Every year in the days leading up to the MLK Holiday, we are subjected to the absurd spectacle of mainstream and other neutered conservatives attempting to claim that MLK was one of our own. This rant is occasioned by several such posts I have seen today on FaceBook. I don’t know whether this is more pathetic or transparent, but it is clearly both. Anyone with any intellectual honesty at all should be able to see through this foolish narrative. It is rank historical revisionism, and I highly suspect that most of the people who do it know this. It certainly does not fool liberals who mock us for it. The only people it seems to fool is the mainstream conservative masses who lap it up. “See, we’re not the racists. It’s those evil Democrats who are the racists.” But I’m not convinced that even most of those folks believe it. It is simply a narrative thay can latch on to to innoculate themselves against charges of wrongthink, and think they can get the better of liberals in a debate.
MLK was a man of the left. This is not debatable. It is a fact. King is sometimes accused of being a communist (either big C or little c) by his opponents who have yet to sell out. While King was never, as far as we know, a Communist, he surrounded himself with Communists, addressed Communist front organizations, and attended a Communist front training facility (the Highlander Folk School). As I said with regard to Nelson Mandela, I don’t really like communist (big C or little c) as an epithet so I don’ necessarily hold his associations against him per se. MLK was a far leftist by the standards of his day and such people were bound to interact with Communists because that was the far left milieu at the time. But his associations with Communists and other radical leftists does contextualize who he was in his time. He is never accused of being a secret McCarthyite, for example, because that is not the milieu he traveled in. This was obvious and taken for granted by people at the time. Conservative voices like National Review and Human Events had no problem placing King on the left in his day. Attempts by conservatives striving to prove they are not politically incorrect to appropriate King and his legacy is a relatively recent phenomenon, and only passes the laugh test because enough time has passed and people forget their history.
The narrative goes something like this: King was allegedly a Republican. It was Republicans who were largely responsible for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and mean nasty ol’ Southern Democrats who opposed it. If they’re really laying it on thick, they’ll cite Lincoln freeing the slaves and how blacks voted Republican during Reconstruction and for decades beyond. Since the Republican Party is supposedly the conservative party today, ipso facto, King was a conservative. While this is all technically true up to the assertion at the end, it is meaningless.
First of all, it is not even true that King was a Republican even thought this is widely asserted by the craven cons. See here for example. For the sake of brevity, I’ll let the link speak for itself, which it does, although I’ll take up Kings’ opposition to Barry Goldwater below.
That said, yes, it was Southern Democrats along with self-identified conservative (that should tell you something) Republicans like Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley who opposed the Civil Rights Acts, but Southern Democrats and self-consciously conservative Republicans were the conservative element of the day. It was liberal Democrats and liberal Republicans who supported it. Some free-market and small government conservatives will protest that Southern Democrats couldn’t have been the conservative element of the time because they openly loved their pork, which is true, but again largely irrelevant to the point at hand. (A lot of modern conservative Republicans love their pork too, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, but that is for another post.) The two parties have not always been aligned as they are today. The division of the two parties along perceived left vs. right lines was just beginning in King’s day as was the transformation of both parties, which is what makes this all more confusing than it ought to be.
Historically we have traditionally had two parties that were organized around the perceived commonality of interests of a rather diverse coalition of forces. The Republicans were the Court Party and the Democrats were the Country Party, so to speak, and whatever ideological considerations there were were primarily a pretext for self-interest. Since the 60′s, the parties have largely switched roles and taken on the left vs. right dichotomy. White Southerners have migrated to the GOP and blacks have migrated to the Democrat Party, the latter a phenomenon that started with FDR and the New Deal. Now why and how this happened deserves a discussion of its own, but happen it did and racial issues clearly had a lot to do with it. To pretend otherwise, as the PC cons do, is to be willfully ignorant.
The PC preening conservatives sit on their high horses and bash those bad ol’ Southern Democrats, but demographically speaking those old Southern Democrats and their progeny are the modern base of the GOP and they know it, although they may pretend not to. Five Deep South states, including my own state of Georgia, broke the strangle hold that Democrats had had on the “Solid South” when they voted for Goldwater in ’64, largely based on Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act. Did, the alleged Mr. Republican Martin Luther King support Goldwater in ’64? Inconveniently for the PC cons’ tidy little narrative, no he did not. See the link in paragraph 4 above. Most of those same states, again including my own state of Georgia, voted for George Wallace four years later in 1968. This gradual transition of the South from a Democrat to a Republican bastion was seen up through the Clinton elections. That transition is now complete. (And potentially being reversed again due to other demographic forces.)
Do the PC grandstanders assert that all these suddenly enlightened white Southerners who now dutifully pull the lever for Republicans are actually all transplants from the North and Midwest who have demographically displaced those mean nasty ol’ racist Southern Democrats who continue to remain a small remnant of the Democrat Party? In fact, the opposite is the case. It is the migration of liberal whites (along with immigrants) into the South that has made states like North Carolina turn purple. Who were the whites in North Carolina who pulled the lever for Obama in 2008 that gave the state to him? Was it the old Southern Democrat remnant? That is absurd on its face, and again the grandstanders know it. When they bash those mean ol’ racist Southern Democrats, they are bashing their own demographic base. But I guess scoring PC brownie points is more important to them than honor and intellectual honesty.
Regardless of what someone may think about Martin Luther King and his legacy, he was not a man of the right and to argue that he was is intellectually discrediting. The PC cons should just be honest and admit that they have turned over their intellectual man card to the Cultural Marxist Division of PC Rightthink Enforcement, and spare us all, left and right, their farcical historical revisionism.
Addendum: I understand why some conservatives might want to sit out the MLK debate in order to not bring the PC rightthink enforcement apparatus down on their heads. I think it’s weak, but I can understand it. But it is one thing to sit the debate out cautiously and another thing to join in the debate on the side of the Cultural Marxists. Even though their revisionism is obviously inaccurate, their regurgitation of it still feeds into the PC narrative and empowers the PC Beast. As I have said repeatedly, conservatives who feed the PC Beast are fools. They will never keep it from attempting to devour them and the civilization they say they want to conserve. They are contributing to their own demise. This is ultimately what I am decrying even more than the specifics of their MLK retelling.