Monday, October 31, 2011

Black Republican's Tiresome Rhetoric

I've always been interested in efforts to wrench the votes of minorities, particularly blacks, away from the Democratic Party. The efforts usually range from caustic demonization of the party itself (Democratic); superficial appeals to the historic roots of the party as 'the Party of Lincoln'; or berating Black Democrats as 'slaves' on the 'plantation'. Personally, I find none of these particularly useful or appealing. I'm not impressed. 

Relatively new, is  the assertion that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican. To which I say, 'Yeah, ok...?' I've read about Dr. King extensively, going back before my teen-age years. I don't recall anything specifically about his party affiliation, but it's highly probable that he was a Republican. In an age in which we want to see official documents on significant historical figures, it's interesting that no one has produced voter registration information. But be that as it may, I don't find the prospect of MLK being a member of the GOP unsettling at all. He may have been. He may have not been.

Martin Luther King, Sr. was a Republican - until John F. Kennedy's intervention into King, Jr.'s imprisonment (not jailing, imprisonment) on a traffic arrest prior to the 1960 Presidential election. The younger King would still not endorse Kennedy, but the elder King had no such compunction and publicly gave JFK his support. Did Daddy King's previous allegiance to the Republican Party influence not only MLK but the entire King family. It wouldn't surprise me, in the least. But it wouldn't surprise me if, if at some point, King asserted his independence at the ballot box. He had no problem in his determination to be his own man. 

There have been no shortage of efforts on the part of conservatives to try and appropriate the image of King as 'one of them'. The most egregious efforts, of course, have been around the most 'harmless' portions of King's 'I Have a Dream' speech. "I have a dream that one day...[we] will be judged by the content of our character and not the color of their skins'. 

Of course, their appropriations are selective. The event at which this, judged by many historians as one of the two or three most important orations in American history, goes totally unacknowledged by those who wish to make King their conservative ideological mascot. We call the event 'The March on Washington'. But, it was fully known as 'The March on Washington for Jobs and Justice' - it was, in some respects, an Occupy Wall Street moment. 

And, of course, that subsequent legislation passed by a Democratic President in response to King led and or influenced by King demonstrations, led to the break with Southern Democrats (or Dixiecrats) with the Democratic Party, many of whom, if not most, became members of the Republican Party. Those landmark laws were the laws that recognized the full citizenship of Black people: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Again, the conservatives also are determined to ignore King's commitment just before his death to economic justice in which he called for 'a guaranteed income for every American' and his vehement opposition to the Viet Nam War. I wonder if GOP conservatives so quick to claim King as 'one of them' would have been so quick to claim him, had a bullet from the rifle fired by James Earl Jones prevented him from delivering the sermon he had prepared entitled, 'Why America May Go to Hell'.

But politically, what was King's assessment of the 1964 election that swept Lyndon Johnson into office by a landslide? 

"Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path."

Let's be clear: superficial and caustic appeals to the 'values' of the GOP which are supposed to resonate with those of Black voters are not going to work. 

What would?

A platform including greater access to capitol for minority businesses; increased investment in public schools, including charters. If you are going to support vouchers, means tested vouchers for parents low income parents that include money for transportation as well as tuition, so that it actually covers the cost of public schools; more money for job training, college and community colleges; greater tax breaks for business that hire the hard to unemployed and provide a track to move beyond entry level employment; tax breaks, revenue enhancements AND tax cuts; condemn state implemented voter I.D. laws; serious, sane immigration policy; meaningful, even if limited, regulation of financial institutions;
repeal of 'three strikes you're out' laws for drug use offenses. 

These would be a good start. 

Insecure Black GOP activists with apparent chips on their shoulders toward their own people because their political views aren't popular only reveal that they're the ones who have thoughtlessly adopted standard GOP rhetoric. 

By the way - the strict, constitutional, GOP conservatives, wouldn't nominate Abraham Lincoln - he was the president who suspended habaeus corpus during the Civil War and by passed Congress when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. 

This 'Party of Lincoln' wouldn't even have Lincoln!

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