Why the Right Would’ve Attacked Martin Luther King
The activist’s stances on war, poverty and business clash with the GOP’s philosophy.
Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have both given shout outs to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in recent days, but if King were alive today his viewpoints on war, poverty and business almost certainly would have led to fierce attacks from the right. After all for challenging the status quo in the middle of the 20th century, King became a target of the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover. So why was King perceived as a threat then and which of his political views would’ve even led to accusations that he was un-American? This list sums it up.
In his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” King characterized the United States as arrogant for escalating the conflict in Vietnam and took issue with the fact that young black men were fighting to liberate the Vietnamese when they were treated like second-class citizens in the U.S. “War is not the answer,” he wrote. “Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war…We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.” Given that Ron Paul stands out as the only Republican presidential candidate who’s loudly voiced opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, King’s criticism of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam likely would have led to accusations that the civil rights leader wasn’t patriotic or willing enough to stamp out the enemy.
Can you imagine any of the Republican presidential candidates demanding employment, housing and healthcare for the poor? Well, that was Martin Luther King’s reason for organizing a Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C. The plan was for civil rights activists to visit various government agencies and urge them to pass substantial anti-poverty legislation. Given Newt Gingrich’s controversial characterization of poor children as lacking a work ethic and the suggestion that Obama’s healthcare plan amounts to socialism, you can bet that none of the GOP presidential candidates would’ve been fans of the Poor People’s Campaign. Sadly, James Earl Ray assassinated King before the march took place in May 1968.
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has tried to win over voters by touting his experience in the business world. King, however, was pro-labor and managed to make the civil rights movement a success by crippling businesses with boycotts. The day before his April 4, 1968, assassination in Memphis, Tenn., where King had arrived to support striking sanitation workers, he delivered the speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” In the speech, King asked supporters to boycott companies such as Coca-Cola and Wonder Bread because they allegedly had unfair hiring practices. Moreover, long before Occupy Wall Street, King discussed plans of a “bank-in” movement. He asked supporters to take their money out of the banks downtown to flex their economic power. “Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal,” he said.