Yes, another post on the ridiculous attempt by conservatives to claim Martin Luther King as their own when they savaged the man as a dangerous communist subversive when he was alive. Now several people are claiming that King was a Republican, without a shred of evidence. Politifact points to a couple of them:
Anyone driving the Interstate 240 beltway around Memphis will now see the new billboard at Getwell Road that proclaims “Martin Luther King Jr. Was A Republican. So Is Charlotte Bergmann. Charlotte Bergmann for Congress.”
Bergmann is a Republican candidate in the Democrat-rich 9th Congressional District now represented by Steve Cohen. She got a quarter of the vote in 2010 in the general election and, by all accounts, is doing more campaigning this year than two years ago…
Asked for her sources for the claim, Bergmann directed us to her website, which displays a 20-page newsletter of the National Black Republican Association that charts Republican Party efforts to advance Civil Rights from 1854 through the Eisenhower Administration and the 1957 Civil Rights Act and documents the segregated positions of prominent Democrats in the Jim Crow South. It concludes by saying, if King were alive today, he’d be a Republican.
She also pointed to a statement made by King’s niece, Alveda C. King, a founder of the group King for America: “My uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during his lifetime, was a Republican.” Bergmann also said King “subscribed to Republican values” and that most black voters before 1960 associated themselves with the Grand Old Party — the Party of Lincoln — that passed the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution ending slavery and guaranteeing equal rights in the 19th century.
Yeah, that “before 1960” thing is kind of important. That was the start of the GOP’s southern strategy and when the Dixiecrats left the Democratic party and joined the Republican party because it was more in line with their racist, pro-segregation views. Political parties change over time. But even without that, it just isn’t true that MLK was a Republican and Politifact rates this claim as false.
Common Dreams has an article about King and the fact that he wasn’t just a leader for black civil rights, he was also strongly in favor of pretty much everything conservatives hate today. He loudly supported unions and was an advocate of Democratic socialism. He was also a vocal critic of the Vietnam war and of American imperialism in general, and was pro-choice and pro-gay rights.
These experiences led King to develop a more radical outlook. King supported President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty in 1964, but, like his friend and ally Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers, King thought that it did not go nearly far enough. As early as October 1964, he called for a “gigantic Marshall Plan” for the poor — black and white. Two months later, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian “democratic socialism.” He began talking openly about the need to confront “class issues,” which he described as “the gulf between the haves and the have nots.”
In 1966 King confided to his staff:
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”…
King became increasingly committed to building bridges between the civil rights and labor movements. Invited to address the AFL-CIO’s annual convention in 1961, King observed, “The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.” In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King proclaimed, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” Speaking to a meeting of Teamsters union shop stewards in 1967, King said, “Negroes are not the only poor in the nation. There are nearly twice as many white poor as Negro, and therefore the struggle against poverty is not involved solely with color or racial discrimination but with elementary economic justice.”
King’s growing critique of capitalism coincided with his views about American imperialism. By 1965 he had turned against the Vietnam War, viewing it as an economic as well as a moral tragedy. But he was initially reluctant to speak out against the war. He understood that his fragile working alliance with LBJ would be undone if he challenged the president’s leadership on the war. Although some of his close advisers tried to discourage him, he nevertheless made the break in April 1967, in a bold and prophetic speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, entitled “Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence.” King called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and linked the struggle for social justice with the struggle against militarism. King argued that Vietnam was stealing precious resources from domestic programs and that the Vietnam War was “an enemy of the poor.” In his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), King wrote, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.”
King, a conservative? Really? Not a chance.