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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vs. George W. Bush

On Monday, America celebrated a national holiday in honor of the legendary civil rights warrior and philosopher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I negligently failed to recognize Dr. King on his birthday (January 15), so today I'm making up for it.

Let me begin by saying that Dr. King is the greatest historical figure in American history. Other greats such as Lincoln, FDR and Washington were all flawed men despite other achievements. Dr. King's separation from the intimate nature of politics kept him pure. Further, his motivations were to acheive fairness and a more moral America. Politicians necessarily have other motives behind their acts. Dr. King brought an articulate, relentless, hopeful voice to the Civil Rights Movement. He was a master orator who could change minds with his words. Dr. King's work helped unravel 200 years of evil and illegality that had led to the unconscionable segregation in the conservative south.

What the mainstream media and the Republican Party want you to forget today is two-fold: 1) Dr. King also was a passionate anti-war activist and champion of the poor ; 2) conservatives and the Republican Party fought his work at every turn.


If Dr. King were alive today, one person would emerge as his polar opposite on all issues: George W. Bush. The Republican Party's love of entrenched privilege and hatred of the freedom movements of the 1960s stand diametrically opposed to Dr. King's message of equality for all peoples across race and class. Dr. King was a vehement anti-war activist who pointed out the moral bankruptcy of killing other men while ignoring the problems of poverty:

Now what are some of the domestic consequences of the war in Vietnam? It has made the Great Society a myth and replaced it with a troubled and confused society…It has given the extreme right, the anti-labor, anti-Negro, and anti-humanistic forces a weapon of spurious patriotism to galvanize its supporters into reaching for power, right up to the White House. It hopes to use national frustration to take control and restore the America of social insecurity and power for the privileged.

It is disgraceful that a Congress that can vote upwards of $35 billion a year for a senseless immoral war in Vietnam cannot vote a weak $2 billion dollars to carry on our all too feeble efforts to bind up the wound of our nations 35 million poor. This is nothing short of a Congress engaging in political guerilla warfare against the defenseless poor of our nation.

When I first decided to take a firm stand against the war in Vietnam, I was subjected to the most bitter criticism, by the press, by individuals, and even by some fellow civil rights leaders. There were those who said that I should stay in my place, that these two issues did not mix and I should stick with civil rights. Well I had only one answer for that and it was simply the fact that I have struggled too long and too hard now to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to end up at this point in my life segregating my moral concerns.

For this noble stance, Dr. King would be called a freedom-hater who coddles terrorists by President Bush. For his fight in the civil rights movement, Dr. King would be called a reverse racist who fails to see the benefits of a color-blind society. For adovcating spending more money on the problems of poverty instead of optional warfare, Dr. King would be assailed as a socialist who hates the free market. For speaking out against cash giveaways to the rich in the form of tax cuts, Dr. King would be called a madman.

All Bush shares with Dr. King are words, and those are empty words coming from Bush. George Bush and the GOP have done nothing to help the problems of race relations other than to ignore them. His party has fought affirmative action for years by claiming that we have a level playing field in America. This despite the fact that half of our country was totally segregated just 40 years. This despite the fact that whites hold nearly all positions of power in our nation. This despite the fact that the evil blemish of slavery is but a few generations past.

The evils of war were opposed by Dr. King. A war of choice, when larger problems of poverty and racism persist at home, is even more appalling. Instead of spending billions fighting poverty, educating the nation and building up our country into something far greater, we have wasted all of it killing civilians and lining the pockets of immoral defense contractors. Dr. King would not let this evil stand unchecked.


Bush and his corporate tool cronies in the GOP have fought the poor at every turn. Dr. King would not have been silent; he would have fought the GOP's "War on the Poor." When Reagan cut social programs in the 1980s so that he could give huge tax cuts to the richest Americans, Dr. King would have protested. If Dr. King could see that the Republican Congress was about to confirm a man with an affiliation with a racist group, he would have protested.

This is nothing new nor accidental. Although he remained officially nonpartisan, Dr. King's only political allies lay in the Democratic Party. After JFK's victory in 1960, Dr. King took partial credit for his success:

"It is pretty conclusive now that the Negro played a decisive role in electing the president of the United States, and maybe for the first time we can see the power of the ballot and what the ballot can do...Now we must remind Mr. Kennedy that we helped him to get in the White House. We must remind Mr. Kennedy that we are expecting to use the whole weight of his office to remove the ugly weight of segregation from the shoulders of our nation."

