Hillary Clinton has made some major gaffes in the last few days—claiming Nancy Reagan began the conversation concerning AIDS is almost inexcusable—and she definitely didn’t do herself any favors to rectify this during Sunday’s Democratic Town Hall in Ohio.
It was an extremely tough moment. A man who had been wrongfully convicted and sat on death row for 39 years before being exonerated by the Ohio Innocence Project wanted Clinton to clarify her stance on the death penalty, asking her, “In light of the fact that there are documented cases of innocent people who have been executed in our country, I would like to know how can you still take your stance on the death penalty?”
In face of definitive proof that innocent individuals can indeed end up on death row, Clinton hemmed and hawed, but the underlying notion was clear—she would continue to support a federal death penalty.
She said, “This is such a profoundly difficult question…I would breathe a sigh of relief if either the Supreme Court or the states themselves began to eliminate the death penalty… [but] given the challenges we face from terrorist activities in our country that primarily end up under federal jurisdiction for very limited purposes, I think it can still be held in reserve for those.”
She elucidated that she was referring to “mass killings” by terrorists, such as the bombing in Oklahoma City; however, if the federal law for the death penalty holds, individual states will continue to enact executions for potentially innocent people under our broken criminal justice system.
Clinton’s stance on capital punishment is a decidedly un-liberal one—only 40 percent of Democrats currently support the death penalty. In a race in which she is attempting to prove she is a progressive, her position is unfavorable to the majority of the Democratic base.
Bernie Sanders sent out a tweet during the town hall stating that he was absolutely against the death penalty.
With so much violence already in the world, I just don't think the state itself should be killing people. I'm against capital punishment.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 14, 2016
To Clinton’s credit, she is in a difficult position. She has been criticized for flip-flopping on numerous issues, and if she were to renounce her support for capital punishment after years of saying she is in favor of it, she would look disingenuous. However, if she wants to prove she represents progressives in the Democratic Party, she may need to rethink her stance.