From the November 6 broadcast of Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose:Rick Perlstein has previously addressed the conservative movement's somewhat Orwellian attempts to characterize the anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-inequality Martin Luther King Jr. as one of them despite King having been antithetical to historical conservatism. (h/t Orcinus)QUINN: This is by Frances Rice. You can Google this in HumanEvents.com. Just Google "Frances Rice," a black historian. Frances Rice says, "It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. In that era, almost all black Americans were Republicans. Why? Well, from its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party until today, the Republican Party has championed freedom and civil rights for blacks." Gee, you'd never know that walking through the hallways of a school today or listening to the media. "And as one pundit so succinctly stated, the Democratic Party is, as it always has been, the party of the four S's: slavery, secession, segregation, and now, socialism."
You know, I was thinking about this. You know, if you were a slave in the old South, what did you get as a slave? You got free room and board, you got free money, and you got rewarded for having children because that was just, you know, tomorrow's slave. So, you got a free house, you got free money, and you got rewarded for having children. Can I ask a question? How's that different from welfare? You get a free house, you get free food, and you get rewarded for having children. Oh, wait a minute, hold on a second. There is a difference: The slave had to work for it.
When Martin Luther King was buried in Atlanta, the live television coverage lasted seven and a half hours. President Johnson announced a national day of mourning: "Together, a nation united and a nation caring and a nation concerned and a nation that thinks more of the nation's interests than we do of any individual self-interest or political interest--that nation can and shall and will overcome." Richard Nixon called King "a great leader--a man determined that the American Negro should win his rightful place alongside all others in our nation." Even one of King's most beastly political enemies, Mississippi Representative William Colmer, chairman of the House rules committee, honored the president's call to unity by terming the murder "a dastardly act."Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg also addressed this subject in his Talking Right. "Once a symbol becomes part of the received moral vocabulary," writes Nunberg, "even those who originally avoided it try to co-opt it for their side, as the right has done with brazen audacity."
Others demurred. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond wrote his constituents, ”[W]e are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case.” Another, even more prominent conservative said it was just the sort of “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”
That was Ronald Reagan, the governor of California, arguing that King had it coming. King was the man who taught people they could choose which laws they’d break—in his soaring exegesis on St. Thomas Aquinas from that Birmingham jail in 1963: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. ... Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.”
That’s not what you hear from conservatives today, of course. What you get now are convoluted and fantastical tributes arguing that, properly understood, Martin Luther King was actually one of them—or would have been, had he lived. But, if we are going to have a holiday to honor history, we might as well honor history. We might as well recover the true story. Conservatives—both Democrats and Republicans—hated King’s doctrines. Hating them was one of the litmus tests of conservatism.
[T]he right's boldest use of this strategy has been in appropriating the language of the civil rights era. When the language first entered the received moral vocabulary, it signaled the triumph of liberal ideals of social justice in the face of conservative resistance and foot-dragging. Now the right has repurposed it to stoke resentments about race and religion, while liberals are left to thrash around for a new script.Nunberg examines the use of color-blind as a case study of this tactic. While legal segregation was an issue the term was absent from the vocabulary of conservatives, but once the issue of segregation was settled and the debate refocused on steps toward addressing inequity color-blind entered the language of conservatives as a means of arguing against such steps. He continues:
Listening to conservatives talk about race, you're reminded of someone who discovers a collection of news clips from the 1950s and decides to run them all in reverse video. Newt Gingrich applauded the Chicago Bulls for the color-blindness in their win over the Utaz Jazz in the NBA playoffs by noting that in the closing moments, Michael Jordan didn't limit himself to black teammates in looking for an open man. "Jordan didn't look for nearest open black face," Gingrich said. "He looked for the nearest Chicago jersey. That happened to be Steve Kerr, who is white. This is the example for society to follow - a group of individuals so focused on a common goal of winning that they don't have to worry about what color the other guy is." The remark recalls Arthur Daley's 1949 comment about Jackie Robinson or the similar lines that were obligatory tropes of the "problem films" of the 1950s ... Except in Gingrich's version it's the black players who offer the model for color-blindness, in one of the few fields that blacks dominate. And in this version of the story, the implicit enemies of fairness aren't bigoted white fans or the stock racist sociopath ... They're the African Americans and their white liberal allies who have made "race consciousness" a pervasive feature of American life.Now take a look at this
That's how conservatives have generally modified the rhetoric of the civil rights era, deploying it to defend the privileges of their strongest constituency, white male Americans. Their conversion experience to the language of civil rights came just in time to relieve them from having to change any of their positions. Read through Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom's America in Black and White or Dinesh D'Souza's The End of Racism, for example, and you find the same themes that conservatives were harping on in the 1950s and 1960s, though couched in different language. In outline, the story goes like this: blacks have made extraordinary economic and social progress and white racism is no longer an impediment to equality. If crushing disparities between blacks and whites continue to exist, they're chiefly the result of "black failure," "black cultural pathologies," or what D'Souza calls "civilizational differences" - black culture, he says, has a "repellent underside" that liberal antiracists are blinded to by their reflexive cultural relativism. Such discrimination as exists is rational, following from the same "logic or predictive evaluation" that might lead an employer to be unwilling to hire women,"who may get pregnant and leave."
Making allowances for changing times and language, that's pretty much what conservatives were saying forty and fifty years ago - at every turn, they applauded the decline of racism and the progress blacks had made, but warned that cultural differences between the races put integration and equality beyond the reach of government programs to achieve.*
The image above is the cover from one of the Regnery Politically Incorrect Guide to ... line of popular conservative movement books. This is the same conservative publisher that has brought us the work of a neo-Confederate (his Politically Incorrect Guide has a Confederate soldier on the cover) which was subsequently promoted by Sean Hannity of Fox News. So, uh, who is it again that is the party of segregation and slavery and secession? (Nevermind socialism - even using these type standards there is no party of socialism in America.**)
Update: Um, re-reading this post I noticed that I left out one of the key points that I meant to include - MARTIN LUTHER KING JR WAS NOT A REPUBLICAN.
In 1960, King was arrested for trespassing during a sit-in and held in Georgia's Reidsville prison. Fearing for his son's life, Martin Luther King Sr. appealed to presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to secure his release.Besides the public criticism of Goldwater, King was a nonpartisan.
When King was freed, his father vowed to deliver 10 million votes to the Democrat, even though Kennedy was only a reluctant supporter of civil rights. That began four decades of black people voting for liberals.
The younger King voted for Kennedy, and for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson four years later. In that election, King publicly denounced the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater.
Update II [9-29-09]: Looking back at this post, I see that I forgot to mention something that I took for granted as so obviously absurd. The difference between slavery and welfare that most people would recognize is that slaves were victims of a form of oppression that denies a person his/her most basic and fundamental human rights, and, ultimately, that person's very humanity. But to Quinn, the difference is that people on welfare don't have to work for assistance like the slave did. Amazing how someone can claim to be denouncing slavery as he white-washs the horror of slavery while concomitantly playing to prejudicial sentiment.
*Nunberg also goes on to point out the selective use of King by conservatives, noting that they conveniently forget that he also called for "some compensatory consideration for the handicaps [the Negro] has inherited from the past."
**And where as Quinn is at leat correct that the Democratic Party has at previous times stood for slavery, segregation, and secession it has never stood for socialism.