Back in the more optimistic days of October, likely anticipating a new Hillary Clinton appointed Supreme Court justice, the New York Times opined that the death penalty is nearing its end.
This isn’t our first abolitionist rodeo, and we had reason to be skeptical of the Times’ claims. The subsequent electoral catastrophe blew most conventional wisdom out of the water, the death penalty ballot initiatives being no exception. (Trump’s Supreme Court pick will likely defend the constitutionality of capital punishment. But this actually ranks fairly low on my worries regarding his selection.)
Nebraskans voted to override the legislative repeal — which survived the Governor’s veto! — of capital punishment. Californians rejected abolition by 54%. Oklahomans affirmed that the death penalty does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (For more, see John Blume’s post here.)
But while retentionists went three for three, support for the death penalty continues to decline, as I noted in my previous post, and the number of executions continue to drop. 2016 is likely a detour on the abolitionist path. I wish I could be so sanguine about our democracy more generally.