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Who's Winning the Death Penalty Debate?

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Reader Federalist notes in a comment that, while abolitionists do indeed lie in the death penalty debate, they're winning.

I can see why he's worried.  On the whole, however, abolitionism is not winning.

The best evidence of this is the defeat of Prop 34 in California five months ago.  It lost by close to a half million votes, at the same time Californians were overwhelmingly choosing to loosen their three-strikes law (by over four and a half million votes) and re-elect President Obama (by over three million votes).  When voters in our largest and one of our most liberal states choose the death penalty over LWOP, and do so on the same day they are otherwise massively choosing two distinctly liberal outcomes, it's just very, very hard to make the case that abolitionism is winning.  When it's losing in California, it's losing period.

I explained the ramifications of the Prop 34 vote at some length here, but there is yet more evidence that our side is doing better than the opposition.  Five items in particular should be noted.
First is this year's Gallup poll.  Its telling headline is, "U.S. Death Penalty Support Stable at 63%."  It observes that support has been at about that level, sometimes a little higher and sometimes a little lower, since the turn of the millennium.  In 2000, support was at 66%.

Second and even more telling is the demographic breakdown of supporters. Pollsters and pundits generally look to three groups to tell how the wind is blowing  -- moderates, independents, and younger voters.  All three groups support capital punishment by landslide proportions.  Moderates favor it by 60-34, Independents by 65-32 (in other words, by 2-1), and younger voters by 61-35.  No Presidential election in history has been won with such margins.

Third, while abolitionists often claim that the actual number of executions is falling, this is another one of their lies.  According the the abolitionist-leaning DPIC, the number of executions last year was identical to the number the year before, and the number of executions over the last three years was identical (one more, actually) to the three years before that (132 to 131).  The figures are here

Fourth, the claim that executions have become strictly the province of the Old South is false  --  not that you would have heard about it in the press.  The South is still the region with the most executions by a considerable measure, but the last three years have seen numerous executions in such states as Ohio, Delaware, Utah, Missouri, South Dakota, Idaho, Arizona and Washington, in addition to the southern states.  (Idaho and Washington would probably be particularly surprised to learn of their nunc pro tunc membership in the Confederacy).  The precise numbers are collected here.

Fifth, the much-heralded fact that six states have abolished capital punishment in the last six years is little more than hype.  Yes, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Connecticut and (very soon) Maryland have become abolitionist (not a single one of them by a vote of the people, however).  But the "victories" are hollow, because they were nothing but a ratification of the status-quo-ante.  Over the last ten years, those states collectively had carried out a total of three executions.  To say now that they have adopted laws "abolishing the death penalty" packs all the wallop of saying that Hawaii has adopted a law abolishing glaciers.

I will say this for abolitionism, however.  For all it lacks by was of actually persuading people, it almost makes up for by the number of deceitful claims about its powers of persuasion.

3 Comments

What are the ramification of Prop 34? The death penalty is effectively dead in California.

Just recently, in Texas, Dallas DA Craig Watkins decided not to fight a stay request and has now agreed to another stay, cruelly jerking around the victim's family. And he is taking no heat for it. None. SCOTUS and federal courts jerk around victims' families with lawless stays granted on last-minute petitions, and nary a peep from anyone. Executions are down, and the trend is not good.

That's how I measure who is winning, and it's not us.

Federalist is right and wrong.

5 states have recently repealed the death penalty. So, we are losing, there.

But, that only happens in Democratic Governor states and with Democratic majority legislatures and with the populations of those states supportive of the death penalty - meaning, the lies that the Democrats put forward are only meaningful to those Democrats.

Federalist overlooks the importance of California.

If you combine the spending disparity between the pro and anti death penalty camps, including the advertising value of the news stories and editorials for the anti side, it was about 1000 to 1, in favor of the antis.

The point is that everyone in California and elsewhere knows that the death penalty in Ca is completley disfunctional, but was still supported by the overwhelmingly liberal Ca population.

Why? There is only one reason: Justice.

It's huge if justice matters.

Regarding Watkins,

My note to the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board on 4/8

from Dudley Sharp

DA Walkins Precedent:

File a bunch of bills on capital punishment and we will stop all executions during the session, just in case one might pass. Do it every session!

Oh my.

Heck, suspend all traffic tickets and fines next time a proposed change comes to those laws - just for the session, though, just in case one might pass.

If the DMN were not so, blindly, anti death penalty, they might realize what an idiotic precedent this is.

DMN has had no difficulty in overcoming the obstacle of reason in prior death penalty considerations, so here were are.

Embrace it.

NOTE: Did anyone at DMN look at the voter registration and drivers license data for Dallas in 1998 and 2002 to see what percentage of jurors might have been black, based upon those called to jury duty and those who actually showed up?

You know, some reporter stuff?

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