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“Cynical Political Posturing”: Don’t Let The Right Wing Co-Opt Dr. King’s Progressive Vision

Washington, D.C. is gearing up for events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I will be among thousands of Americans gathering on the national mall this weekend to remember those marchers and to rededicate ourselves to their demand that the country make good on its promises of equality and opportunity for all.

The fact that politicians from across the political spectrum want to associate themselves with King is a big change. Fifty years ago, he was reviled as a Communist sympathizer trying to undermine what some said was God’s design that the races live separately. March organizer Bayard Rustin was denounced by segregationist Strom Thurmond on the floor of the Senate for being a communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual. This year, Rustin will be posthumously awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So it is a reflection of social progress that so many conservative Republican lawmakers and right-wing leaders try to wrap themselves in the moral authority of the civil rights movement. But it’s also a reflection of cynical political posturing.

Right-wing leaders are fond of rhetorically embracing King’s dream for an America in which children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Unfortunately, they often use the quote to justify their opposition to any policies that are designed to address the ongoing effects of racial discrimination.

Right-wing politicians shouldn’t be allowed to get away with pretending to share King’s moral high ground simply because legally mandated segregation is now unthinkable in America. There was so much more to King’s — and the movement’s — vision.

King was an advocate for government intervention in the economy to address poverty and economic inequality. He was a supporter of Planned Parenthood and women’s right to choose. He endorsed the 1960s Supreme Court decisions on church-state separation that Religious Right leaders denounce as attacks on faith and freedom. One of his most valued advisors, Bayard Rustin, was an openly gay man at a time when it was far more personally and politically dangerous to be so.

How many Republican leaders today will embrace that Martin Luther King?

It is true that a strong majority of congressional Republicans voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. It is true that many of our civil rights advances were made with bipartisan support. But today many Republican leaders at the state level are pushing unfair voting laws that could keep millions of people away from the polls. And many not only cheered the Supreme Court’s recent decision gutting the Voting Rights Act but moved immediately to put new voting restrictions in place.

Today’s Republican leaders are also captive to the anti-government ideology fomented by the Tea Party and its right-wing backers. Let’s remember that the official name of the event we are commemorating is the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Among the marchers’ demands were a higher minimum wage and a “massive federal program” to provide unemployed people with decent-paying jobs. Sounds like socialism!

Today’s right-wing leaders say it’s wrong to even pay attention to economic inequality. To Rick Santorum, just using the term “middle class” is Marxist.

We must not allow this historic anniversary to become a moment that perpetuates an ersatz, sanitized, co-opted version of King and the movement he led. Let’s instead reclaim King’s broadly progressive vision — for ourselves and for the history books.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, August 23, 2013

August 25, 2013 Posted by | Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Utterly Shocking!”: Just Like Dear Old Dad, Rand Paul Has Ties To Neo-Confederates

During his 2008 presidential campaign, then Texas Representative Ron Paul faced wide criticism for his newsletters—published as far back as the 1970s—which, at various points, were racist, homophobic, and anti-semitic. One newsletter from 1992 claimed that nearly all black men in Washington D.C. are “Semi-Criminal or Entirely Criminal”—while another from 1994 claimed that gays were “maliciously” infecting people with AIDS. Paul defended himself by saying that the newsletters were produced by a ghostwriter—with his name attached, and presumably, his consent—and the controversy didn’t do much to diminish his following among a certain set of young libertarians. But for those of us less enamored with Ron Paul, it did underscore one thing: His long-time association with the reactionary far-right of American politics.

Ron Paul has retired from politics, but his son—Kentucky Senator Rand Paul—is in the mix, and is clearly planning a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Ideologically, the younger Paul is indistinguishable from his father. And while he isn’t as close to the far-right as Ron Paul, it’s hard to say that he doesn’t have his own problems with race. In 2009, his campaign spokesperson resigned after racist images were discovered on his MySpace wall, and in 2010, Paul landed in a little hot water during an interview with Rachel Maddow, when he told her that he would have opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act for its impositions on businesses, i.e., they were no longer allowed to discriminate against blacks and other minorities.

