If his speeches and other comments are any indication, Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.
In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host of other issues.
Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.
On voting rights:
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”
King and other civil rights activists saw the right
to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights
Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination
in the voting booth.
“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens,” King said.
More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead, Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in droves.
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an email to The Columbus Dispatch.
In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.
Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.
On labor unions and “right to work”:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”
In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.
But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective bargaining rights.Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge political boost to unions and Democrats.
Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.
Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today.
On the death penalty:
“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”
King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even
for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and
study of criminology.
Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.
In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.
The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected the Republican majority will ignore the bills.
Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.
On health care:
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.
Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’ opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care system.
To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the “inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.
But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.
Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.
On reproductive rights:
“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.”King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.
Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian, accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.
In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
The Ohio Elections Commission today dismissed a complaint filed by Cincinnati Tea Party founder Mike Wilson against his Republican primary opponent in the race for the 28th Ohio House District seat. Wilson had filed a complaint with the commission contesting statements used in a telephone poll recently conducted by Tom Weidman’s campaign.
Amid the recent controversy about possibly adding more publicly subsidized housing for the poor in Green Township, local Republicans will hold a special forum tonight to discuss methods for blocking the expansion.
The good news first: Most of HB 194 is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal of HB 194 earlier this year.The bad news: Some new limits on voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might be unconstitutional.
While it’s good to see HB 194 repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.For Democrats, this poses a bit of a problem. Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295 passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed because Republicans will think they have done enough.
Even the Obama team spoke on this issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on our voting rights.”The other problem is the repeal could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot. So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.
A prominent Republican congressman is under investigation for insider trading. U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who heads the House Financial Services Committee, is being probed by the Office of Congressional Ethics for making suspicious trades and buying certain stock options while helping oversee the nation’s banking and financial services industries.
Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of a hearing today in the House after a Republican colleague blocked a woman from testifying about a new federal rule that will require most employers to provide free birth control.
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) left the hearing after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) prevented the woman from being added to the witness list.
Announced last month, the rule reclassifies birth control as a preventative health measure, which means most employers must cover contraception in their insurance plans with no cost sharing like co-pays or deductibles. Initially, an exemption was granted for churches but not for religiously affiliated schools and hospitals, which angered some Catholic bishops and others.
In a compromise unveiled Feb. 10, President Obama said religiously affiliated schools and hospitals wouldn’t be forced to offer coverage for free contraceptives. Rather, insurers will be required to offer the coverage free to any women who work at such institutions.
That wasn’t good enough for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some conservative politicians, who said the coverage shouldn’t be required at all.
Issa’s staff informed Democratic members of the committee that the hearing was about religious liberty in general, and not the contraception mandate, in explaining why Sandra Fluke couldn’t testify.
“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the (Obama) administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,” Issa’s staffers wrote in a letter.
Fluke wanted to tell about an incident involving a 32-year-old friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control pills as the only remedy for her condition. Because the woman’s insurance didn’t cover contraception, the friend couldn’t afford her medication and eventually lost her ovary.
Read what Fluke had planned to tell the panel here.
Eleven people were on Issa’s witness list, led by the Rev. William Lori, the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. Eight of Issa’s witnesses are Orthodox Christian, Catholic or evangelical, and represent Christian institutions.
Originally, Issa only planned on calling nine witnesses — all men. After the public flap, he added two women to the list.
One of Ohio's two U.S. senators says Democrats need to get better organized so they can counteract private conservative groups that secretly draft legislation for Republican lawmakers.
The Porkopolis column in this week's CityBeat features excerpts from an interview with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). As is often the case with print media, there was limited space available and segments of the wide-ranging interview with Brown weren't included in the column.
One of the unused segments included Brown's responses to questions about whether President Obama and Congressional Democrats are aggressive enough in pushing their agenda, and whether the Left needs a group to counteract organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Asked if Democrats at the federal level are too reactive and need to do better at framing and guiding debate on issues, Brown said his party could use some improvement in that regard. He cited the theories of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th Century essayist and abolitionist.
“I think the Democrats could do better at that, from the president on down,” Brown said. “It's always easier to say no. The one reason (Republicans) do well with message is, by definition almost, of conservative. Emerson talked about the innovators and the conservators. Progressives are the innovators and conservatives are the conservators. By definition, the conservators protect the status quo. Protecting the status quo means 'no,' 'repeal,' 'don't,' and 'not.' Those are simple concepts. Changing things is more complex.”
