POLITICS
01/16/2017 02:48 pm ET

Politicians Honor MLK Day While Working Against The Rights He Fought For

If your policies lead to voter suppression, you're not actually fighting for justice.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 20, 2016
Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 20, 2016.

Politicians across the U.S. marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year by sharing photos of the civil rights hero and remembering his fight for equality. Some of the people paying tribute did so despite having actively fought against the causes that Dr. King championed.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), for one, has been a staunch advocate for voter ID laws. Such laws tend to disenfranchise people of color and low-income Americans, who are less likely to carry the right kind of identification. 

Proponents of such measures say that they help combat voter fraud, a problem that is both rare and largely not possible to prevent with voter ID laws. Critics of voter ID laws, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, compare them to poll taxes, which Dr. King marched against.

Still, Walker tweeted on Monday that he was honoring “the life and legacy” of King.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) also paid tribute to King, despite his own voter suppression controversies. Scott was criticized by civil rights advocates in the weeks leading up to the 2016 elections for refusing to extend the voter-registration deadline even with a hurricane looming over the state.

“Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said. A federal judge soon reversed that decision, along with a Florida law that put strict standards on mail-in ballots. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker called the law an “undeclared war on Floridians’ right to vote.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who in 2014 signed into law major restrictions on early voting, called on citizens to “embrace [Dr. King’s] vision of equality, compassion, justice, and peace.”

Last year, under then-Gov. Mike Pence (R), Indiana state police raided a voter registration center working to sign up black citizens. Pence, who also opposed a state law banning LGBTQ workplace discrimination, tweeted about MLK Day too. 

It’s hard not to wonder what Dr. King, who once said that “we must live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” would have thought about the vice president-elect’s record.

President-elect Donald Trump and his real estate empire have a long history of discriminating against black tenants. In 1970s, the Justice Department actually sued Trump and his father, Fred, over allegations that they wouldn’t allow African Americans to live in their apartment buildings. The case was settled out of court.

Trump also infamously pledged to ban Muslims from entering the country, accused Mexico of sending “rapists” to the U.S. and has nominated for attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a man who was once deemed too racist for a judgeship position. (Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s wife, even wrote a scathing letter opposing Sessions’ 1986 nomination.)

Despite this, Trump, who has received the enthusiastic endorsement of white supremacists, urged Americans on Monday to celebrate King and “all of the many wonderful things that he stood for.”

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