On Political Books

March/ April/ May 2014 Abolition and Backlash

Efforts to ban capital punishment are growing. But keep this in mind: the last time the Supreme Court tried to end the death penalty, we got more executions.

By David Dagan

But as a rule, governments do not abolish the death penalty because doing so is popular. In the other industrialized democracies, abolition was an elite project, a decision political leaders closed ranks around and imposed on their citizens. Elite abolition is much harder in the United States, where justice is locally controlled, crime is an easy target for populists, and lethal violence is more widespread.

The LDF’s advocates struggled heroically to achieve a razor-thin victory that soon blew up in their faces. To succeed this time around, abolitionists will have to dig in for a battle that will be even longer and harder.

Buy this book from Amazon and support Washington Monthly: A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America

David Dagan is a freelance journalist and a PhD student in political science at Johns Hopkins University. Find him on Twitter: @DavidDagan

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