I don’t know if I qualify since I’m not a liberal, but conservative Lowell Ponte has a challenge for “liberals” who oppose the death penalty in a recent article of his (Executing the Death Penalty):
One Lowell Ponte alternative – liberal death penalty opponents, as I have argued for 20 years on talk radio, should be able to sign an agreement, wear a button, and post a sign on their homes declaring that nobody who murders them should be subjected to the death penalty. Liberal politicians in particular should put their lives where their mouths are by publicly declaring anyone who murders them exempt from this ultimate punishment.
Like I said, I’m not a liberal, and I would really prefer not to be murdered, but if I were murdered I would definitely not want the guilty party executed. Hell, just for Ponte’s sake, I’ll also declare that I would not want any suspects in my murder subjected to torture. Nor would I want I want police to coerce a confession from my killer (I guess that puts me right in the Dukakis liberal camp).
I would like my killer to spend the rest of his natural life in jail, to be sure, but is it really so hard for diehard proponents of capital punishment to get it through their skulls that empowering the state to kill is the last thing conservatives should be fighting for? Capital punishment is wrong — it grants to the state a right that no individuals possess. Certainly people have a right to defend themselves up to and including the use of deadly force, for example, but capital punishment is the equivalent to the cold blooded murder of a subdued criminal.
On the other hand, Ponte is correct in his assessment that my view is in the minority, and largely for the reasons he points out — the ridiculous arguments made by some opponents of capital punishment. Is the death penalty racist because blacks make up a disproportionate number of those on death row? That might be the case if blacks didn’t also make up a disproportionate number of murderers (in fact based on the conviction rates of murder for blacks and whites, blacks murderers are actually less likely to receive the death penalty than white murderers). And don’t even get me started on Mumia Abu Jamal.
But just because most of the typical arguments offered against capital punishment are wrong doesn’t make the death penalty right. There may be a lot of nonsense floating around the anti-death penalty camp, but that doesn’t make the state’s cold blooded killing of an unarmed person morally correct. The death penalty should be abolished and replaced with life without parole for particularly egregious murders.