That's the title of syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne's latest, via the Washington Post, his home paper.
Over the last three decades, we have made great strides in battling lawlessness. Because of this, we are less inclined to insist on retributive justice. We are more open to reforming prisons, criminal sentencing and policing itself. And many more of us are opposed to the death penalty.
In quieter political circumstances, a report from the Gallup organization last month might have drawn attention. The firm found that support for the death penalty had dropped to its lowest point in more than four decades. At its peak, endorsement of capital punishment stood at 80 percent in 1994. Now, only 60 percent of Americans favor it.
Not since 1972, when Gallup found 57 percent support, has backing for the death penalty been this low. The last time a plurality of Americans opposed it, according to Gallup, was 1966 when 42 percent favored capital punishment and 47 percent opposed it.
As it is, falling crime rates mean that prison and sentencing reforms are among the few matters on which there is a real prospect for cooperation across partisan and ideological lines. Attorney General Eric Holder has made them central goals.
But so have a significant number of conservatives and libertarians. Ponder this sentiment: “The United States now has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of its prisoners. Nearly one in every 33 American adults is in some form of correctional control.”
This is a common complaint of liberals, but those words are from Richard Viguerie, the veteran conservative activist who is a leader of Right on Crime. The conservative group, Viguerie wrote last spring, is devoted to a variety of forward-looking measures, including “community-based programs rather than excessive mandatory minimum sentencing policies and prison expansion.”