The Republican Party, Conservatives, and the Future of Capital Punishment

Ben Jones | January 1, 2018

The United States has experienced a significant decline in the death penalty during the first part of the twenty-first century, as death sentences, executions, public support, and states with capital punishment all have declined. Many recent reforms banning or placing a moratorium on executions have occurred in blue states, in line with the notion that ending the death penalty is a progressive cause. Challenging this narrative, however, is the emergence of Republican lawmakers as champions of death penalty repeal legislation in red states. This Article puts these efforts by Republican lawmakers into historical context and explains the conservative case against the death penalty: its incompatibility with limited government, fiscal responsibility, and promoting a culture of life. Understanding Republican opposition to capital punishment takes on particular importance now following setbacks to efforts against the death penalty in the 2016 election. In this environment, building support among Republicans and conservatives likely will prove critical for taking further steps toward limiting and eventually ending the death penalty in the United States.