Jesse Jackson: Handsome Gift to Florida Republicans
Around the State
"Today Jesse tried to reach out to Obama, and Obama said, 'Keep your hands where I can see them!'"
-- Jay Leno
Florida Republicans always like to help their friends. In which case they might want to send a little largess Jesse Jackson's way.
Jackson's race-baiting and self-serving agenda since the George Zimmerman verdict plain knocked the stuffing out of any chance state Democrats had of revisiting Stand Your Ground or using the self-defense law to advance a 2014 candidate roster.
And the poor Dream Defenders, whose leaders inside the Florida Capitol were trained as community organizers by some pretty savvy progressives in Young People For (YP4), don't have all that much to organize after Jackson shot off his mouth in front of the TV cameras. He's poisoned the waters for Democrats to rile up the ranks or make any real hay out of the protest.
You've seen the polls. Floridians favor Stand Your Ground as most Americans do. Note that the Florida polls were taken after Jackson told the National Urban League annual conference in Philadelphia, “If we can boycott South Africa and bring it down, we should boycott Florida and bring it down.”
Jackson's need to build a stage for himself and his far-fetchedisms, all at the expense of truth or reason, is dangerous self-aggrandizement. But less so now than in decades past, when he was a fire-breathing force -- not such a joke -- within the civil rights movement.
Never mind Speaker Will Weatherford's announcement last week that the Florida House will conduct hearings on the law next session. Hearings are a smart move, 100 percent guaranteed to change nothing. But they do soften the face of state GOP leadership and allow the Dream Defenders to save face. The group ran up against a brick wall pushing for a special session. Hearings down the road would represent something the Defenders wouldn't have won had they not demonstrated.
Anti-Stand Your Ground propaganda abounds. No doubt there's a case for revisiting the law, but it isn't the story Jesse Jackson would have you believe.
For instance, The Daily Caller analyzed a Tampa Bay Times database and found that approximately one-third of Florida Stand Your Ground claims in fatal cases were made by black defendants -- who have used the defense successfully 55 percent of the time, at the same rate as the population at large and at a higher rate than white defendants. And the majority of Florida Stand Your Ground victims have been white.
Oh, yes, and one more thing: African-Americans used Stand Your Ground defenses at nearly twice the rate of their presence in the Florida population, listed at 16.6 percent in 2012.
Some Democratic legislators have come forward to condemn Stand Your Ground -- but not the ones facing competitive races in 2014. Imagine for a moment the opportunities they might have had if Jesse Jackson hadn't gone anti-Florida, if he hadn't passed off bad information as gospel, if he had just stayed in Chicago and, for once, shunned the cameras.
Telling, I think, to look back in history for a minute. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), didn't entirely trust Jackson. "He was concerned about Jackson's apparent ambition and attention-seeking," notes Jackson's biography.
Sure enough, after King's death, the first story Jackson gave to the press was the day after the murder, to The Today Show: "I was the last person he spoke to as I was cradling him in my arms." He was not. He got caught in the lie, and shortly after, the SCLC suspended him.
That's right, Republicans. You were given a gift -- boxed and paper-wrapped and tied up with a big red bow.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 282-0305.