This is too easy

Chris Freind is wrong—way, way wrong—about Martin Luther King Jr. What, you’re surprised?

Apparently, it falls to me to knock down Chris Freind whenever he goes on one of his fact-free jaunts. Today’s version features the oft-recited right-wing canard that Martin Luther King Jr. was, in fact, a Republican who stood for personal responsibility, and if the Republicans only listened to his message and stood strong against “political correctness,” blacks wouldn’t vote 9-1 for Democrats. A sample after the jump:

The Republicans are in desperate need of a leader willing to stand up and embrace Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., someone who can credibly remind blacks about their former alliance with the GOP. But most of all, a leader who can explain to blacks that they are still Republican in their values, and to show them the way home.

Dr. King espoused Republican ideals more eloquently than most. Look at the words in his most famous statement: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Is there anything more Republican than that? True Republicans strive to live in a color-blind society, where people are judged by their deeds, not their skin pigment.

I’ll dispatch with the “MLK was a Republican” thing first because, well, it’s too damn easy, then move on to what I see as the more important issue, and the one Freind (and most in-denial Republicans) get absolutely ass-backward: why blacks vote for Democrats. So, let’s begin: Does this guy sound like a right-winger to you?

  • MLK favored reparations for slavery: “No amount of gold could provide an adequate compensation for the exploitation and humiliation of the Negro in America down through the centuries …. Yet a price can be placed on unpaid wages. The ancient common law has always provided a remedy for the appropriation of a the labor of one human being by another. This law should be made to apply for American Negroes. The payment should be in the form of a massive program by the government of special, compensatory measures which could be regarded as a settlement in accordance with the accepted practice of common law.”
  • King was something of a socialist: “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 believed that the US should guarantee a minimum income to all citizens, working or not: “Now we must develop progress, or rather, a program—and I can’t stay on this long—that will drive the nation to a guaranteed annual income. Now, early in the century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation as destructive of initiative and responsibility. At that time economic status was considered the measure of the individual’s abilities and talents. And in the thinking of that day, the absence of worldly goods indicated a want of industrious habits and moral fiber. We’ve come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed, I hope, from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands, it does not eliminate all poverty. The problem indicates that our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes.”
  • King favored a version of what has since been derided as “Ebonics.” From a speech in 1967: “Even semantics have conspired to make that which is black seem ugly and degrading. In Roget’sThesaurus there are some 120 synonyms for blackness and at least sixty of them are offensive, such words as blot, soot, grim, devil, and foul. And there are some 134 synonyms for whiteness and all are favorable, expressed in such words as purity, cleanliness, chastity, and innocence. A white lie is better than a black lie. The most degenerate member of a family is the ‘black sheep.’ Ossie Davis has suggested that maybe the English language should be reconstructed so that teachers will not be forced to teach the Negro child sixty ways to despise himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of inferiority, and the white child 134 ways to adore himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of superiority. The tendency to ignore the Negro’s contribution to American life and strip him of his personhood is as old as the earliest history books and as contemporary as the morning’s newspaper. To offset this cultural homicide, the Negro must rise up with an affirmation of his own Olympian manhood. Any movement for the Negro’s freedom that overlooks this necessity is only waiting to be buried. As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free.”
  • MLK thought the Vietnam War terribly immoral: “Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read ‘Vietnam.’ It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1954. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances. But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men—for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?”
  • Though a preacher, King supported the Supreme Court’s ruling on school prayer and embraced pluralism. (He also likened the civil rights struggle to that of Planned Parenthood.) “I endorse [the Court’s decision]. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.”

So, to recap: King sympathized with socialized, advocated for reparations and big government programs, opposed school prayer, opposed the Vietnam War, supported a guaranteed minimum wage and some form of what would now be called Ebonics (or at least, the diametric opposite of the whites-only curricula Tea Partyers are proposing for Tennessee schools)—and this is what Chris Freind deems Republicanism?

Jesus, man, spend five minutes on Google before you blog.

Moving on. Freind is, amazingly enough, factually correct about one thing:

Who is most affected by violent crime? Who is most impacted by outrageous taxes and ever-increasing public transportation fees? Who, more than anyone, strives for a solid family unit, knowing the catastrophic results of children growing up without a father? As a group, who opposes same-sex marriages more than any other? And who better understands the reality that many of our failed public schools, especially those in the inner city, have become literal battle zones—and that the only way to achieve a quality education, and with it one’s dreams, is through parental choice in education? Black Americans.

Yeah, blacks are disproportionately affected by violent crime (and, for that matter, tough on crime initiatives) and hit hardest with regressive taxation (which Republicans like Freind tend to favor, because progressive schemes shift the burden to the rich, and that is socialism or whatever), have greater tendencies toward homophobia, put more emphasis on the traditional family unit and have to attend the country’s shittiest schools, and thus, tend to be among the bigger proponents of “school choice”—which, once again, Does. Not. Work. In fact, in political science research, blacks present a conundrum for this very reason: As a group, they tend to be socially (though not economically) conservative, but they vote almost uniformly Democratic. (In my master’s thesis on gay marriage policies in States [ignore the typos, please], I had to run two datasets: One including blacks and one omitting them.)

Blacks, more than any other subset of the American populace, tend to subscribe to authoritarianism, which is in turn highly correlated with religiosity, support for “traditional” values, law and order (especially when violence is a constant), and yes, homophobia. (This book is, to my mind, a seminal piece of recent social science literature on all facets of authoritarianism.) You know what authoritarianism is negatively correlated to? Education. Even when you factor out church attendance and age, for instance, education exerts considerable sway over feelings on gay rights. To wit (SSU=“same-sex unions”):

From my thesis.

So yes, education is a huge problem in the black community (although a considerable improvement in inner-city education would like denigrate some of those conservative social mores Freind praises). So is crime. So is the absence of fathers.

But so is poverty—heart-wrenching, all-consuming poverty that is, whether we want to admit it or not, the byproduct of this country’s past sins.

And that’s one reason blacks don’t vote Republicans: the up-by-your-bootstraps ideology of Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan is anathema to folks who are struggling to get by, who see their neighborhoods in disrepair, who are staring down 16 percent unemployment rates while the rich get richer and Republicans argue for tax cuts for billionaires while holding up extensions of unemployment benefits.

The other reason is simple: They get the feeling that, well, Republicans don’t like them very much. And there’s a pretty good reason for this, too. Yes, Freind is right that a century ago, northern Republicans were among the staunchest supporters of civil rights, and southern Democrats were probably the most racist bastards around. But these things have changed. Since the Civil Rights Act passed—and since Republicans began directly appealing to racists via Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which was embodied in Reagan’s 1980 campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and his rebukes of imaginary welfare queens (this is not exactly a controversial idea)—conservative southerners have left the Democrats in droves. The South realigned, from Democratic bulwark to the new Republican base.

If a political party had made its gains by openly courting those who hated you, would you reward them with your vote? Me either.