Beinstein column: Were he alive, could MLK be a Republican?
More than anything else, Martin Luther King Jr. identified himself as a Christian pastor. It is therefore difficult to imagine him accepting the Democratic Party’s firm stances on abortion and gay marriage. The question is: Could he today be an active supporter of the GOP?
In light of Donald Trump’s muted stance on Charlottesville, most blacks, including a hypothetical MLK Jr., find it difficult to trust the Republican Party. And who can blame them? The notion that the white race is inherently superior to the black race, the belief which motivates the KKK and neo-Nazis, was abolished, by law, in the 1960s, with the help of Republicans like Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Donald Rumsfeld.
In fact, one of the main stars of today’s GOP, Ted Cruz, spoke about that explicitly at last summer’s Republican National Convention — ”Our party, the Republican Party, was founded to defeat slavery … Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together, we fought to eliminate Jim Crow laws.”
And historically speaking, Sen. Cruz is very much correct in his analysis. The first black senators were all Republican. The first elected black senator, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, was a Republican. And until the 1960s, most blacks routinely voted Republican. Many scholars note how alienated blacks felt in the 1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt, for example, refused to pass an anti-lynching bill and created many government jobs for whites only. In short, when Republicans are faithful to their principles, they naturally attract all minorities. Opportunity for all, a marketplace free from government prejudice or bias, judging each person on their own individual merits, rejecting artificial caste systems that create a small artificial elite to lord over all the others — these ideas do not resonate just with blacks. They resonate with Chinese and Hispanics and Indians and Native Americans and all peoples of all colors.
And these principles are still shared by many Republicans today. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Hispanic himself, often calls for a more integrated society. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a black man, has called for law enforcement to do away with racial profiling. Former South Carolina Gov. and now UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, an Indian herself, bravely removed the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse.
And yet when we see some of the ugliest aspects of the KKK and neo-Nazis on television, it is easy to lose hope and think MLK Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech was only another foolish dream.
But it was not just a dream. Less than a year later, that dream became cemented into law. Government agencies could not discriminate by race or color. Neither could a local diner or some business organization. Opportunity would now be defined by the dreams in a man’s heart and the labor he would employ to move those dreams forward.
The dream, nevertheless, still remains unfulfilled. It remains unfulfilled not only in terms of economic advancement but also in the way we live our lives. Too often, old tribal distinctions determine our lives — the blacks stick with the blacks, the Chinese stick with the Chinese, the Irish with the Irish, etc. But the real hope, as Rev. King so eloquently said, is that we judge everybody around us by the “content of their character” and not “by the color of their skin.”
To treat Rev. King fairly is to acknowledge his links to communism and to admit to some of his private moral failings. And yet it was his dream of a colorblind society that animated a nation and gave us a new national and international purpose. And it is this dream, much like a beautiful newborn child, that needs to be delicately translated into action and law for our times.
It is this goal, arguably more than any other, that should be the leading aspiration of Lincoln’s Party. And when it is, when we can imagine a Chinese Supreme Court justice and an Indian secretary of state and a Hispanic president, then surely we can say the Republican Party is the party of Rev. King.
When we can imagine these things, we can also say the GOP is the true party of international peace. Can you imagine China holding much resentment against America or the West anymore if Chinese-Americans can reach the highest levels of our society? Would Latin America be able to cling to all of its old hatred of American imperialism if it sees Latinos occupying the greatest parts of American life? Would Native Americans still think we are so cruel if natives were seen and heard much more? Would not some of the Middle East come to our side if they saw Christian Arabs succeeding in elected office?
In short, an America that looks like the whole world, and not just Europe, will gain the affections of the whole world. And the day the world truly loves and trusts America, we can finally say, as Rev. King said so beautifully 54 years ago, we are “Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Alex Beinstein of Carbondale was a Republican primary congressional candidate in 2016 challenging incumbent Scott Tipton. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.