Martin Luther King and the GOP

Republicans love to claim that Martin Luther King was a Republican. They’ve even taken out billboards around the country saying so. Not only is there no evidence for this, there’s considerable evidence against it. By the end of his life, he was a loud and persistent critic of the Republican party.

There may well have been times earlier in his life when he supported the Republican party, but by 1964, when the Dixiecrats abandoned the Democratic party in response to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and became Republicans, he recognized that the GOP had become the party that gave racists like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms their home. Here’s what he wrote in his autobiography about the 1964 Republican candidate and platform:

The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism. All people of goodwill viewed with alarm and concern the frenzied wedding at the Cow Palace of the KKK with the radical right. The “best man” at this ceremony was a senator whose voting record, philosophy, and program were anathema to all the hard-won achievements of the past decade.

It was both unfortunate and disastrous that the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater as its candidate for President of the United States. In foreign policy Mr. Goldwater advocated a narrow nationalism, a crippling isolationism, and a trigger-happy attitude that could plunge the whole world into the dark abyss of annihilation. On social and economic issues, Mr. Goldwater represented an unrealistic conservatism that was totally out of touch with the realities of the twentieth century. The issue of poverty compelled the attention of all citizens of our country. Senator Goldwater had neither the concern nor the comprehension necessary to grapple with this problem of poverty in the fashion that the historical moment dictated. On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represented a philosophy that was morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I had no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that did not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy.

While I had followed a policy of not endorsing political candidates, I felt that the prospect of Senator Goldwater being President of the United States so threatened the health, morality, and survival of our nation, that I could not in good conscience fail to take a stand against what he represented.

And what he had to say about Ronald Reagan, then just beginning his political career:

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. The war has strengthened domestic reaction. 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. When a Hollywood performer, lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the Presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.

These efforts to turn King into a Republican, or worse a conservative, are appallingly dishonest — all the more so coming from the same people who savaged him as a communist during his lifetime. King was a pacifist, a democratic socialist, a staunch advocate for labor rights and a strong welfare system, an advocate for expanded family planning, and pretty much every other position that is anathema to the Republican party.

17 comments on this post.
  1. peicurmudgeon:

    Yes, but he was undeniably a Christian, and they are claiming him on those grounds as well. Because they are The Christian Party (TM).

  2. MaoistAnchoress:

    re Goldwater, the campaign slogan “In your guts, you know he’s nuts” was quite apt. Also, lol@Jesse Helms, the biggest racist Senator of his time.

  3. Reginald Selkirk:

    And that was in the 1960s. If King was not a Republican then, there is no freaking way he would approve of the 2013 Republican Party which has drifted ever further right.

  4. smhll:

    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. The war has strengthened domestic reaction. 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.

    He was a man of amazing insight.

  5. Who Knows?:

    Seems the Republican Party and the Conservative movement hasn’t changed all that much since 1964.

  6. Al Dente:

    While I agree that Goldwater was a conservative, he had one advantage over Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater was honest, unlike Johnson.

  7. billgascoyne:

    Kind of reminds me of people who say that Einstein believed in God on the basis of a couple of pithy quotations. No theist would claim him as one of their own if they had actually read any letter or essay Einstein every wrote on the topic.

  8. matty1:

    Isn’t Goldwater considered a RINO for being too far left for today’s party?

  9. Modusoperandi:

    Al Dente “While I agree that Goldwater was a conservative, he had one advantage over Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater was honest, unlike Johnson.”
    To be fair to LBJ, if he were here and heard that he’d walk over to you, unzip his fly, flop his cock out on to your desk and say “I got yer honesty right here” or somesuch.
    Granted, I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but if it did it would. So there!

  10. marcus:

    Trust MO to get right to the …er…meat of the matter.

  11. magistramarla:

    Wow, I would have loved to hear MLK’s analysis of Romney.

  12. Gvlgeologist, FCD:

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED that you would say that the Repubs are lying about this.

  13. jakc:

    So Goldwater would have been honest about our involvement in Vietnam. Big deal. He would have opposed civil rights legislation and Medicare. For all his class, I’d rather have the dishonest LBJ than the honest Goldwater.

  14. democommie:

    You know, there IS a very simple answer to this. Since the ReiKKKwing, ekspeshly the KKKristianists, don’t actually READ things like the Wholly Babble or the Constitution, it is reasonable to conclude that they have MLK confused with the original ML.

    “there is no freaking way he would approve of the 2013 Republican Party which has drifted ever further right.”

    It’s not drifting, it’s hurtling to the right like a Donzi goin’ over Horseshoe Falls.

    @13:

    Sorta my take.

    @ modusoperandi:

    “he’d walk over to you, unzip his fly, flop his cock out on to your desk and say “I got yer honesty right here” or somesuch.”

    Oh, yeah? I got one word for you, nettyboy! STAPLER!!

  15. dingojack:

    Modus (#9) – Goldwater looked casually at LBJ’s shlong and was heard to murmur: ‘hmmmm. Looks something like a human penis, only much, much smaller’.
    True story!
    Dingo

  16. cptdoom:

    To be fair to the GOP, Martin Luther King was a Republican, of course it was Martin Luther King Sr., not his son, but the GOP probably can’t tell them apart.

  17. Michael Heath:

    cptdoom writes:

    To be fair to the GOP, Martin Luther King was a Republican, of course it was Martin Luther King Sr., not his son, but the GOP probably can’t tell them apart.

    Mr. King Sr. was a Republican because of the Republican values demonstrated by Abraham Lincoln. Those values were no longer an attribute of the Republican party when his son became an emergent force, nor was it yet an attribute of the Democratic party in Junior’s time.

    Only liberals across both parties and moderates in the GOP, along with a handful of conservatives e.g., LBJ, could be relied upon to support equality for black people. And then only in LBJ’s latter years when he rose to prominence in the Senate and then became president.

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