Donald Trump phoned in to “Fox & Friends” last year after two police officers were shot dead in Mississippi. Asked what an appropriate punishment for the killers would be, he said, “Well, it’s the death penalty. We have people who are, these two, animals who shot the cops … the death penalty, it should be brought back and it should be brought back strong,” reports The Guardian.
A month later, Trump announced he was running for president. He has barely said the words “death penalty” in public since, although a top adviser has called for Hillary Clinton’s execution, saying she “should be put in the firing line and shot for treason”.
Clinton only talks about capital punishment when pressed and then, clumsily. Unlike most of her own party, including running mate Tim Kaine, the Democrat supports death in the case of terrorists. She has said she would be happy if someone would outlaw execution. In campaign 2016, the safest stance on the ultimate punishment may be silence. “Why bring it up if it’s going to stir the pot if you don’t have to?” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. For the first time since 1972, the Democratic party platform advocates repealing the death penalty.
Mainstream Republican opinion is turning away from it, too. Executions and death sentences are down nationwide, while the number of exonerated death row inmates creeps upward.
For further reading see Adam Wisnieski’s story “The Death Penalty and Hillary” in TCR.