Many conservatives may extol the values of Dr. King on MLK Day, but they must reclaim the spirit of Reconstruction to fulfill King’s Dream.
Since the famous volunteer work performed by President-elect Obama and others on the eve of the 2009 presidential inauguration, both sides of the political aisle in Washington have taken a keen interest in embracing the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is notably true on this third Monday in January.
This focus, both personally genuine and at times carefully scripted, has risen recently to another level due to the recent 50th year anniversaries of the civil rights march in Detroit, the world-resonating March on Washington and its “I Have a Dream” speech, and President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” declaration.
Over the past five decades, the political argument and subsequent sell for Democrats has been laid out with a congruent message, a platform of proposals, and a shared passion with its base. It has been well-documented that Republicans, both during their times of electoral might and banishment, have not done the same. Due to a post-election autopsy, a project, and political necessary, Republicans are looking for avenues to reconnect with those losing the battle against poverty in the 21st century.
If we Republicans are to help America win the “War on Poverty” in the 21st century, it may be wise to look back to those that fought for change in the 19th century.
The Republican Party needs a strong dose of the spirit of our Radical Republicans past in order to lead millions of Americans out of the depths of this recession and the clutches of generational poverty. Just as the Civil War forever broke a social more within America that found the stench of slavery tolerable in any regard, the Great Recession has prompted a permanent elevation of civic standards, political leadership, and legislative vision that is prudent for fulfilling the essence of MLK’s dream.
Republican proposals such as the ones given by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) on the Senate floor must go further than providing access to lower taxes or school choice vouchers. Although financial investment in impoverished communities is necessary, it will take more than the similar ideas we have heard from Republicans and Democrats recently.
We need leadership that prompts human resources investment, not just detached tax write-offs. Skills development, mentoring relationships, and tangible pathways to advancement are needed just as much as finances are in impoverished areas. We need legislation that encourages corporations and small business leaders to invest more time and people power into reconnecting the impoverished to the fullest aspects of the American Dream. Remembering the oft-forgotten American as an equal and valued compatriot must play a major role in the plan to give struggling Americans a hand up out of poverty.
We need political partnerships and policies that understand the need to improve education across the scholastic realm (e.g., public schools, charter schools, Catholic schools, and private schools). This focus on educational and workforce diversity is vital if we are to successfully support American business growth (and, subsequently, job growth) in our efforts to win in today’s global economy. The new Radical Republicans must know the value of a good education for our youth but also must embrace the need for a diversity of strong educational backgrounds. More doctors must come from ghettos and more engineers must have roots in working-class America if we are to win the future collectively. His dream elevates when the American floor is still capable of touching the sky.
Judicial reforms that embrace equality in parenthood for fathers and mothers outside of the bonds of matrimony are needed to restrengthen our youth. They may take away the tough-guy politics many extol on the campaign trail, but it would effectively return much of the tough-love support that more American children need from both parents equally. This presence keeps kids from making life-shattering and impoverishing decisions. That helps America. Children need two parents even in instances where marriage is not an option. In this effort, we would block poverty and highlight life-long stability and ongoing opportunity. Therefore, we must promote parenthood through policy, not just politically push morality and marriage. Other judicial reforms that reinvigorate and re-engage the talents of those that paid their debts to society and discourage the private monetization of career criminality are needed as well. They may anger some allies and upset some of the status quo. However, like the Radical Republicans of old, we must be visionaries and embrace American potential in untapped areas in the effort to rebuild a shaken and divided nation.
We Radical Republicans of today must understand that our conservatism must impact more than a 401K plan, a marriage hall, and a uterus. Today’s call to to fulfill a dream on this Day of Service must entail aligning our principles with a courage to bring about society-improving change in ways that are consistent with our party’s history while perhaps outside of our current comfort zone. The Tea Party has helped us focus on fiscal responsibility. It will take the Radical Republicans to focus us – and, in time, lead us – on fiscal sustainability, helping us historically serve America and win this war on poverty.
Lenny McAllister is a political commentator featured on national and international outlets. He is the host of “The McAllister Minute” which appears weekly on “The Bev Smith Show” and the American Urban Radio Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit is the former host of of Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. He is a former congressional candidate. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.