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Abolitionism Hits a New Low with Kent's Victory

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Support for the death penalty comes in cycles.  It was  getting lower in the late Fifties, hit bottom in about 1967, accelerated quickly for about the next three decades as the increasing number and gruesomeness of murder sunk in with the public.  It then started falling for maybe 15 or 20 years as the murder rate plummeted.

The question is where it goes from here, and the answer is up.

First. abolitionism has already gobbled up the conceptual low-hanging fruit (eliminating the death penalty for16 and 17 year-old's and mental defectives), and had its success in the low-hanging, liberal states (Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, New Mexico, etc.).  The terrain, both for geography and argument, is tougher from here on in.

Second, the cycle of crime has again turned bloody and brutal. This has been happening since late 2014.  There is decently clear evidence (in several state elections last year) that the courts, probably with one eye on public opinion, will be headed in  a different direction. Today's landmark win by Kent in the decidedly liberal California Supreme Court  --  and a lopsided win at that  -- is not a warning shot.  It's a bullseye in abolitionism's fuselage.  And, of course, measures to abolish the death penalty lost everything they could at the ballot box last year. Finally, the actual number of executions nationwide seems headed for a slight but noticeable increase over last year, one of the very few times this has happened in the last two decades. 

When a SCOTUS majority said two years ago in Glossip v. Gross that the death penalty is constitutional, the handwriting was on the wall.  Essentially nothing has gone right for abolitionism since then, and certainly since London, Barcelona, and Charlottesville. Well-publicized and especially cold-blooded murders by Jihadists, and now by Nazis, put the death penalty debate in a new light.

Let me just say it in plain language:  The Brownshirts are back and the public knows it.  We got a searing lesson at ghastly cost when we hesitated in dealing with them last time 80 years ago.  

Never again means never again.

The bloody tide of recent history; a SCOTUS majority that understands the problem (and is likely to get better with new members appointed by President Trump); and now an acceleration of grisly murders with terrorist and/or Nazi overtones  --  all this, in my view, will make a difference in the public's appreciation of the symbolic value of capital punishment.

All in all, the outcropping from the California Supreme Court's ruling, and the evidence from our streets, suggests that the problem  --  hate-driven murder  --  Is well-suited to, if it does not demand, the expedited procedures we will now see.coming into place in the Golden State. Abolitionism is in trouble. Abolitionists' mistake was in believing that an oasis here and an oasis there made an ocean. It didn't, and even the oases are starting to dry up. 


2 Comments

I wish to avoid criticizing good work, and to refrain from pessimism; however,
have not abolitionists been horrifically successful in stalling the death
penalty in California?
Do you expect this to change?

The answer to both questions is yes. When retaining the death penalty won in the Golden State by 880,000 votes -- 400,000 more than in 2012 -- I believe that is a message-sender.

The death penalty is easy to stall in times of low violent crime. But those times appear to be ending.

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