The GOP's 'Stand Your Ground' Problem

Jeb Bush is learning that these laws repel minority voters.


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. 

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In 2005, Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush signed the NRA-backed "stand your ground" law, calling it “a good, common-sense, anti-crime issue."

Nine years later, two grieving mothers, Sybrina Fulton and Lucia McBath, are asking if this law allowed their unarmed black teenage sons to be shot to death by white strangers. And this does not bode well for a Republican Party that’s making noises about appealing to minority voters and eyeing Jeb Bush for 2016.

Now that Gov. Chris Christie is out of the way, and it’s all over but the shouting at this point, the Republican establishment will be looking towards a candidate outside the Rand Paul asylum who could plausibly appeal to moderate voters. Enter Jeb Bush. 

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on Chris Christie.]

But thanks to "stand your ground," Jeb Bush’s appeal to minority voters is getting smaller.

You can sugarcoat this perverse law with all the self-defense platitudes you want. But the fact is that since "stand your ground" passed, according to a study from the Urban Institute, "homicides with a white perpetrator and a black victim are ten times more likely to be ruled justified than cases with a black perpetrator and a white victim, and the gap is larger in states with Stand Your Ground laws. After accounting for a variety of factors, such as whether the victim and perpetrator were strangers, the gap is smaller, but still significant. Cases with a white perpetrator and a black victim are 281 percent more likely to be ruled justified than cases with a white perpetrator and white victim.”

This has not gone unnoticed by parents and voters. Over the weekend, #dangerousblackkids was trending on Twitter. The parade of adorable aside, many black parents are justifiably afraid that their kid could be next.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

The GOP has made some half-hearted attempts at outreach to non-white voters, hiring minority outreach coordinators and issuing press releases. But it’s hard to talk about being the opportunity party when your governors are signing laws that result in young black men being shot with impunity.

Jeb Bush likes to pretend otherwise, but the fact remains that "stand your ground" was part of the jury instructions in the Trayvon Martin case and invoked by Michael Dunn’s attorney when he went on trial for Jordan Davis’ murder. Jeb Bush signed a law that many believe contributed to, as the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, “the irrelevance of black life in this country.”

Obama carried a share of the non-white vote that was unprecedented and will likely not be matched by the next Democratic candidate. But it may not matter if the percentage of non-white voters for Republicans continues to shrink thanks to the abject bigotry of a base that backs "stand your ground" laws.