This week we honor the legacy of a great civil rights activist—Martin Luther King Jr.
While America has often fallen short of the dream—of Dr. King’s dream—our country has certainly made better on that promise as time has gone on.
This is something we can take great pride in as Americans. We can do better. Americans are still divided by race. When looking at demographic data, race can usually determine a person’s outcome in life.
This is unacceptable. Is there anything less American then determinism, or your life’s outcome being determined by fate?
To paraphrase Dr. King, we want a society that allows individuals to be judged by their merits and their actions, not by the circumstance of their birth. It means individuals being allowed to rise and fall by their own merits creates real freedom. To realize equal citizenship, we need to make sure that the same rules govern everyone.
This requires political action. It requires us to take a step back, reassess the realities of civil rights in this country, and discard our incorrect notions.
One agent of progress that is often forgotten is the Republican Party. In fact, the Republican Party, founded as an anti-slavery party, has always been advocating equal citizenship.
What is it that makes the Republicans good for civil rights issues? It’s the different viewpoint about government’s role in people’s lives.
When rugged individualism is encouraged, when people are free to rise and free to fall, the arbitrary bonds of race, sex and political pull are minimized. When government designates a race to protect, the protection often times becomes a form of hostage.
It’s about empowering people, not nurturing them.
Some of the most well intentioned poverty programs end up keeping people from acting boldly and becoming productive.
Historically, when Republicans were in power of Congress and the White House, there was a greater independence and freedom among African Americans, especially in the South.
Up until the late 1960s, it was the Democratic Party that tried to block, overturn and weaken civil rights reform.This might be a surprise to some of you.
Take a look at American legislative history: virtually all of the major civil rights achievements were championed by the Republican Party.
Republicans freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.
Republicans resolved to use federal power to protect the rights of all citizens by passing the 14th Amendment, which also gave African American citizens the vote. Republicans gave woman the vote with the 20th Amendment.
Republicans tried to pass the Civil Rights Act 3 times: the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which was basically nullified by the Southern states, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was defeated by the Democratic Congress and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was originally written and passed earlier by the Republicans, but stalled by Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson.
Johnson rewrote the bill, watering it down substantially.
Republicans worked hard to pass the measure (voting with higher margins for it then the Democrats), finally overturning a filibuster of Democratic senators.
When it was finally passed, President Lyndon Johnson took all the credit.
But what has the Republican Party been doing in the present?
Looking at the exit polls, more than nine out of 10 African Americans voted against Mitt Romney.
Surely, the Republicans are no longer the party of Lincoln? Well think again.
Across the states, the Republican Party is becoming more and more diverse. Respected governors such as Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval and Senators like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are taking leadership posts.
Democrats can’t rest with the assurance that their overwhelming approval of minority voters will last forever.
In the next couple elections, I predict it will start to crack because minorities are not doing well with Democratic welfare state policies.
The old ideas behind Democratic racial equality programs, such as The Great Society, Affirmative Action and Minimum Wage, are simply not working.
The Great Society was a series of imitative to expand welfare cash transfers, Affirmative Action is policy that puts preference on race for things like job hiring and school acceptance, and Minimum Wage places a price floor on entry level wages.
None of these initiatives brought African Americans and other minorities into prosperity. Most economists agree that minimum wage hurts minority and youth employees by artificially keeping unemployment high. It betrays the very principles of equal citizenship to try to achieve prosperity through discriminatory policies like Affirmative Action.
Look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics: unemployment among African Americans has been around five percent in the 1920s, 10 percent in the 1960s and now about 15 percent in 2013.
When looking at youth, that number is an astonishing 40.5 percent. Voters must realize they gave the Democrats over 50 years of loyalty, with very little to show for it.
I’m not naïve enough to think that the Republicans can change everything for the better. They have made many mistakes before (the worst being the premature withdrawal from Reconstruction).
Still, they have always been on the right and just side of the civil rights debate against the Democrats. Americans need to acknowledge that and question the history of ideas behind both major parties.
While there were some ups and downs in Republican history, we have never wavered as the party of Lincoln. Republicans will never renounce our pledge to treat all equally.
By continuing to pursue policies that encourage economic individualism and protect equal citizenship, we will be able to build the kind of tolerant society of which Martin Luther King dreamed.