Conservative Nebraska Just Abolished The Death Penalty

Well this is certainly a surprise! Nebraska, one of the most conservative states in the country, has just voted to abolish the death penalty. Although Gov. Pete Ricketts is a staunch supporter of the death penalty and called this a “dark day” for public safety, the legislature has enough votes to override his veto. Shockingly, they are mostly from Republicans, given that there are only 13 Democrats to begin with.

If you’re wondering how that can possibly be – with conservatives usually being staunch supporters of the death penalty – it mostly has to do with a combination of those who oppose it for religious reasons, and those who feel like it just costs too much money.

To boot, there is also an element of distrust in the government at work. Sen Lauren Ebke, a Republican from Crete, stated “If government can’t be trusted to manage our health care … then why should it be trusted to carry out the irrevocable sentence of death?”

Oddly, this is close to what leftists and liberals have been saying for years – albeit in regards to the fact that so many people have been found innocent after being put on death row or even executed. We’ve also been pointing out the money thing since at least my Junior year term paper.

The fact is, we don’t have the death penalty because it’s especially effective – states without the death penalty have consistently lower murder rates than those that do. We don’t have the death penalty because it is somehow more likely to keep us safe from criminals than life without parole would. We have it because it makes people feel good.

Really. None of these things have ever mattered to conservatives before because of the fact that it makes them feel good. They like the idea of “an eye for an eye” – they like the idea of punishing people in that way.

The only reason this is turning around right now, I imagine, is because – likely due to their newfound distrust of the government, which a black dude is in charge of – it’s not making them feel good anymore.

Our criminal justice system is very different from that of most Democratic societies to begin with. To begin with, we’re the only country classified as a “Liberal Democracy” that still has the death penalty. The only countries that have killed more people this way since 2007 are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. We keep people in jail longer, we do solitary confinement, we make casual jokes about prison rape – and certain people even get annoyed when someone suggests that it might be a good idea to do something about all the prison rape, because obviously all those criminals totally deserve it anyway.

Our system is not set up to be rehabilitative, the way most Western Democracies are – it’s set up for punishment. This is not as effective in terms of reducing crime, but that is strictly beside the point. It is about making people on the outside feel like justice has been served and that people are being punished.

If we’re ever going to actually abolish the death penalty in this country and completely or revamp our prison system, that’s the thing we’re going to have to address. We have to figure out the thing that makes it not feel like it’s just “the right thing to do” to them. Maybe we’re starting to figure that out?