Dr. Martin Luther King is uncontroversially one of the most important historical figures in American history. Indeed, he was described by civil rights activists during his lifetime as the “moral leader of our nation.” And he spoke for millions when he asserted during his most famous oration that black Americans would never be satisfied with the status quo until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” He was right. These powerful words defined an era, of course, and are worth revisiting this week as we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the “March on Washington.”
But is it really surprising to anyone that the president would use Dr. King’s legacy for his own political ends? Surely, he argues, if the great civil rights leader were alive today he would support Obamacare. After all, how could it be otherwise?
"Oh he’d like that. Well, because he I think understood that health care, health security is not a privilege, it’s something that a county as wealthy as ours, everybody should have access to.”
On Monday, Politico’s James Hohmann had an interesting take on this rather predictable phenomenon:
What would Martin Luther King Jr. think of gays, drones and Republicans?
It’s anyone’s guess, of course.
But that isn’t stopping groups spanning the ideological spectrum and representing an array of interests from seizing on the 50th anniversary of his march on Washington to champion their individual causes — no matter how tenuous the nexus to King’s legacy of battling racial injustice might seem.
Everyone wants a piece of the King action, which started Saturday with a march retracing the 1963 route and continues Wednesday with a day of speeches commemorating the civil rights icon at the Lincoln Memorial.
This is a fairly common practice, isn’t it? For generations, liberals and conservatives alike have used powerful historical figures such as Lincoln, King and even Ronald Reagan to advance their own agendas. But the hard truth, I think, as Hohmann suggests, is that no one can really know if Dr. King would support Obamacare -- in the same way that no one can really know if Abraham Lincoln would identify today as a conservative or Ronald Reagan would support blanket amnesty again. Politicians have a tendency to use America’s most revered and inspiring leaders for their own purposes. But again, what they’re really only doing is engaging in wishful speculation.