The Republican position in that death penalty debate was, essentially, "If we can employ every tool at our disposal to make sure that no innocent person is put to death ever, then we can kill with abandon and happy consciences!" The advisory referendum passed out of the Wisconsin State Senate today has a lot of the same flavor. Republicans want our permission--this thing is really only lacking the "pretty please"--to throw the switch if they can guarantee only really guilty, really bad people will die.
The Republican's opponent in that old debate--the late, eloquent, saintly, and deeply missed Dan Champion--could not stomach that argument. He saw through the idealism and perfect-worldism of his opponent to the core of what makes these extreme Republicans salivate for death:
In my book, God can go ahead and impose the death penalty whenever He chooses.Even if it is perfect, it is still wrong.
Um… just not fallible humans. That’s been my point all along: human failure. Human weakness. Human compulsion for revenge.
Ah, revenge. [. . .] As a retributory tool, death works wonderfully. The desire for revenge is the dark secret in all of us. It has, I suppose, been so since the beginning of time. It is human nature to resent a hurt, and each of us has a desire to hurt back. [. . .]
By exacting revenge on criminals as a society, that society drops to the social stratum of its dregs. We are then playing on the murderer’s terms, by their rules, and we cannot win. Official revenge is no better than Hatfield and McCoy revenge, and the results are no less odious.
Wrong does not have factors you can control for, DNA evidence that makes it okay, or any level of permission granted by voters to obviate its wrongness.
Wisconsin is my adopted state--don't get me started on what's going on in Ohio right now--and I have on a regular basis been proud of much of what goes on here. The state's motto, "Forward," means something to me. It means, among other things, not going backwards. That sounds glib; I don't mean it to be.
Consider what Wisconsin Republicans have been up to over the last few years (no links--my head hurts):
- They want to bring back the days of the Old West with concealed weapons
- They want to stifle the most promising--and most profitable--lines of biomedical research
- They want to bring back the death penalty, which Wisconsin saw fit to abandon in 1853
- They want to kick gay and lesbian citizens to the curb through their hateful anti-marriage amendment
- They want to dismantle the public schools and protections for victims of malpractice
- They want to make it as hard as possible for non-white, non-landed citizens to vote
This is why they fear Tommy Thompson, why they still haven't granted him a speaking slot at their convention: He's a big doofus, but he is none of those things. Neither are the voters of Wisconsin, and those voters would have shown Mark Green the door.
We need to start going forward again, with one voice against these people. Vote no on their backwards agenda; vote for forward in November.