A day after Hillary Rodham Clinton said she opposed abolishing the death penalty, Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on Thursday and declared that “the time is now for the United States to end capital punishment.”
In seizing an opportunity to appeal to liberals who might be disappointed with Mrs. Clinton’s views, Mr. Sanders asserted that ending the death penalty was “the right point of view,” arguing that the government “should itself not be involved in the murder of other Americans.”
“I would rather have our country stand side-by-side with European democracies rather than with countries like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others who maintain the death penalty,” Mr. Sanders said.
He added that “at a time of rampant violence and murder all over the world,” the United States government should “say loud and clearly that we will not be part of that process.”
“I think that those of us who want to set an example — who want to say that we have got to end the murders and the violence that we’re seeing in our country and all over the world – should, in fact, be on the side of those of us who believe that we must end capital punishment in this country,” Mr. Sanders said.
Mrs. Clinton weighed in on the death penalty on Wednesday in response to a question from a voter in New Hampshire. Though she said she did not support its abolition, she expressed concern that the death penalty “has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way.”
Source: The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan, October 29, 2015
Sanders highlights opposition to death penalty in his latest bid to draw contrasts with Clinton
The senator from Vermont said he understands that people are "shocked and disgusted" by horrific killings, but he argued that the government "should not be involved in the murder of other Americans."
"It seems to me at a time of rampant violence and murder ... it is important that the state itself ... say loud and clearly that we will not be a part of that process," Sanders said during a speech in which he also recounted a plan unveiled Wednesday on the campaign trail to nix marijuana from the federal government's list of outlawed drugs.
That move -- which Sanders said would free states to regulate marijuana as they see fit -- also sets him apart from the former secretary of state, who has advocated a more cautious approach on the issue.
Sanders's decision to highlight the death penalty came a day after Clinton said in New Hampshire that she does not support abolition of the death penalty, arguing that "there are certain egregious cases that still deserve consideration."
Clinton, however, said the use of capital punishment should be "very limited and rare," and that "we have to be smarter and more careful about how we do it." Her comments came in response to a question by an audience member at a "Politics & Eggs" forum at St. Anselm College in Manchester.
Over the past week, Sanders's campaign has ramped up its efforts to highlight issues on which he and Clinton disagree or on which he took a more progressive position sooner than she did. Those have included trade, Wall Street regulation and gay rights.
Although a majority of Americans continue to support use of the death penalty, the level of support has been declining, and a solid majority of Democrats now oppose it, according to a Pew Research Center survey in March.
Among the broader population, 56 % voiced support for the death penalty, while 38 % opposed it. Among Democrats, only 40 % voiced support, while 56 % said they opposed the death penalty.
The politics surround the issue has changed markedly in recent election cycles. In the past, Democrats who opposed capital punishment were often branded soft on crime. Back in 1996, Democrats favored capital punishment by a wide margin, 71 % to 25 %, according to Pew.
In the 2016 Democratic race, both Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley have now talked up their desire to put an end to the death penalty.
As governor, O'Malley championed legislation in 2013 that abolished capital punishment in Maryland. Before leaving office early this year, he also commuted the sentences of the state's four remaining inmates on the death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In his speech Thursday, Sanders stressed that the government should not go easy on murderers -- just not kill them.
"When people commit horrendous crimes, and we see too many of them, we should lock them up and throw away the key," Sanders said.
Source: Washington Post, October 29, 2015
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