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Do the Republican Candidates for President Buy Into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream?

Posted by Elizabeth Ullrich on

Elizabeth Ullrich

Elizabeth Ullrich

I am left wondering, a day after we all were inundated with commercial and political commemorations of MLK's "I have a dream" speech, whether any of the current politicians running for the Republican presidential nomination reflect the values, principles, and dreams that MLK died for.

I did a quick search for the candidates' positions on issues that affect the Latino and African American communities specifically, and did not find much of the same kind of "hope" that MLK so eloquently spoke of.

MLK talked of problems with racism in our criminal justice system and police brutality, segregation, lack of representation in government, liberty, and equal opportunities to succeed. It seems the current nominees believe the problem is too much support by our government, instead of not enough.

If you listen to the rhetoric of our nominees when it comes to race, they seem to think the racial problems that still plague our country (e.g. poverty, hate crimes, fair political representation, police brutality, failing schools, high school drop out rates, college graduation rates, drug laws, business ownership, etc.) are of "their" own making… the fault of the African Americans themselves who do not have the "know how" to take care of themselves… in essence: victim-blaming.

The problem, as they seem to see it, reflects a similar approach taken during MLK's time: deflect, fear-monger, and then victim-blame. It seems that African Americans and Latinos are easy groups to scapegoat for the country's problems and this rings true for 2012 as much as it did back in the 1950s and 1960s.

How much have we changed since 1968, when MLK was assassinated for his dream? If you listen to the rhetoric of our current Republican nominees for president in 2012, your answer should be: not very much. That is not only sad, it is tragic.

Summary of positions or arguments from the candidates on issues that affect race:

Newt Gingrich

PROS: Supports compromise in the immigration debate through providing some opportunities for legal protections and services for illegal immigrants and their children.

CONS: Has said numerous times during the primary campaigns that he believes the core problem in black communities is the issue of food stamps, namely: there are too many of them seeking food stamps, rather than jobs; suggested that poor African American kids get jobs to help learn work ethic.

Ron Paul

PROS: Spoken out against drug laws that discriminate against African Americans.

CONS: Voted against a commemoration bill celebrating the Civil Rights Act, arguing that the act had made racial relations worse and violated the Constitution; 1989 newsletter claims that roving bands of African Americans are trying to give white people AIDS; 1992 newsletter provided fairly detailed instructions on how to kill an African American and get away with it; another newsletter described MLK Day as "White Hatey Day"; against most welfare state services that a higher proportion of African Americans and Latinos depend on.

Rick Perry

PROS: He has appointed more African Americans to key state posts than his predecessor, George W. Bush; signed the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act; signed an executive order banning racial profiling; passed law that ensured adequate legal representation for poor defendants.

CONS: His family hunting ranch was named "N****rhead"; has cut state spending for the Children's Health Insurance Program; passed voter ID law that has potential to negatively impact the African American and Latino community and could violate the Voting Rights Act; signed a redistricting plan that reduces the number of minority and minority-influenced seats in Congress; has recommended that Texas separate from the United States, based on a "states' rights" position that is similar to that of the Confederacy before the Civil War.

Mitt Romney

PROS: His dad was a leader for recognizing and protecting civil rights when it wasn't popular to do so… MLK, Jr. spoke positively of George Romney's 1968 campaign for the presidential Republican nominee, in which Romney was outspoken in his support for more civil rights protections at the federal and state levels.

CONS: Mitt has not followed in his dad's proactive footsteps… he has avoided the racial gaffes of his primary opponents, but has done nothing to stand up for current civil rights protections; does not support extending voting protection for felons; does not support any legal protections or services for illegal immigrants; opposes the Dream Act.

Rick Santorum

PROS: Encouraged black college staff and students to visit Washington D.C.; supports federal legislation to ensure voting rights for felons.

CONS: Seeks to reduce entitlement spending so "we don't make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money"; has voted to increase the penalties for drug crimes.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.

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Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.