Red Nebraska ends death penalty

From an editorial in The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday:

By standard measures, Nebraska is a deeper shade of red politically than Texas.

Still, the conservative bona fides of Nebraska’s legislature were questioned last week by its Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, after lawmakers there gave final passage to a bill that would abolish the death penalty. Ricketts, who vetoed the bill Tuesday, insisted his legislature was out of step with the public’s views on the matter.

Nebraska’s emotional debate and historic vote highlighted a question that’s particularly relevant to Texas and other states like it: Can opposition to the death penalty be consistent with political conservatism?

More and more conservatives are saying yes, that capital punishment is a crude, unreliable stab at justice that society should discard as a relic of the past. They cite the enormous expense, questionable deterrent value and uneven application.

Conservatives are more likely today to look at the justice system as a government program with a level of flaws inherent in any bureaucracy. They are saying this: When the inertia of the justice system unfairly or wantonly threatens an individual’s life or liberty, the state has crossed a line and needs to be restrained.

We look forward to the day when it’s not political suicide in Texas to ask whether smart justice might lead down the same path Nebraska has found. It’s the right path to take.