Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Question for LIberals

2022: what's the situation with the death penalty in the US? Also, does it become a presidential election issue in 2016 or 2020, and if so which party is helped by it?


  1. Very divisive issue. Death penalty ban just passed the Senate in CT - a super liberal state (gay marriage, decrim of weed, stand alone trans gender rights bill, etc) but the recent Q poll shows that the majority of the state approves of it.

    It will become an issue whenever anyone decides to make it an issue - most likely Republicans because I see them benefiting from it more than dems/liberals.

    I don't know the constitutional legalities regarding a federal ban. I could see that happening within the next 10 years, but if its just left to the states, it will be the same old thing: the North east, and West coast ban it, maybe Iowa and the rest of the heartland and south keep it.

  2. I think that, due to the nature of the recent scandals (in which potentially innocent people were executed), Democrats in state legislatures like Texas, Alabama, etc. might start to push to tighten restrictions on when to allow the death penalty. in particular, requiring DNA evidence might become a popular reform. I just don't get the sense the Democrats and liberals in the West and the South will feel able to push for outright abolition due to the dynamics of the issue in those states. I think that, nationally, Democrats will feel more comfortable having it stay a state's rights issue for the next couple of decades... especially with the on-going "white angst" social phenomenon (seen esp. in issues like immigration, and possibly due to ongoing demographic changes around the country), crime and public safety policies are potentially going to have a strong effect on a lot of white, low-information voters for a long time. to be clear: I'm certainly not saying that people who prioritize crime and public safety issues are racist or prejudice... I just mean to say that issues like the death penalty have very frequently taken on racial undertones. And, as we've seen with immigration, a lot of those white, low information voters have a very, very strong reaction to issues that have racial undertones. In terms of party politics, I think the Democrats will continue to neutralize the issue by not favoring outright abolition, but that Republicans will generally be better poised to take advantage of it if the issue becomes a wedge.

  3. I actually think we are reaching a national consensus that the death penalty should be, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, safe, legal, and (relatively) rare. As long as there is a national consensus opposed both to abolishing the death penalty and to dramatically increasing the number of executions (e.g., by relaxing the burden of proof and/or sentencing standards), it will probably be off the table as a national issue for the foreseeable future. One occasionally hears calls to 'streamline' the appeals process for capital cases, but these days it's invariably from fringe characters like Dan Lungren.

    There's a sense in which Lungren is right: the DP is only plausibly a deterrent, and not just some kind of weird primeval ritual, if you put lots of people to death. But of course to do that you can't avoid executing the innocent, at which civilized people typically blanch. So over time, the reduced number of executions undermines the rational argument for the continued existence of the institution. But there's no way it will have gotten to that point by 2022.

  4. I’d say the death penalty will be on its way to disappearing by 2022, but mainly through state-level action. Although some small part of this might be through moral crusading, I suspect the cost of capital punishment will be the motivating factor (witness Kansas’s recent flirtation with abolition). I’d suspect that, in general, states with already-low execution rates will lead the way.

    All of this is assuming that the death penalty largely stays out of national politics, or that presidential candidates of both parties continue to support the death penalty. If it returns to the forefront as a nationally polarizing issue, then the death penalty situation will remain largely unchanged from today, with only a couple of blue states electing to end capital punishment.

  5. I'm very involved in the abolition movement in my state. There's a very broad coalition of people who are against it now, from religious conservatives to civil libertarian liberals. I think the death penalty is on its way out and we'll see abolition in the next 10 years. It obviously doesn't work as a deterrent, it's expensive, and a lot of the so-called "pro-life" crowd are realizing that you can't be pro-life and pro-death penalty. As the use of DNA evidence exonerates more and more wrongly-convicted inmates it's clear our criminal justice system routinely convicts the innocent, and it's logical to assume we've executed innocent people.

  6. ... that said I'm curious why you'd ask this question of liberals and not of everyone? This isn't a liberal/conservative issue, as my involvement in abolition in Tennessee has shown me.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?