At long last one of the two biggest US political parties has committed to abolish the death penalty! The Democratic Party proposes:
“We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and unjust. The cost to taxpayers far exceeds those of life imprisonment. It does not deter crime. And, exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for what is an irreversible punishment.”*
The stance is undoubtedly influenced by the views of former Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, a longstanding opponent of the death penalty. Speaking to the Senate last year, Sanders declared:
“I believe it is time for the United States of America to join almost every other Western, industrialized country on Earth in saying no to the death penalty.”
The Democrats’ platform would not lead to instant change: the necessary legal and administrative changes would take time. And it is notable that the statement conflicts with the views of the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who still supports “very limited use” of the federal death penalty in “particularly heinous” terrorist crimes, for instance, for mass shooting suspect, Dylann Roof. Clinton’s presidential running mate, Tim Kaine, probably welcomes the party’s new objective, as he admits he is conflicted over the 11 executions that he presided over as governor of Virginia:
“I really struggled with that as governor. I have a moral position against the death penalty.”
Despite the obstacles that remain to be cleared, the Democratic Party’s stated aim of abolishing the death penalty is welcome. The Libertarian Party and Green Party also oppose the death penalty; the Republican Party and Constitution Party support it.
In Mississippi, where Willie Manning sits on death row, Governor Phil Bryant is Republican and therefore unlikely to oppose the death penalty. Death penalty opponents should remember where their vote could count in ending the death penalty for good.
* P.16 of 2016 DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORM (P. 20 of whole document)