Yes, I know you hate the fact that the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is being (1) being treated as a civic, rather than a factional, event and (2) that the speakers at the anniversary rally, and the accompanying news coverage, stressed liberal themes such as voting rights and health care.

Well, as the guy being guillotined said, I think I see your problem. Since MLK is now officially a hero, you’d like him to be a civic hero rather than a hero of the faction opposed to yours. But while he was alive, and for some time after his death, your faction hated him, and everything he stood for, and tried to defame him. No prominent conservative or libertarian politician, writer, or thinker supported the civil rights movement he led.

The factional split was not identical to the partisan split. There were (mostly Southern) Democratic racists who opposed the civil rights movement; they were known as Dixiecrats or “conservative Democrats,” and their heirs followed Strom Thurmond into the Republican Party, which they now dominate. There were also Republican supporters of civil rights; they were called “liberal Republicans” (I voted for a few of them) and your faction now calls people like them RINOs and has successfully purged them from the Republican Party.

Your faction was, adamantly and unanimously, on the wrong side of history, as spectacularly as the small share of progressives who supported the Soviet dictatorship. Even today, I have failed to find a single libertarian or conservative prepared to speak out against gutting the Voting Rights Act.

Martin Luther King died while on a campaign to support a public-sector labor union. You’re entitled to say that he was a bad man and a Communist, as your faction did while he was alive, and that his assassination was the natural result of his use of civil disobedience, which is what Ronald Reagan said at the time. You’re entitled to say that he was a great man but that his thoughts are no longer applicable to the current political situation. But what you’re not entitled to do is to pretend that, if he were alive today, MLK would not be fighting against you and everything you stand for. He would.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.