Also, Brown wishes the media would more clearly articulate what's happening in Washington. During the recent debate on raising the federal debt ceiling, for example, it was Obama and Democrats who were willing to compromise, a fact he believes didn't receive enough attention.
“When one party digs in and is extreme, both parties look bad,” he said. “When people say, 'they all look terrible in Washington,' a big reason for that is Republicans weren't willing to negotiate anything. They were willing to shut the government down if we didn't do things their way.
“We, in the end, want to be responsible,” Brown added. “A bunch of senators were in the White House months ago and Barack Obama said to us, 'I'm the adult and I have to be responsible. They know I'm not going to let the government default.' Well, as long as they know that, it changes things.”
Brown likes the suggestion of Democrats forming their own progressive version of ALEC — the private, corporate-backed group that writes model legislation for state lawmakers, which is funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association and others.
“That might be a good idea,” he said. “The elections last year were all about job loss. Spending a little bit, but mostly about job loss. Then you look at the three most salient things this state legislature has done, which is roll back collective bargaining rights, voting rights and women's rights.
“Not only is that not solving the problems we really have, which is jobs, it's also injecting divisions into our country and our state that we don't need,” Brown added. “It's made people so angry and hurt so many people's feelings in a really significant way and for what? So they can accomplish a political agenda. That's what is really outrageous.”
An ardent opponent of going to war in Iraq, Brown believes some progressives' fear that Obama will extend the wars there and in Afghanistan beyond the timetables for troop withdrawals is unfounded.
“I'm confident they will be respected and I'm hoping Afghanistan's will be accelerated,” he said. “I think (Obama) will stand on what he said.”
The senator is more ambivalent about U.S. intervention in the uprising in Libya. “I wish the president had been a bit more forthcoming with Congress about our involvement, but people I respect have also said it would've been a real genocide there if the Europeans and we hadn't done something,” Brown said. “It's an awfully difficult call.”
Brown believes extremist actions by the GOP — like restricting collective bargaining rights at the state level, and trying to defund Planned Parenthood and limit access to abortion at the federal level — are out of touch with the mainstream, and will benefit Democrats in next year's elections.
“Voters absolutely see these guys overreaching,” Brown said. “The voters aren't wild about Barack Obama and the Democrats, but they like the Republicans even less.
“They've overreached on Medicare, it's going after Head Start and Planned Parenthood and all the kinds of things there is general consensus about in this country,” he added. “We have general consensus in this country on many things, except the Far Right, on items like the environment, on Medicare, on food safety, on voting rights. These guys have exploded that.”
A post on viral web cataloger BuzzFeed accuses U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt or her staff of airbrushing the congresswoman’s Wikipedia page.
BuzzFeed claims that a user bearing the Internet fingerprint shared by all Congressional offices removed the section of Schmidt’s Wikipedia entry titled “The Armenian Genocide issue.”
Schmidt was one of 33 Congress members alleged to have had airbrushing done to their Wikipedia pages.
Also listed was House Speaker John Boehner, who allegedly had mention of his knowledge of the Mark Foley congressional page scandal scrubbed from his page.
CityBeat on Wednesday asked for comment from the offices of Schmidt and Boehner but no response was given.
“The Armenian Genocide issue” section appeared on Schmidt’s page as of Wednesday. It’s unclear whether the section had previously been removed.
According to the entry, Schmidt came under fire in 2008 from congressional challenger David Krikorian for failing to publicly define the mass killing of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians between 1915-1916 as the “Armenian Genocide.”
The Armenian-American Krikorian accused Schmidt of taking tens of thousands in “blood money” from the Turkish government in order to push the denial. Krikorian’s claims resulted in a defamation lawsuit from Schmidt and a complaint before the House Ethics Committee.
However, Boehner’s page still contained no mention of his knowledge of the Foley page scandal as of Wednesday afternoon.
In 2006 former Republican Florida Rep. Mark Foley resigned over reports that he had sent sexually explicit Internet messages to at least one underage male former congressional page.
Boehner told The Washington Post that he had learned of inappropriate “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page and told then-House Speaker Dennis Hassert about it. He later told the newspaper that he couldn’t remember whether he talked to Hassert.