The Washington Post Calls MLK Jr. 'Conservative.' Wonkette Calls Washington Post 'Bullsh*t'

OK, sure. He's been called worse things.

It's Martin Luther King Day again, which means it's time once more to explain to wingnuts that, no, he wasn't a registered Republican, and also there was more to the "I Have A Dream" speech than the one line about dreaming that one day his children would "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" -- also, no, that was not an argument against affirmative action, either. Happily, none of that nonsense is at work in the Washington Post's dopey MLK Day editorial "Martin Luther King Jr. was a true conservative," which is still pretty much wrong, but is at least wrong in some novel ways.

So, no, at least the WaPo editorial isn't attempting to warp King into a Tea Partier who hated Big Government. Instead, they're trying to redefine "conservatism" so at least some parts of King's thinking will fit inside that box. Here's the gist of their argument, such as it is: King was a conservative, you see, because

in his way, Dr. King did a lot to preserve, protect and defend the best of our principles and values. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was despised by many conservatives of his day, helped keep American society from succumbing to the radical ideologies that brought death and devastation to much of Europe and Asia, Dr. King worked to turn back extremism, violence and racial nationalism at the height of the civil rights movement, and to keep the cause of essential and long-overdue change in the American mainstream.

Translation: Since King thought America could end segregation and actually live up to the ideal that all of us are created equal, without a violent revolution like the black radicals who saw him as insufficiently willing to overthrow the existing system, he was a conservative. Or at least a Very Nice Radical. The comparison to FDR is telling -- as my beloved radical-ish high school U.S. History teacher Mr. Wallace liked to say, Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself. So yes, if "conservative" means "satisfied with incremental changes," you can make that case, WaPo, although it probably applies far better to Barack Obama than to King, who was never, ever satisfied with incrementalism. That's why he was a far more polarizing figure in life than after he was assassinated and his image could be much more carefully managed. Murdered heroes are pretty convenient that way, since they can't get on Twitter and insist you know nothing of their work.

Martin Luther King wasn't only calling for an equal opportunity for everyone to pursue an MBA and screw others -- he was about radical restructuring of the American economy, which is what his idea for the Poor People's March on Washington was all about: Yes, voting rights and the end of segregated restrooms were nice, but King didn't think America was working, not at all, for entirely too many Americans. There wasn't a hell of a lot that was conservative about King's vision of a radical remaking of how wealth was distributed, that's for certain. But instead he was assassinated, the Poor People's Campaign -- hastily organized by the SCLC as a combination protest and memorial to King -- turned into a fiasco, the New Right came along in reaction to the '60s and '70s, and then Ronald Reagan finally killed off the Great Society and led us to the corporate promised land where we live today.

And do we even want to get started on King's opposition to the war in Vietnam? We probably need to, if only to make it clear to Sarah Palin that no, Martin Luther King would not agree that Our Troops are "a force for good in this country, and that is nothing to apologize for." What King actually said about Vietnam went well past saying it was something we should apologize for; he considered it a fundamental betrayal of American values:

[What] we are submitting [our troops] to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Not exactly a conservative call to Support The Troops, was it? Unless by "support" you mean get them the hell out of there and rebuild the country we helped break.

But yes, King definitely did good things, and reminded us of the promise -- still very much unfulfilled -- of America's best ideals, so let's call that "conservative." All you have to do is redefine "conservatism" into "something no modern conservative believes but that sort of describes some parts of Martin Luther King," and the Washington Post has perfectly nailed it.


Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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