On Monday, Republicans showed their esteem for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by holding a debate on on the holiday honoring him in the last state to recognize it. To South Carolina’s credit, it only took it seventeen years to catch up with the times, adopt the holiday and remove that good old Confederate Flag from its state house. And, in perfect harmony, all the candidates standing on the South Carolina stage last night advocate and have tried to implement policies which Dr. King fought against, or would have fought against.
The only question is how overt and how extensive they are in their rejection of King’s ideas. Some candidates are more Carolinian, by which I mean more in touch with their racist sides, such as Ron Paul who, while praising Martin Luther King as his hero, voted against Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and would have voted against the Civil Rights Act. (If this is how Paul treats his heroes, I shudder at the thought of how he would treat his enemies.) On the other end of the spectrum stands Mitt Romney, who isn’t particularly racist, though his religions—free market capitalism, limited government and Mormonism—don’t have the best track record when it comes to people of color (especially black people, in the Mormon case).
But as anyone who has ever looked beyond the G-rated version of Martin Luther King Jr. knows, race, class and foreign policy were inextricably linked for King. And Romney’s embrace of unbridled capitalism and hawkish foreign policy land him at ideological odds with the civil rights leader. What’s remarkable, though, is imagining the language that Romney would use about King if he had lived to today and had his message not been sanitized and distorted. Given that Romney accuses Obama of launching class warfare, being a socialist with “European ideas” (read foreigner), what would he have said about King, who, unlike Obama, openly embraced socialist democracy, critiqued US foreign policy and called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world”? Thanks to video footage of Martin Luther King and Mitt Romney, we have an idea.