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The Real Impact of the Norway Massacre

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...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.

 

2 Comments

"Oh, I assume the legislature will put it on the ballot, sure."

That is by no means sure. The sponsor, Sen. Loni Hancock (D - P.R. Berkeley), has a safe seat, but with our new reapportionment there will be a number of competitive districts. The Democratic leadership wants to add seats and not lose seats, and a Democrat-sponsored anti-death-penalty measure on the same ballot is widely seen as contrary to that goal.

The Democratic leadership of the California Legislature is happy to go soft on crime when they can do it without public attention, but it is not high on their priority list, and they drop such measures like hot potatoes when they see a political downside.

"The Democratic leadership of the California Legislature is happy to go soft on crime when they can do it without public attention, but it is not high on their priority list, and they drop such measures like hot potatoes when they see a political downside."

The key phrase is "when they see a political downside." It's there to be seen, for sure, but they won't see it for exactly the reasons you highlight in your entry about the Liu coverage and defining the political center.

I don't think the Dean at Berkeley is lying when he says that Liu is in the center; given his frame of reference, he may well be right. The problem is that the Dean and his crowd -- and the Democratic leadership comes from the same pond -- (1) cannot escape their frame of reference, and (2) cannot understand that it differs from the country's (and the state's) frame of reference. As I noted in my post, they are victims, to use that word quite loosely, of their certitude. It just never occurs to them that they might be wrong.

The same impenetrable certitude shows up all the time throughout abolitionism. Retentionists cannot be treated as thoughtful people of good faith who have analysed the issue differently and have reached a different result. Nope, not that. They're barbarians, bloodlusters, wahoos, Neanderthals, racists, nativists, etc., etc.

The most important thing about abolitionist certitude is not that it's certain of an incorrect conclusion. The most important thing is that it is indeed impenetrable. Nothing can get in or out.

My bet is that they go forward with this referendum. My further bet is that, as happens with most movements that cannot be penetrated by reality, they'll come to grief with it. And my third bet is that they will learn absolutely nothing from getting snowed under, since they'll be impenetrable to the election day results as well.

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