George Zimmerman trial expands deep divide
By: Joe Scarborough
July 14, 2013 03:23 PM EDT
The Trayvon Martin case highlights more than the flaws of Florida law or the inadequacies of courtroom justice. It also paints in vivid display the vulgar state of American political culture.
Within seconds of Saturday night’s verdict exonerating George Zimmerman, liberals and conservatives scurried to their shabby political corners and began tweeting hyperbolic political pronouncements on a judicial process that few of them knew anything about.
Liberals launched anguished attacks against George Zimmerman, the state of Florida, stand-your-ground laws, the gun culture, and the current state of racial relations in America in under 140 characters. Some conservatives used the opportunity to gloat and continue their attacks against Al Sharpton, the national media, racial politics, American liberalism, and a dead teenager.
The entire spectacle was repulsive.
The Zimmerman verdict showed just how politicized every speck of American life has become for a hyper-partisan political class that has little in common with most Americans. In fact, they are probably why most Americans hate politics.
How exactly was it that liberals and conservatives could so neatly line up on opposite sides of a troubling courtroom trial involving a Hispanic man and an African-American teenager?
And how could one side unanimously proclaim the verdict a victory for courtroom justice while the other side immediately declared the verdict a defeat for racial tolerance?
There has to be a liberal somewhere in America (who is paid to express his viewpoints) who understands that the prosecution had a difficult burden to carry in the trial, just as there must be a conservative who is deeply troubled by the of events of this case.
If it seems like I am taking a removed, middle-ground approach on this trial, let me assure you that I am not.
I am angry that George Zimmerman could chase a teenager through his neighborhood, ignore a dispatcher’s pleas, make racially charged statements, provoke a confrontation with a young man armed only with Skittles, and pull the trigger that ended that teenager’s life, only to walk away without as much as a misdemeanor attached to his name. But I also know that the laws of Florida favored the defense, that the prosecution overreached in its efforts to convict Zimmerman on a second-degree murder charge, and that we will never know which man was screaming for help in the moments that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. I also know that it is a fool’s errand to second-guess the conclusions of a jury that sat through countless hours of testimony and evidence before reaching a verdict.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t draw my own personal conclusions, like my belief that George Zimmerman is a racist idiot who chased an unarmed teenager through a neighborhood for little reason more than he was a black man wearing a hoodie. I can also conclude that many conservative commentators were offensive in their reflexive defense of Zimmerman, as well as their efforts to attack the integrity of a dead black teenager. I am also not sure how it is that the right-wing’s professional chattering classes usually find themselves on the other side of African-Americans in racially sensitive cases.
I do not remotely suggest that all conservatives opposed Zimmerman’s trial. The National Review’s Rich Lowry agreed with a handful of conservatives like myself that Trayvon Martin’s killer should be tried in a court of law. But I remained confused by a political party that desperately tries to expand its minority outreach by considering the granting of citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants while refusing to even give the benefit of the doubt to a young black man gunned down for no good reason in a suburban Florida neighborhood. I just don’t get it.
What I do get is why over 90 percent of African American voters have been voting against GOP presidential candidates for most of my life. Conservative commentary and GOP stand-your-ground laws only exacerbated that divide. If Republicans are to take back the White House anytime in the next generation, that reality has to change. After this week, it has definitely become a longer, harder slog.
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