2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Give Candidates the MLK Test


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Glen Ford
Black Agenda Radio
Wednesday, 16 January 2008



The "hope-la" and "change-la" emanating from the Obama and Clinton campaigns turned sour as Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday approached. The two front-running candidates and their corporate media-megaphones found themselves on shaky ground when the subject turned to the actual history of MLK and his antagonist/ally, President Lyndon Johnson. The vapidity of the debate revealed, once again, the shallowness of American political discourse, which has been stripped bare of relevance to past, present or future realities. Fortunately, Dr. King left a voluminous record of his own political analyses. Rather than allow them to blather further, the candidates should be tested on the question: What would Dr. King do? All but one would fail.


The corporate media-mangled Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton "debate" over the relative contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson coincides with the birthday of the actual Martin Luther King. Since the corporate media is totally incapable of covering or even tolerating the raising of any issues of substance, and because both Obama and Clinton avoid real issues, real facts, and real history like the plague, we urge that thinking voters put the candidates to the Martin Luther King Test. What would Dr. King do, if he were alive?

Dr. King said the "triple evils" of his day were militarism, racism, and economic exploitation. In his brilliant April 4, 1967 speech at New York's Riverside Church, Dr. King showed the interaction of all three "evils" in the world; that these evils worked together against the interests of humanity. King declared that the Vietnam War, and other U.S. wars in the Third World, were evil manifestations of American militarism and an attempt to prevent other peoples from making "their arrival as full men" in the world - a reference to the underlying racism and economic exploitative nature of U.S. foreign policy.

In addition, Dr. King said he was "compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor" in the U.S. King noted the "shining moment" when, after years of struggle, President Johnson became a collaborator with the Civil Rights Movement, pushing through Congress both civil rights and anti-poverty legislation. But then "came the buildup in Vietnam," and King knew, in his words, "that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube." 

What would Dr. King say, today, about the two quarreling corporate candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? There can be no doubt but that he would judge them as he did his former presidential ally, Lyndon Johnson. The Iraq war has taken at least a million Iraqi lives, as the Vietnam War had killed one million Vietnamese, by Dr. King's reckoning in 1967. It is an attempt to prevent Iraqis from exercising control of their own land and resources, just as King believed the Americans were attempting to do in Vietnam. And the Iraq War, just like the Vietnam War, insures that the U.S. will "never invest the necessary funds or energies" to rebuild America's cities, restore the social safety net, or provide universal health care.

BARkucinichDemocracy Senators Obama and Clinton fail the Martin Luther King Test, miserably. Obama wants to add 100,000 troops to the U.S. Armed Forces, at a cost of over $100 billion - even as he proposes partial withdrawals from Iraq. Clinton seeks 80,000 new soldiers and Marines. As sure as the sun rises, a bigger U.S. military means more wars, and no money for domestic "change."

The only candidate who would pass the Martin Luther King Test is Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose platform for peace, truly universal health care, a living wage, and an end to corporate domination of American life harkens back to that "shining moment" in the Sixties that King mentioned, when there were "hopes" and "new beginnings." But the corporate media has caused the Kucinich campaign to disappear from coverage and televised debate.

Lyndon Johnson finally failed the Martin Luther King Test, in Vietnam. Obama and Clinton have already failed the test, through their own policy proposals. Neither has earned the right to speak of Dr. King's legacy.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. .


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