Smart strategies in the movement to abolish the death penalty

I’m sharing some information from my July TV program, “Empowering the Progressive Movement,” so you can see examples of smart strategies for the movement to abolish the death penalty.  The information I’m linking below is relevant to ANY issue you work on, but you might enjoy seeing the excerpt here about the death penalty:


I summarized a different example of successful grassroots organizing that has been winning victories in a growing number of states and two big victories nationwide.  The death penalty is sharply declining in the U.S.!

Since before 1990 I have been organizing strategically toward abolishing the death penalty.  We have made progress here in Washington State and nationwide.  Public support for the death penalty peaked in 1994, and it has been declining ever since.  As a result, executions have been declining sharply since about two decades ago, and by mid-February 2021 the U.S. had gone the longest time in the past 40 years without a state-level execution.  Far fewer death sentences are being imposed nowadays; death sentences peaked in 1996 at more than 300, and declined sharply to fewer than 50 in 2018.  In 2007 or later, 11 states got rid of the death penalty.  Now 23 states no longer have it, and in 3 other states governors have imposed moratoriums on executions.

The death penalty has existed in the United States for hundreds of years.  While the federal government still has its own death penalty, the vast number of cases – and executions – occur at the state level.  Local organizers have strategized ways to chip away at it within their states, even if they have not yet abolished it altogether.

One victory:  Persons with IQ below 70 have much less culpability for their behavior, so a number of states passed laws to exclude them from eligibility for being sentenced to death.  Washington State was one of the first states to pass such a law.  Enough other states also passed laws so that when a case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2002 the Court recognized what it called “evolving standards of decency” and prohibited executing those persons anywhere in the U.S.

Another victory:  Likewise, children have much less culpability for their behavior, so Washington State was one of the first states to pass laws excluding them from eligibility for being sentenced to death.  More and more states were passing laws to protect them, so when a juvenile death penalty case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2005 the Court again recognized “evolving standards of decency” and prohibited nationwide the execution of persons who had committed their crimes before the age of 18.

It is important to recognize that – in both of these cases – empowering some state governments to pass humane laws inspired and empowered other states to do likewise, until the flood of “evolving standards of decency” persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court.


Also see this information about my July TV program, which is relevant to working on the death penalty or ANY other issue:


The July 2021 interview on “Glen’s Parallax Perspectives” TV series helps you and other people make more progress when we work on issues you care about.

Many of the issues we care about are HUGE issues in which WE are the UNDERDOGS.  Powerful forces created the unjust status quo — and powerful forces sustain the injustices we are trying to eliminate.

Because we are the underdogs in these big issues, we need to empower ourselves and bring many people together so we can organize large nonviolent grassroots movements to solve the problems and create peaceful and just societies at the local, national and global levels.

But often people feel powerless – as if we are too small and the oppressive powers are too big.  We need to empower ourselves – and we can empower ourselves if we are grounded in profound nonviolence and if we have the skills and strategies to organize winning campaigns.


Thurston County’s people with cable TV can watch it 13 times throughout July 2021 on channel 22 (every Monday at 1:30 pm, every Wednesday at 5:00 pm, and every Thursday at 9:00 pm).

You can WATCH and/or READ through this blog link, which also includes links to additional resources:






About GlenAnderson 1515 Articles
Since the late 1960s Glen Anderson has devoted his life to working as a volunteer for peace, nonviolence, social justice, and progressive political issues. He has worked through many existing organizations and started several. Over the years he has worked especially for such wide-ranging goals as making peace with Vietnam, eliminating nuclear weapons, converting from a military economy to a peacetime economy, abolishing the death penalty, promoting nonviolence at all levels throughout society, and helping people organize and strategize for grassroots movements to solve many kinds of problems. He writes, speaks, and conducts training workshops on a wide variety of topics. Since 1987 he has produced and hosted a one-hour cable TV interview program on many kinds of issues. Since 2017 he has blogged at He lives in Lacey near Olympia WA. You can reach him at (360) 491-9093