Why did Hillary Clinton come out against abolishing the death penaliy?

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton irritated progressives again, this time with regard to capital punishment (aka the government legally killing criminals). When asked about this topic, Clinton firmly stated, “I do not favor abolishing [capital punishment]…because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states.”

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley took this opportunity to attack Clinton’s centrist answer by highlighting their support of abolishing capital punishment. O’Malley, in particular, had some strong words for Hillary Clinton:

Secretary Clinton is often a bit behind the times in terms of actually what works when it comes to policy. I respect her. I have a great deal of respect for her, but she’s often late to many of these issues because she’s of a different generation than I am.

While I agree with Governor O’Malley’s points and overall tactic, he must also know that 61 percent of Americans favor the death penalty for a person convicted of murder. Only 37 percent are opposed. It’s easy to see why Hillary, ever the pragmatic progressive, has come out in favor of capital punishment for “certain egregious cases.” She’s doing so because she doesn’t want this type of a moment presented to her:

Clinton’s conciliatory language on capital punishment is similar to how she has responded to calls for marijuana legalization (“There should be availability [of medical marijuana] under appropriate circumstances. But I do think we need more research…”). Her answers are thoughtful, yet pandering; progressive, yet centrist.

Simply put, Clinton is trying to win the presidency, not just the Democratic nomination. To do so, she must hold centrist positions on certain issues. That’s politics.

While Sanders and O’Malley are on the right side of history when it comes to capital punishment, the American people still lag behind them. Let’s face it: our nation has an insatiable appetite for murderous retribution. However, directing our frustration towards Hillary Clinton solves nothing on this matter. She isn’t holding America back from becoming a more forgiving and morally righteous country – we, the people, are.

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Nick Cassella
Nick Cassella graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014. After graduating, he worked on the Initiative 594 campaign before joining Civic Ventures, where he now manages Civic Skunk Works' social media presence.