Trump and Justice: a threat to American values – Labour Article
The recent revival of federal executions in the US after a 17-year hiatus comes in the middle of a global pandemic. Coronavirus is raging in America, and yet the focus of the Trump administration is elsewhere. Obsessed with power and imbued with a love of violence, the leader of the ‘free world’ is endorsing a perverted style of ‘justice’ at a time where compassion is needed.
Should Americans be worried? In a word, Yes.
This is just one of many examples of gross federal overreach by the Trump administration. The death penalty is legal in only thirty of the fifty US states. This means that in the other twenty the federal government is imposing on state legislations. If this does not alarm people then America’s founding principles will continue to slide towards obscurity.
Humans are equal and it is not the place of one man to decree another should be killed. For me this is an absolute truth, unfortunately, many do not agree. The argument about the sanctity of life is clearly too easy for people to reject. So how can we halt this vile practice?
The key to opposing the death penalty is tackling the myth that it acts as a significant deterrent for those thinking about committing serious crimes. This is a lie. In fact, a 2018 report based on international figures showed that murder rates trend downwards after the abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty should be seen for what it is: costly, inhumane, and at odds with America’s identity as the bastion of democracy and peace.
Responsible for at least 1300 active instances of Human rights violations under UN law the use of ‘Death Row’ is one of the most inhumane crimes in US History. Can you imagine being locked up for over 20 years and being utterly devoid of hope and justice? Simply waiting for a judge to command your death. Each day would be psychological torture.
This figure is nationwide; it is not specifically under the federal execution program but it establishes the grotesque failures of the US system. I understand the vital nature of consequence, but state murder is never justifiable. Long prison sentences for the worst offenders would suffice. The killing is grotesque and unnecessary.
The Federal Government is desecrating the sanctity of the American state. 20 of the 50 states have abolished the practise yet due to the 1994 Death Penalty Act the federal courts can claim jurisdiction over a wide range of crimes that would usually be state matters. Whilst this has not been ruled unconstitutional, many see this as the government imposing on the autonomy of states. Unlike the toothless threats to withhold school funding earlier in July, Trump has utilised federal power over law enforcement and the justice system to impose his politics.
The Federal execution program has been dormant for so long, so why has it now been restarted? Simply put, it is being used as a political tool ahead of an election campaign. Trump appearing tough on crime will connect with conservative voters and is a well-versed tactic of the right. George Bush Jr, for example, owed much of his electoral success to this. The death penalty is one of a wide range of political decisions made to glorify harsh federal ‘justice’. These decisions have proved incredibly dangerous for America.
Past months have seen Trump deploy federal agents in Portland. Against the wishes of the elected representatives of both Oregon and the city itself. The federal government is repressing constitutionally protected, peaceful BLM protests with extensive force. The use of camo-clad unidentifiable US federal officers is starkly juxtaposed to the value of government accountability that the US was founded on. By portraying the Democrat-led city as being a warzone Trump is spreading misinformation in an attempt to garner support.
The level of political spin is baffling. Trump is prepared to sow seeds of division and bathe America in blood to manipulate his conservative base. A man so at peace with state-sponsored violence should never have been in the White House and the possibility of his re-election is a chilling thought.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Henry Mckeever
Point of Information
Executive abuse of power isn’t a Trump phenomenon – A Conservative Response
Trump is certainly guilty of using his executive power to overstep the sovereignty of state governments. But so is every president in the history of the US, Democrat or Republican alike.
After Pearl Harbor, former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt oversaw the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Lyndon Johnson used the FBI to investigate his critics in the Senate. And let us not forget Obama’s unconstitutional intervention in Libya, a country which is now considered a failed state and is a breeding ground for ISIS militants. The use and abuse of executive power is synonymous with the presidency.
While my colleague Henry presents a very compelling and passionate argument against Trump and how he is a threat to American values, he fails to provide an alternative to Trump. As such, let me present the alternative to another Trump presidency: Joe Biden.
To be clear, I believe overreach by the Federal Government is certainly an issue and threatens the fundamental principles on which the US Government was built upon. This is especially problematic when it comes to the Federal Government’s approach to crime, punishment and justice.
My colleague highlights this issue well when he mentions the 1994 Crime Bill which expanded the Federal government’s power with death sentences. 60 new crimes were added to the list of crimes which could lead to a death sentence. Joe Biden, a senator at the time, drafted the Senate version of this bill. He also spearheaded the 1984 Comprehensive Control Act which expanded the federal government’s drug trafficking penalties and civil asset forfeiture, even without proving that the accused is guilty of any crime. Biden has even threatened to use his executive power if he were to become president to enforce a nation-wide mask mandate.
I’m certainly not exculpating Trump on his numerous abuses of power, but I do not believe his alternative, Biden, is any better. Henry’s issue seems to lie with Trump, not with power-tripping politicians. Biden is such an awful presidential nominee that his own Democratic supporters have started a “Settle for Biden” campaign, fully acknowledging that he will likely be an extremely mediocre president with a very problematic past.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Giving any one man so much power will lead to abuses. As such, it is our job as the voters to hold these people accountable. Just as Henry holds Trump to such high standards, let us hold all other politicians, especially Biden, to these same standards.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Sebastian Calcopietro
Morality and Justice aside, Federalism and an unchecked Executive is a far greater problem – A Liberal Response
Henry claims that the Federal Government is “imposing on state legislation”, which isn’t true. Federal Law can be prosecuted in every state as it has an independent judicial structure applying separate federal laws. What’s more, executions may only take place by “the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed”. If a State does not permit executions, the convicted are moved to a state chosen by a judge that does permit executions. Therefore, no state has executions “imposed” on them by the Federal Government.
The Debate about the Death Penalty in the US is not as simple as Henry illudes to either. Polling by Gallup shows a majority of Americans view it as a “morally acceptable” form of justice, with sizable populations of democrats still believing in the death penalty.
For example, look at California. Voters in the liberal bastion have twice in the past decade upheld the death penalty through ballot initiatives. The most recent time in 2016 also saw the introduction of measures to expedite executions on death row.
Democratic elected officials in California, such as Harris, have faced blowback for using their executive powers to curb the death penalty. During her tenure as Attorney for San Francisco, Harris was criticised by both sides when she refused to push for the death penalty. Gov. Gavin Newsom was met with scathing headlines when he used his powers to introduce a memorandum on executions in 2019; less than three years after voters upheld their use.
The issue is not Trump beginning executions again, it’s about unchecked federal and executive powers. Sebastian is correct to focus on the hypocrisy surrounding Democratic and Republican administration’s use and abuse of their executive powers. These powers are sweeping at all levels. Yet, they are not sacrosanct. Courts and legislators can curb these powers. The issue is they are often too meek to do so.
Federalism is not just a force for bad in the US. Same-sex couples are able to get married throughout all 50 states as a result of the Supreme Court ruling which deemed state law banning the unions unconstitutional. Similarly, a woman’s right to choose is protected from – and frequently challenged by – states hoping to legislate otherwise. Federal “overreach” helps and hinders both conceptions of the American Dream.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Daniel Jones
I am entering the third year of a BA in History and Ancient History at the University of Exeter. I have a fascination with the past otherwise and you would hope so, otherwise I may have chosen the wrong degree. But, writing for POI gives me the opportunity to talk politics which is something I simply can’t avoid.
I’m a queer loving feminist liberal, enough to make a hard-line conservative have an aneurism. I have been forced to this position having grown up witnessing and experiencing injustice first-hand. Politics sort of came to me, which it does if you are anything but a cis-white-heterosexual man. My life and the way I wanted to live it was unavoidably political, so I may as well get involved.