...is that the California referendum to end the death penalty will be stillborn. I assume the legislature will put it on the ballot, sure. But it will be, for abolitionism, a mistake if not a disaster.
The inescapable and terminal flaw in the abolitionist argument is its absolutism: No death penalty, not ever, don't bother me with the grisly facts of the murder or the dozens of murders, never, never, never.
Absolutist positions don't sell with the public, and this one won't either. This would be true even if public opinion were in equipose, which it isn't. The public favors the death penalty by better than two-to-one, and by close to three-to-one in California, if the typically reliable Field Poll is to be believed.
Like most zealots who become deaf to the real world by years of turning up the volume on their own True Believerism, California's abolitionists have become convinced that arguments they've been making, and losing, for years will win this time. They can read the Field Poll as well as you can; they just refuse to believe it because they have the True Wisdom.
Fine. More power to their invincibility. But the gruesome events in Norway a few days ago, like the McVeigh massacre and the Petit family atrocity, leave the referendum backers with a question they can't answer: "Do you mean that even if we have a Norway massacre in Los Angeles -- a cold-blooded, remorseless killer of children in a case where no sane person could question the defendant's guilt -- we still can't have the death penalty?"
When the referendum's backers have to admit that the people will be denied the only penalty a normal person would view as justice, the results of the referendum will give them what they earned.
As President Bush said, bring it on.