Naturally King would not have endorsed any candidate, although many candidates seemingly acknowledged or endorsed him. Yet he undoubtedly would have had an opinion about where the nation is going. Before we attempt to answer the hypothetical question about his vote, let’s look at where we are in history. King’s choice of a leader would be affected by how he viewed the needs of the culture.
If he were here today, King would understand that the black church once again needs to be a conscience to the nation. This institution must first police itself and then bring the nation into accountability. Both major political parties have serious flaws. These flaws are not simply in party platforms, but they have to do with the use and abuse of power and opportunity. The black church may be the only force that still has enough social credibility to bring us together.King, a great believer in the local church, would no doubt be concerned about religious liberty, the protection of families, continued racial reconciliation, and the problem of illegal immigration. In my opinion, he would be concerned about the Democratic Party’s historic rejection of faith up until the last few years. Until this presidential election, the Democratic Party had consistently begun to tack in an anti-faith direction. He would probably applaud the Democratic attempt at a religious revival, while questioning the Republican “corner” on righteousness and faith.
Perhaps King would be simultaneously delighted with Huckabee’s evangelical stand and the religious freedom that Romney’s candidacy represents for the nation. The Republican outreach to black churches during the last few years would have undoubtedly brought a wide grin to his face. This unity strategy was one of the keys to Bush’s election in 2004. He won black support in both Ohio and Florida that was double the “normal” black vote in these states. Although Karl Rove was labeled a genius for the victory, it was actually an organic strategy born out of newly formed relationships between black and white pastors. These 21st century freedom riders mobilized the grassroots evangelical community to support a moral values agenda that transcended traditional party lines. King would be wise enough to realize that a new unity based on faith, which overrides race and culture, may be the new social glue needed in America.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.