The Democrats did not forget the help of African-Americans in (temporarily) preventing the future criminal Richard Nixon from taking office. JFK's baby was the Civil Rights Act; LBJ ultimately signed it into law. LBJ famously said that "we have lost the South for a generation" and he was right. A painful, but incredibly necessary, split emerged in the Democratic party. Racist Southern Democratic Senators led a filibuster that ultimately failed. The majority of these Democrats, known as "Dixiecrats," fled the party for the Republicans after the Civil Rights Act. Dr. King was instrumental in purging the Democratic party of its most racist and vile elements. The Republicans greeted these villians with open arms. Today, the Republicans have a solid majority in the still racist South.

King was a strong supporter of the Voting Rights Act. The George Bush White House, while publicly raving about the Act, undermines it constantly in practice.

Not suprisingly, conservatives everywhere fought against the establishment of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Rep. John Conyers introduced legislation for a holiday four days after Dr. King's assassination. (Conyers remains in the House and is a hero in his own right.) The bill became stalled but Conyers faithfully reintroduced the legislation every single legislative session . Ultimately the Civil Rights Marches of 1982-1983 forced the creation of the holiday. Still, conservative states that had become GOP strongholds resisted the celebration of the great Dr. King. Republican Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona rescinded the holiday as one of his first acts in office. This evil man was later impeached for illegal campaign contributions. In 2000, GOP strongholds South Carolina and Utah finally enacted legitimate MLK holidays.


Dr. King was a man of peace, love and integrity. He constantly fought entrenched power and privilege in order to create a more fair America. Today's Republican want you to believe that optional wars and tax cuts for the rich create "freedom" that helps everyone. This sad message remains mostly unquestioned by modern progressive leaders. If Dr. King had not been murdered in cold blood, he'd be the number one soldier in the War on Corporate Evil.

Think about this: If you want to be a Republican, you have to oppose Dr. King.

Comments on ""


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:25 PM) : 

Well said



Anonymous jennifer said ... (11:23 PM) : 

this was an especially excellent post. your words are pretty inspirational as well!


Blogger Tran said ... (11:34 AM) : 

I agree. Excellent post. It is truly unfortuneate that the "lost souls" of America (those who are neither hell-fire-christians nor conservatives) no longer have such a champion to take up the cause.


Anonymous Tom said ... (9:00 PM) : 

your claim is ridiculous! . . . I see no conflict with being republican and admiring Martin Luther King Jr.

you said "whites hold nearly all positions of power in our nation." . . . perhaps this is true in the democratic party, but it's not in the republican party. Examples that come to mind are, Collin Powell (Secretary of State) Condi Rice (National Security Advisor and Secretary of State), Alberto Gonzalez (Attorney General), Clarence Thomas (Sup Ct justice appointed by republican).

It appears it's the Democratic party which is responsible for "white people holding nearly all positions of power."

Finally, I've heard that Martin Luther King Jr. WAS himself a republican.

I believe that if Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive he would not want his legacy to be diminished by it being used for political purposes. Democrats don't own his legacy and cannot and should not use it to tarnish republicans.


Anonymous tom said ... (9:09 PM) : 

oh and one more:
November 2, 1983: President Reagan established Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, the first such honor for a black American


Blogger Michael Alexander said ... (10:25 PM) : 

The point of my post is that the Republican Party is opposed to everything that Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for. He was a man of the people, not of rich corporations. King preached that the government should increase funding for the poor, while the GOP wants to give tax cuts to the rich instead. King was anti-war, while the GOP rushes to war at the first opportunity. He fought to help increase equality while the Republicans seek to end affirmative action.

You cannot separate King from his beliefs. Like I said, all the Republicans share with Dr. King is empty words.

First, Tom is wildly incorrect in his claim that the Republicans have a more diverse party than the Democrats. See my current post.

Second, no evidence exists that MLK was a Republican. See this link for an article by a conservative columnist who says he found no evidence of MLK's party affiliation. http://mensnewsdaily.com/archive/p/parks/03/parks082803.htm

Third, regardless of MLK's party affiliation, the parties have changed since. The conservatives have abandoned the Democrats for the GOP. MLK would be prone to favoring today's Democrats and would unquestionably oppose Bush's policies.

