David Hawpe of The Courier Journal complains today that the Democratic presidential nominees are "fighting about, of all things, race -- and the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr." while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell "wraps himself in the great civil rights leader's legacy, and nobody objects."
Hawpe apparently is upset about the following statement that McConnell issued to commemorate Dr. King's birthday:
"On Monday, we honor a man who dedicated his life to the principle that all men are created equal and who heroically gave his life in defense of this truth. More than half a century has passed since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began to call our nation back to its original promise, yet the majesty of his words, the power of his conviction and the courage of his vision continue to inspire. And as long as the battle against discrimination is fought, that legacy will endure. As we remember Dr. King, we recommit ourselves to the battles he fought against all hatred and prejudice. And we recall the words he wrote from an Alabama jail cell 45 years ago: 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' "
Hawpe cannot accept the fact that McConnell would honor Dr. King. (Though query how Hawpe would have reacted if McConnell had ignored the holiday.) Hawpe proceeds to castigate McConnell's voting record as an "assault on King's hopes for America." Hawpe doesn't offer much of an argument in support of his thesis, and we fail to see any inconsistency between McConnell's record and Dr. King's dream. (Indeed, the Civil Rights legislation could never have been enacted in 1964 without the support of Republicans, given the opposition of Southern Democrats. )
There is sharp contrast, however, between Hawpe's views and Dr. King's likely position (had he lived long enough) on one issue: Roe v. Wade, which "celebrated" its 35th birthday yesterday.
Alveda King, a niece of Dr. King, has drawn on the legacy of that civil rights leader to call for Roe to be overruled. As the Claremont Institute explains:
For her, the same principle of equal rights that condemns all acts of unjust discrimination against persons because of their race also implicates abortion. Just as she in her youth she joined her justly famous uncle and her lesser-known father, Rev. A.D. King (who was also a martyr) in protesting racial injustice, now she sees as the most pressing issue the abortions of 45 million unborn children since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand in 1973.
Dr. King’s most arresting statement came in his "I Have A Dream" speech when called for people to be judged not by the color of their skin but "by the content of their character."
Alveda King, his niece, a minister and a former college professor, asks: "How can the ‘Dream’ survive if we murder the children? Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother. The mother decides his or her fate."
Angela Minter, an African American who is director of the Louisville branch of the Sisters For Life organization, drew a similar parallel between the civil rights struggle and the pro-life movement at a rally held in Louisville yesterday. The C-J described her message:
Facing a crowd of about 150 shivering but enthusiastic supporters, Angela Minter drew a connection between Monday being the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and yesterday being the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions.
"I have a dream, too, and I think all of us share this dream," Minter said to those who attended the "Rally for Life" in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse yesterday afternoon. "I have a dream that the country will be called back to its moral senses."
McConnell, along with Senator Jim Bunning and his wife and Congressman Rep. Ron Lewis, attended a breakfast yesterday with Kentuckians who had travelled to D.C. to participate in the annual March for Life. The C-J's James Carroll reported from that gathering:
At a breakfast before the march, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said efforts by President Bush and like-minded lawmakers ensured that the anti-abortion agenda "has been preserved," though Democrats took control of Congress in 2006.
"It makes a difference who wins elections," he added. "It makes an awful lot of difference who appoints judges -- an awful lot of difference."
McConnell is right. The two greatest tragedies in our country -- slavery and abortion -- relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe.
It appears that none of McConnell's opponents attended a single reported event yesterday in support of the pro-life movement. Apparently, that is one aspect of Dr. King's legacy that they -- and David Hawpe -- would just as soon forget.