Now, as the Washington Free Beacon reports, it also turns out that Rand Paul has his own relationship with the racist backwaters of American politics. I’m not a fan of the publication, but this looks terrible for the Kentucky senator:

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.

Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

When considered in light of everything I mentioned earlier, none of this comes as a surprise. We know that Ron Paul has ties to neo-Confederates, and we know that Rand Paul has faced criticism for beliefs that echo their opposition to civil rights laws. Hiring a John Wilkes Booth sympathizer fits the picture of the Pauls as a political family that—regardless of what’s in their hearts—is comfortable working with right-wing racists.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 9, 2013

July 10, 2013 Posted by | Libertarians, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Ron Paul’s Libertarian Principles Support Racism

The furor over the racist newsletters published by Ron Paul in the nineties is, in some ways, more revealing than the newsletters themselves. In a series of responses by Paul and his supporters ranging from anguished essays to angry dismissals to crazed conspiracy diagrams (check out page seven), the basic shape of the Paul response has emerged. Paul argues that he was completely unaware that, for many years, the newsletter purporting to express his worldview consistently expressed vicious racism.

This is wildly implausible, but let’s grant the premise, because it sets up the more interesting argument. Paul’s admirers have tried to paint the racist newsletters as largely separate from his broader worldview, an ungainly appendage that could be easily removed without substantially altering the rest. Tim Carney argues:

Paul’s indiscretions — such as abiding 9/11 conspiracy theorists and allowing racist material in a newsletter published under his name — will be blown up to paint a scary caricature. His belief in state’s rights and property rights will be distorted into support for Jim Crow and racism.

The stronger version of this argument, advanced by Paul himself, is that racism is not irrelevant to his ideology, but that his ideology absolves him of racism. “Libertarians are incapable of being racist,” he has said, “because racism is a collectivist idea, you see people in groups.” Most libertarians may not take the argument quite as far as Paul does – many probably acknowledge that it is possible for a libertarian to hold racist views – but it does help explain their belief that racism simply has no relation to the rest of Paul’s beliefs. They genuinely see racism as a belief system that expresses itself only in the form of coercive government power. In Paul’s world, state-enforced discrimination is the only kind of discrimination. A libertarian by definition opposes discrimination because libertarians oppose the state. He cannot imagine social power exerting itself through any other form.

You can see this premise at work in Paul’s statements about civil rights. In a 2004 statement condemning the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Paul laid out his doctrinaire libertarian opposition. “[T]he forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty,” he wrote. “The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties.”

Paul views every individual as completely autonomous, and he is incapable of imagining any force other than government power that could infringe upon their actual liberty. White people won’t hire you? Then go form a contract with somebody else. Government intervention can only make things worse.

The same holds true of Paul’s view of sexual harassment. In his 1987 book, he wrote that women who suffer sexual harassment should simply go work somewhere else: “Employee rights are said to be valid when employers pressure employees into sexual activity. Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts?” This reaction also colored his son Rand Paul’s response to sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain, which was to rally around Cain and grouse that he can’t even tell jokes around women any more.

This is an analysis that makes sense only within the airtight confines of libertarian doctrine. It dissipates with even the slightest whiff of exposure to external reality. The entire premise rests upon ignoring the social power that dominant social groups are able to wield outside of the channels of the state. Yet in the absence of government protection, white males, acting solely through their exercise of freedom of contract and association, have historically proven quite capable of erecting what any sane observer would recognize as actual impediments to the freedom of minorities and women.

The most fevered opponents of civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s – and, for that matter, the most fervent defenders of slavery a century before – also usually made their case in in process terms rather than racist ones. They stood for the rights of the individual, or the rights of the states, against the federal Goliath. I am sure Paul’s motives derive from ideological fervor rather than a conscious desire to oppress minorities. But the relationship between the abstract principles of his worldview and the ugly racism with which it has so frequently been expressed is hardly coincidental.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, January 2, 2012

January 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates, Racism | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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