Martin Luther King Jr.: Beyond the Two-Party System

At the History New Network, Simon Balto reflects on an advertising campaign of the National Black Republican Association asserting that "Martin Luther King was a Republican," and argues that, "the reductively ahistoric message on display perhaps should not be surprising in our current era of seemingly endless, offensively shallow political posturing and manipulation." Nonetheless, Balto goes on to supply a short history of the ideological and policy shifts that have taken place within and between the duopoly parties and then writes:
Within the confines of the two-party dominance of the 1950's and 60s, King rarelt made any sort of appeals or grounded any struggles too deeply in a political ideology creditable to either the Republican or Democratic parties. He chose, rather, to push both parties from the left with appeals to morality, equality, human rights and social justice – and was rewarded with palpable feelings of hatred from leaders of both parties. Indeed, from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson, King attempted to force presidential hands on matters of social equality and justice and frustrated the ambivalent attitudes toward all of them in his efforts. Though our triumphalist and revisionist history of the civil rights era today includes a mirage depicting government actors exentually realizing the self-evident injustice of the American racial caste system, it would be more accurate to say that King, his fellow civil rights activists and Black Power leaders, and those at the grassroots realized the achievements that they did–with precious few exceptions– in spite of, rather than because of, those government actors . . . Today, when the NBRA invokes the ahistoric image of King as a devout Republican, it stands as such a wildly unrealistic notion that –were it not such a profound misappropriation of his legacy– it would seem laughable.

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