This week, we celebrate what would have been the 84th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This April will mark the 45th anniversary of his untimely death. It is astonishing to realize that Dr. King was only 34 years old when he delivered his watershed I Have A Dream speech and only 39 years old when he was assassinated.
Martin Luther King is an American original whose very public and consistent priorities elude the annual attempts by political parties to claim him as their favorite son. King’s protests and speeches were specifically directed at racial injustice. But his political philosophy was openly founded in American provenance.
Martin Luther King’s biggest speeches included direct quotes from the Declaration of Independence. And when he himself penned an historical missive on civil rights from inside the Birmingham, Alabama city jail, King explained, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”
Below are several quotes from that famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, juxtaposed alongside statements from the Republican and Democratic party platforms. While King’s words are not directly in context with the opposing party positions, I contend that his evangelical politics strongly favored a strong conservative bearing, with an elevated wisdom.
1. On national defense;
Republican Party Platform: Every potential enemy must have no doubt that our capabilities, our commitment, and our will to defeat them are clear, unwavering, and unequivocal. ... The Republican Party is the advocate for a strong national defense as the pathway to peace, economic prosperity, and the protection of those yearning to be free.
Democratic Party Platform: After more than a decade at war, we can focus on nation-building here at home and concentrate our resources and attention abroad on the areas that are the greatest priority moving forward. This means directing more energy toward crucial problems, including longstanding threats like nuclear proliferation and emerging dangers such as cyber attacks, biological weapons, climate change, and transnational crime. And it means a long-overdue focus on the world’s most dynamic regions and rising centers of influence.
Martin Luther King: "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
2. On the Second Amendment;
Republican Party Platform: We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment. We acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense.
Democratic Party Platform: We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation.
Martin Luther King: "We must come to see, as federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber."
3. On the national debt;
Republican Party Platform: Unless we take dramatic action now, young Americans and their children will inherit an unprecedented legacy of enormous and unsustainable debt, with the interest alone consuming an ever-increasing portion of the country’s wealth. ... While these levels of spending and debt are already harming job creation and growth, projections of future spending growth are nothing short of catastrophic, both economically and socially. And those dire projections do not include the fiscal nightmare of Obamacare, with over $1 trillion in new taxes, multiple mandates, and a crushing price tag.
Democratic Party Platform [In this moment of unprecedented fiscal imbalance, this is the only statement in the entire 32 page document that mentions the national debt]: We see an America with greater economic security and opportunity, driven by education, energy, innovation and infrastructure, and a tax code that helps to create American jobs and bring down the debt in a balanced way.
Martin Luther King: "Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. . . . the purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation."
4. On Law and Order;
Republican Party Platform: We condemn the reckless actions associated with the operation known as “Fast and Furious,” conducted by the Department of Justice, which resulted in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent and others on both sides of the border. We applaud the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in holding the current Administration’s Attorney General in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with their investigation into that debacle.
Democratic Party Platform: We are committed to a multidimensional approach that safeguards citizens, breaks the financial strength of criminal and terrorist networks, disrupts illicit trafficking networks, fights government corruption, strengthens the rule of law, bolsters judicial systems, and improves transparency. We have responded to this threat through aggressive targeting of the illicit financial infrastructure supporting cross-border criminal activity. And we will continue to coordinate with other nations and build their capacity to combat these threats.
Martin Luther King: “...law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
4. On liberalism;
Martin Luther King: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."