Friday, October 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton Declares Support for the Death Penalty


Still tough on crime? Credit: Associated Press (source)

by Gaius Publius

The headline says it all, though there's detail below. One by one, Hillary Clinton, to her credit, is taking positions on issues. She now supports the death penalty.

I have to ask: Is there support for the death penalty in the Democratic Party, enough to carry her past Sanders, who with O'Malley opposes it? Or more narrowly, is there enough support among Democrats for the death penalty in the Super Tuesday states, especially states like Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina? I'll look at that below.

Cristian Farias in the Huffington Post:
Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against Abolishing The Death Penalty

This is the Democratic front-runner's first mention of the contentious issue on the 2016 campaign trail.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Wednesday [October 28], Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out against abolishing the death penalty -- the first time she has addressed the issue during the current presidential campaign.

"I do not favor abolishing" the death penalty, she said, qualifying her position by adding that its use should be "very limited and rare," according to press reports.

Clinton has previously acknowledged how the plight of mass incarceration and police brutality affect communities of color disproportionately, and on Wednesday she conceded the death penalty is often administered in a discriminatory way, according to a reporter who attended.

Her view on state-sanctioned executions has remained consistent over the years. During her Senate campaign in 2000, she offered support for the death penalty -- in a seeming attempt to appear moderate on some social issues.
Farias notes, as you see, that her view on state-sanctioned execution has remained consistent — in one sense a plus, in another, not so much. And from the final link above, we find this, from her 2000 Senate race (my emphasis):
In her first extended interview devoted to her Senate candidacy, timed to coincide with her official announcement this afternoon, Mrs. Clinton took pains to present herself as a moderate Democrat. She went out of her way to note her support for the death penalty, welfare restrictions and a balanced budget.
"Death penalty, welfare restrictions and a balanced budget." A "moderate Democrat" indeed.

The Death Penalty and Super Tuesday

In the same HuffPost article, Martin O'Malley says that the death penalty is racially biased:
In a statement responding to Clinton's position, O'Malley said the death penalty "is [a] racially-biased, ineffective deterrent to crime, and we must abolish it."

"Our nation should not be in the company of Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen in carrying out the majority of public executions," he said. "That's why I abolished it in Maryland, because it is fundamentally at odds with our values. As President, I would work to build consensus to end it nationally."
He's right, of course. So how will her death penalty support play in the March 1 Super Tuesday contests, Clinton's supposed "firewall"? Here are the 12 Democratic events:

Colorado caucuses
Minnesota caucuses
North Carolina

Without looking at polling, I see three states where Sanders ought to do well if he does well in New Hampshire — Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont. I see at least four states with large Democratic-voting minority populations — Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas. Seven wins on Super Tuesday would force Ms. Clinton to seek another firewall elsewhere.

Can Sanders (or O'Malley) make the case to minority voters that opposition to the death penalty is closer to their interest than loyalty to an existing party structure and its let's-not-hurt-the-wealthy "mainstream" candidates? Makes an interesting test for those voters, who certainly support the issues represented by "Black Lives Matter." I guess this is why we choose people by elections and not by polling.

(If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)


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At 10:55 AM, Anonymous BrianG said...

I think she should run on her vote for war with Iraq since Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Queda. She should appeal to the right wing evangelicals by stressing her long time membership in the ultra secretive Capitol Hill religious group, The Fellowship. She should stress her sponsorship of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act to protect the rights of poor persecuted people like Kim Davis. As for her support for the death penalty, that goes way back to her 2000 Senate run against Giuliani (before he dropped out due to health reasons) when she was campaigning to the right of him on welfare restrictions, a balanced budget, and the death penalty.

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are full of it, BrianG

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Progressives are always being accused of demanding purity ponies, of making the perfect the enemy of the good.

To that I say, "Bullsh*t." I reject Clinton on far more substantive grounds, including her long record of support for Wall St over Main St, her bellicose tendencies in foreign policy matters and her lack of substance or seriousness in regard to the climate crisis. He recent feints left on these matters are, in a word, unbelievable.

If I were inclined to support Clinton, her apostasy on the death penalty, just like Sanders' problematic votes on gun control, would not be enough to dissuade me.

The big, existential (as in civilization-level and even species-level existential) issue is climate change, followed by global weath inequality and the growing hegemony of corporate and oligarchical power. Add to those problems America's internal rot, our addiction to wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, the rise of Chinese expansionist power, the revival of Russian muscle-flexing and mischief -- and all the usual liberal (and conservative) hobby horses pale in significance.

Black lives matter. Voting rights matter. Abortion rights matter. Marriage equality matters. Gun safety matters. Criminal justice reform matters. All of our social ills and culture wars matter immensely, especially if you're personally fighting the oppression on a daily basis. But globally these are second-tier concerns. I can overlook support for the death penalty if Hillary actually gets aggressive on carbon. I can live with Bernie's support for Vermont gun owners if he can manage to break the grip of Wall St.


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