It’s bad enough that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lies repeatedly on the campaign trail and top Romney surrogates like John Sununu crassly engage in race-baiting that elicits no rebuke from Romney.
But the Republican Party’s penchant for prevarication and prejudice in pursuit of the U.S. presidency is reaching a new low – yet again – with actions by a GOP aligned group called Raging Elephants.
This group is funding billboards in Texas and Tennessee trumpeting the factually flawed assertion that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Was a Republican,” and is urging black voters to “VOTE REPUBLICAN.”
A Raging Elephants’ billboard campaign in Memphis links that MLK-was-a-Republican line with requests to vote for a black female Republican congressional candidate running there.
This King-was-a-Republican claim resurrects a similar fraudulent claim mounted in 2008 by a group called the National Black Republican Association. That Association placed billboards in South Carolina, Florida and Denver pushing the same flawed contention about Dr. King.
There is no historical evidence that the decidedly non-partisan Dr. King worked for either Republicans or Democrats. There is evidence that King’s father publicly identified himself as a Republican, however many blacks during the early-to-mid-20th Century did, understandably identifying politically back then with the party of slave-emancipator Abraham Lincoln.
Dr. King’s son, Martin Luther King III, in 2008, told the Associated Press that it was “disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican. He never endorsed any presidential candidate and there is no evidence he ever even voted for a Republican.”
David Garrow, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography on Dr. King, has told reporters that it is “simply incorrect to call Dr. King a Republican.”
However Dr. King’s niece, conservative activist Alevda King, contends her uncle was a Republican and subscribed to Republican values. Her contention is curious, considering the fact that the policies and platforms of the contemporary Republican Party oppose most things that Dr. King fought for like ending America’s foreign wars and eliminating poverty in America.
Politifact, sorting through competing claims about Dr. King’s alleged covert Republican alignment, stated “…evidence shows that a claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican is simply False.”
University of Pennsylvania Professor Dr. Mary Francis Berry, a past chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, reminds that from the end of the Civil War up to the middle 1930s more blacks were registered Republican than Democrat due partly to Democrats then being the party publicly aligned with preserving legalized segregation.
“It was not unusual for black middle class families in the South to be Republican,” said Berry, the author of several scholarly books and a person often critical of the uncritical stance many fellow blacks extend to the administration of President Obama.
Berry said the economically uplifting programs of the New Deal initiated during the 1930s by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped attract blacks to the Democratic Party.
A commentary article in the November 1, 1934 edition of The Philadelphia Tribune newspaper voiced criticisms prominent blacks in that city held about the Republican Party that provide additional clues into dynamics surrounding the titanic shift of blacks from Republicans to Democrats.
Blasting the nearly 50-year Republican control of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania governments, that commentary stated the “slave-like devotion and loyalty” of blacks to the GOP had produced too few jobs and protections from legalized racism. GOP non-actions, the commentary charged, helped Philly and Pennsylvania become “the most prejudiced and Jim-crowed city and state in the North.”
Signatories of that 1934 commentary included prominent black lawyers, doctors, educators and businessmen.
For Dr. Berry, Republicans raising a King-was-Republican line is an understandable (albeit odious) effort to troll for votes similar to some contemporary Republicans raising their party’s post-Civil War history of approving America’s first civil rights laws.
“The Republicans want people to look at their party’s history but not look at what the party is doing today,” Dr. Berry said during a recent interview.
What the Republican Party is doing, or more specifically what it is not doing, upsets black Republican activists like Raynard Jackson.
Jackson’s syndicated columns running in newspapers from the mainstream Washington Post to the Black Press stalwart Pittsburgh Courier frequently critique Republican Party failings like the paucity of blacks in decision-making positions at the top of Romney’s campaign.
“I have been asked by many leaders in the Republican Party why I am so critical of our party. The short answer is that I am very concerned about the direction my party is taking,” Jackson wrote in a recent commentary where his critique included decrying the GOP’s lack of racial diversity.
Jackson stated he is “deeply offended” that the GOP and those funding it will readily expend millions of dollars “on negative initiatives within the black community but are not willing to spend a fraction of that amount on something substantive and positive.”
That willingness of Republicans to expend millions of dollars for negative ends is evident in Pennsylvania, the state that in early 2012 approved the most restrictive Voter ID law in the nation. That ID law, studies’ documented, held adverse impacts disproportionately on minorities, the elderly, low-income people and college students.
Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett allocated nearly $6-million to implement that restrictive Voter ID law, with some those funds perversely drawn from federal funding earmarked for voter education initiatives.
Corbett willingly spent those millions to reduce, not increase, voter participation.
Corbett spent millions implementing barriers to voting even at a time he continued pushing draconian ‘austerity’ budget cuts to public school funding, health care and welfare, while refusing to tax corporations or the wealthy.
Pennsylvania courts blocked implementation of Corbett’s ID measure in October – a measure that one top Republican legislative leader publicly declared was approved principally to help Romney win Pennsylvania.
But the Corbett Administration is still cynically airing media ads that confusingly imply that ID is required for voting on November 6. Actually the law, still left on the books by the court, has been put in abeyance for this election, after a finding that there was no way hundreds of thousands of valid IDs could be produced by the overwhelmed and famously inefficient department of motor vehicles in time for the balloting.
Those deceptive ads irritate Faye Anderson, a founding member of the nationwide Election Protection Coalition, who is working in Philadelphia to protect voting rights for all against restrictive Republican measures imposed by a number of states with Republican-dominated legislatures and Republican governors.
It’s problematic for Republicans to dismiss Anderson’s criticisms of their party’s vote-restriction measures in Pennsylvania and other states because Anderson once held an interesting position in national GOP ranks.
In the late 1990s she served as the vice-chairwoman of the national GOP’s minority outreach/recruitment initiative.
Anderson, months before the GOP’s August 2000 presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia, publicly resigned that post expressing her frustrations at the GOP’s “pattern of racial blunders.”
Anderson, who has monitored elections in three foreign countries, recently announced a voter protection smart-phone app called “Yo Philly Votes.”
This app enables persons seeing problems at the polls like broken machines or improper intimidation to report it so that the proper authorities can be alerted to quickly address problems.
That app directs persons to call 1-866-Our-Vote to report election-related problems.
While the “Yo Philly Votes” app is currently operative only in Philadelphia, the 1-866 number is accessible to voters nationwide to report problems they encounter when voting during the November 6 presidential election.