Fourth, the Democratic Congress passed the MLK bill. Reagan signed it because he'd look like a racist jackass and not get re-elected if he vetoed the bill. The truth, as I proved in my last post, is that the Republicans fought creation of MLK day for 15 years before ultimately having it shoved down their throats by the Democrats.

Finally, I would be committing a mortal mistake if I failed to mention MLK on the national holiday. He's not just some picture on a postage stamp with empty words like the Republican Party wants him to be. He stood for powerful beliefs that would make this country a better place. You cannot separate the man from his beliefs. The Republicans are the party of the rich, the white and the powerful. King fought for the poor, minorities and the oppressed.


Blogger Snave said ... (3:36 PM) : 

King stood for personal responsibility, but modern far-right conservatives stand for a different version of it. In their view, social programs are "immoral" because those in the programs haven't "earned" their benefits, or some such nonsense. In their approach, everybody is the same, has the same opportunities to excel, and once your income reaches a certain level, you're a good person and because you worked for all you've earned, why should you have to share it? King's sense of responsibility was toward his fellow humans and toward a sense of community among all peoples of American and the world. He didn't believe people were born bad and needed to be made good... he believed people were born good and that things could be made better for everybody.

King's sense of caring overrode any need he might have had to preserve a status quo, punish others, restrict others, or preserve his self-interests.

Far-right conservatives (particularly their leaders) are interested in control, and one way they try to do this is with religion. It was once said that religious fundamentalism has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with power, and I believe that is true. King was about freedom from oppression, and I don't believe he was as religious as he was spiritual.

Conservatives want to create restrictions on all aspects of society, most notably they want judges to tell us who we can or can't marry, they'd like to control our ability to end our own suffering, and they wouldn't want a woman to have an abortion even if her life was in danger. All the time, they complain about wanting a "culture of life", concentrating on pre-life and end-of-life issues... well what about a "culture of quality of life" for all of us who are living life in America? King was about opportunity for all; not just for those born with silver spoons in their mouths, but for all of us. To me, that suggests he wanted a better quality of life for all Americans.

Far-right conservative voters have been voting against their own social and economic interests with alarming regularity during the past couple of decades. Their leaders frame the political issues in terms of morals, and in this case "moral values" are a version of what author George Lakoff refers to as "strict father morality", as opposed to a "nurturing" approach by the left. He describes conservatives as probably having been raised in authoritarian households that are centered around the father while leftists were more likely to have been raised in household where the parents had equal say in decisions. The conservative approach emphasizes discipline, in the sense that people need to have a sense of discipline. This leads to a solid work ethic, which is considered "moral". People who are not disciplined are the kind who they believe end up "on welfare" or who "suckle at the government teat". They do not believe such people deserve to be rewarded for their "lack of effort", and the conservatives consider such a practice "immoral", or counter to their moral values. Is there really any reason for all Bush's tax cuts besides "starving the beast of big government" and ridding America of its social programs through a process of defunding?

They view public education in the same way, as Bush's No Child Left Behind program starts out with good, achieveable goals but then requires 100% of all students and subgroups of students (including the mentally retarded!), and subsequently their schools, to meet all criteria within ten years... and if they don't, the schools lose their funding. What a great way to break up what they perceive as a government monopoly on education.

"Sink or swim" is basically their attitude. For people who don't like the theory of evolution, they sure seem to favor a sort of economic Darwinism, don't they?
Martin Luther King wasn't about that at all.

I have to fully agree with Michael when he asserts that most of the far-right conservatives of today probably can't stand Martin Luther King, Jr. or America's admiration for him. (I have a couple of conservative friends who actually refer to MLK's birthday as "Black Monday"... har har...) The far-rightists much prefer leaders who are of the "either you are for us or you're against us" mentality, who believe "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" precludes compromise, and who talk in terms of punishing people, getting folks in line, and "cracking down" on this or that or whoever gives them a cross-eyed look. This seems to be the Bush administration's approach to just about everything.

Yet the conservatives will vote for him, and for people like him, because his party has framed their moral values in ways they understand best. We Democrats need to reframe the arguments in terms of moral values that are common to all Americans. Conservatives will realize that many Americans share the same values, such as responsibility, caring, helping those who need help, civil liberties, the need for a clean environment, and an equal playing field for all Americans... and because of that, there are ways for us to agree on ways to get there instead of shouting at each other so much.

I like to think that's what Dr. King would have wanted for us, anyway.


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