Feingold Offers End to Death Penalty. Why No Takers?
In 2006, many Americans assumed that, if enough Democrats were elected to establish majority control over both houses of Congress, they would act to promote a progressive agenda to counter the radical right wing politics of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. Yet, so far, the Democratic Congress has failed to promote a strong progressive alternative to the right wing agenda.
Oh, there are progressive Democratic members of Congress. However, the progressives are being thwarted by a portion of the Democratic Party that prefers to avoid dealing with the issues that matter to progressives. What matters to these Democrats is gaining power for the Democratic Party. So, if they believe that going along with the right wing agenda on an issue is what it takes to acquire more power, that’s what they’ll do.
Consider the efforts of Russ Feingold, the progressive Senator from Wisconsin. A month ago, Senator Feingold introduced S.447, the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2007. The legislation would abolish the death penalty - something that progressives generally agree would be a good thing.
There are three sections to the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act. The first section simply gives the title of the law. The second section goes item by item through federal law, striking references to the ability to punish crimes by death. The third section, in case there is a law missed by the second section, states directly:
The inherent flaws of the death penalty have been firmly established. See the Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty Focus, and information from Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union if you’re looking for details about the problems with the death penalty.
While the death penalty punishes the guilty, it has also been imposed upon many people who turned out not to be guilty of capital crimes at all. The death penalty is selected in a biased and discriminatory manner motivated by political concerns. Furthermore, the death penalty is often administered in ways that violate the guaranteed protection from the Bill of Rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
Although the case against the death penalty is clear and convincing, many leading Democratic politicians refuse to do anything about the problem. They explain that they want to look tough on crime, and don’t seem to mind that looking tough requires being inhumane.
Of all the Democrats in the United States Senate, not a single one has co-sponsored the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2007. This includes the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates who are currently serving in the U.S. Senate.
The failure of almost all the Democrats in the Senate to act on the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act is one more piece of proof that being a Democrat and being progressive are not the same thing. In 2008, we need to focus on electing a progressive President. Electing any old Democrat is not enough.
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