deserts, valleys and the coast. How people see the world depends in large part on where they see it from.

But in big-picture terms, it’s helpful to think of California as two states — one made up of the cities, and the other composed of rural towns.

In the cities, a trifecta of plights — crime, homelessness and the high cost of living — are leaving voters angry and frustrated. In the rural areas — such as my native San Joaquin Valley in Central California — people are more likely to get worked up over the water crisis and sky-high gasoline prices.

I live in Southern California, but I spent the days immediately before and after the election traveling across the state. In the East Bay, near San Francisco, a lot of Democratic voters seem to be having second thoughts about supporting a criminal justice reform movement that now seems like surrendering to crime.

The evidence suggests that Democrats either don’t take seriously the problem of spiking urban street crime, or they’re too busy experimenting with progressive law enforcement policies that seem to be making the problem worse.

For instance, California’s Proposition 47 designated shoplifting as a misdemeanor provided the value of the property taken does not exceed $950. And given that prosecutors often won’t bring to trial misdemeanor shoplifting cases, scofflaws could have a green light to steal up to $949 without consequences.

Who could have guessed this would happen? I mean, besides anyone with an ounce of common sense.

Which probably explains why so many politicians missed it.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.