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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – MLK Day/Inauguration Editon

At the Washington Post, Wil Haygood comments on the confluence of MLK Day and the Inauguration, noting a quote from Jesse Jackson: “King broke down the walls, and Barack ran across the bridge. The rocks from the broken walls created that bridge.”
Also at The Post, this editorial says it well: “Today, on the national day set aside to honor Dr. King, an African American president will ceremonially begin his second term. …There is, to be sure, an element of bigotry among some of his enemies, but in general it has had a kind of cowardly, subterranean quality to it. President Obama was assailed mostly for what his critics thought were wrong policies or judgments. In the end, as always, the final verdict was given at the polls; the president was reelected, and his inauguration will be celebrated today — not quite with the rapturous enthusiasm of four years ago but rather with something resembling blessed normality.”
As usual, some Republicans are trying to distort Dr. King’s views to dovetail more with their agenda, often using King’s “content of their character” quote to argue that he was opposed to affirmative action and quotas etc., and some even argue that he was a Republican. At CNN.com, John Bake’s “Why conservatives call MLK their hero” has a good update about the distortion of MLK’s views.
To find out what MLK really thought about the Republicans of his day, however, my TDS post a year ago should suffice,
2013 will also be marked as the 50th anniversary year of MLK’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he challenged American to embrace racial equality. When King was assassinated he was leading a movement, ‘The Poor peoples’ campaign to end poverty for Americans of all races. At the New York Times Opinionator, Nobel Prize-winning economist and former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Joseph E. Stiglitz makes the case for escalating the struggle to reduce inequality between the wealthy and working people. “It will be up to all of us — our leaders included — to muster the courage and foresight to finally treat this beleaguering malady.”
Julie Mason has an interesting Politico post on President Obama’s relationships with MLK’s associates in the Civil Rights Movement, summed up by King’s closest living aide, Ambassador Andrew Young: ” “He is very well-respected in most of the world. He is smart and he works hard — he is amazingly humble. I don’t think we can do any better.”
William Douglas and David Lightman write in the McClathchey Newspapers article, in “MLK and Obama: a day of similarities” that “Both battled enormous odds to build historic multiethnic, multiracial coalitions, one to advance the cause of civil rights, the other to win the nation’s highest office. Both won the Nobel Peace Price. Both could use soaring rhetoric to inspire millions. Both also had to overcome critics who accused them of socialist or communist sympathies, as well as black activists who maintained that they weren’t strong advocates for African-Americans…”Making America better in 1968 is different than making America better in 2013. I think they take different paths, but their goal is to use their strengths to help America be America,” said Lonnie Bunch, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Many activists are doing good work in keeping with King’s legacy, but this title is a bit of a stretch.
For those who are wondering what Dr. King thought about gun violence and its sources, this MLK quote from The King Papers Project may have some resonance: “By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the Vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”
Susan Donaldson James sets the stage for the inauguration and President Obama’s second term with “Martin Luther King’s Dream for Justice Challenges Obama ” at ABC News, with insights from Rev. Joseph Lowery, Julian Bond, NAACP National President Benjamin Jealous, King’s sister, Christine King Farris and San Diego Mayor Robert Filner, who was jailed in desegregation protests in Mississippi in 1961 and whose family raised funds for the Civil Rights Movement.

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