What Would Martin Say to Mia?

That loud sound you heard yesterday was not another false ballistic missile alert, but the noise of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rolling over in his grave as Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) very tepidly criticized Donald Trump on CNN’s State of the Union.

Rep. Love had a look of absolute fear on her face, as though she were concerned that Trump was watching as she cautiously expressed disapproval with Trump’s assessment of so-called “shithole countries.” When Rep. Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, observed that her parents had supported Trump in 2016, I imagined Dr. King becoming violently ill at the thought of immigrants of color supporting a bigot.

You have to think that if Dr. King were with us today, he would denounce Rep. Love’s reluctance to forcefully call out Trump’s trashy tirade. He would fault her for her unwillingness to take the strongest stand possible against anti-immigrant and anti-minority hatred. He would ask why anyone, of any color, with any modicum of self-respect would remain a loyal member of a party that embraced the likes of Donald Trump as its leader.

Dr. King condemned that party 54 years ago, when they embraced the Donald Trump of the 1960s, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), as their presidential nominee:

The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism. All people of goodwill viewed with alarm and concern the frenzied wedding at the [1964 Republican National Convention] of the KKK with the radical right. The “best man” at this ceremony was a senator whose voting record, philosophy, and program were anathema to all the hard-won achievements of the past decade.

It was both unfortunate and disastrous that the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater as its candidate for President of the United States. In foreign policy Mr. Goldwater advocated a narrow nationalism, a crippling isolationism, and a trigger-happy attitude that could plunge the whole world into the dark abyss of annihilation. On social and economic issues, Mr. Goldwater represented an unrealistic conservatism that was totally out of touch with the realities of the twentieth century. The issue of poverty compelled the attention of all citizens of our country. Senator Goldwater had neither the concern nor the comprehension necessary to grapple with this problem of poverty in the fashion that the historical moment dictated.

On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represented a philosophy that was morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I had no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that did not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy.

While I had followed a policy of not endorsing political candidates, I felt that the prospect of Senator Goldwater being President of the United States so threatened the health, morality, and survival of our nation, that I could not in good conscience fail to take a stand against what he represented.

Those words did not come from a man who would have had a mild reaction to Rep. Love’s remarks. He would have been horrified. We should all be horrified on his behalf.

I get that people regard Rep. Love as being less objectionable than the vast majority of her fellow Republicans. I give her credit for being one of the few Republicans to disavow climate-change denial. Yet her remarks yesterday were so muted, so self-censored, so toned down in the name of not hurting Donald Trump’s feelings, as to border on non-criticism.

I have suggested before that the right’s reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin six years ago should have led to the departure of every last Republican of color from the GOP. Rep. Love’s self-editing on CNN yesterday points to why. So long as Republicans of color stay in the party, they will inevitably be forced to embarrass themselves in the name of party loyalty, to kill off their souls to remain in the club. No one should put themselves through that.

Dr. King would hang his head in shame at Rep. Love’s PG-rated remarks yesterday. It would be more shame that Rep. Love appeared to have.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.