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The Success of MLK's Dream, and the Failure of Identity Politics

ALPERN AT LARGE--Martin Luther King encapsulated what so many of us dream when he stated his own dream of his children living in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. 

This isn't always a pleasant or desired experience for those who presume that they will be voted on because of their color or political views, but when people choose to be for or against someone (or their principles or policies) based on their strength or weakness of character, it's what Martin Luther King wanted, and what we all want.

1) For example, did you know that "Martin" was not Reverend King's first name by birth? His first name was Michael. Michael King, Jr. had his name revised to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the same time when his father, inspired by the white Martin Luther of Germany (he who played such a critical and vital role in the Reformation. 

Michael King, Sr. and Jr. both fought against white racism and exclusionary policies and attitudes, and as Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr. they fought so even further. Martin Luther was a fighter against the all-powerful Church, and no less did Martin Luther King (MLK) Sr. and Jr. fight against the all-powerful white powers dominating the segregated South.

MLK, Jr. overcame depression, rejecting his father's belief of Christianity and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and endured his father regularly whipping him until he was 15. Yet he found truth in his father's beliefs, and in the Christianity he once doubted, and ultimately became the fighter that Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Sr. provided as role models.

2) Fast forward to today: Presidential candidates Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Deval Patrick, and Julian Castro all tried their best to move forward in the Democratic Presidential 2020 Primary. They all were and are non-white, or of mixed racial ancestry, and in particular Kamala Harris was a leading Democratic contender early in the race.

They were rejected by both white and non-white voters. They were heard, and they are no longer in the race. Even Deval Patrick, who was encouraged by President Barack Obama (he of mixed-race ancestry, and the first non-white U.S. President) to join the race, was soundly rejected at a black college where virtually no one attended his first rally.

There are black, white, and members of all races who support Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the other remaining contenders. The New York Times came out in favor of two women (Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren). 

The recent dustup between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (who got into a lot of trouble for claiming she was Native American, and then again waffling on how "Medicare For All" was going to be paid for) about whether  Sanders felt a woman could win the presidency in 2020 is rather notable and timely. 

Timely, that is, in that either or both Warren or Sanders will succeed not because of their gender or ethnicity but because whether their ideas will make sense and/or be adopted by a plurality or majority of the American People (of all colors). Ditto for Asian Andrew Yang or for white male Pete Buttigieg (must we always have to add that he's homosexual, because very few Democrats care?).

Identity politics and related talking points appear to have become collectively a big loser in the Democratic Party. And that's a good thing.

3) Identity politics and related talking points appear to have become collectively a big loser in the Republican Party, which is also a good thing. MLK was a Republican, and for too long have Republican politicians ignored black Americans.

And for all of Trump's comments (either accurately or inaccurately taken in the right context) alienating non-white Americans, MLK's niece and nephew, Alveda King and Isaac Newton Farris, Jr. do not believe he is racist and they support him.

Many Republicans will have little-to-nothing to do with Trump, in part because they think he's racially divisive. And while both black and Latino Americans supported and voted for Trump in record numbers in 2016, the relationship the President has with nonwhite voters is anything but simple.

Whether President Trump or his future Democratic opponent motivate nonwhite voters (and even white voters, and of either gender) to vote for one party or another (or even with a split vote, with turnout greater for both sides) is anything but known.

But it does appear that both Democrats and Republicans will have to work for, and not take for granted, either black or non-black voters.  

To conclude, the color of a contender's skin appears to have taken a back seat to the color of that contender's character and/or ideas. Goodbye to identity politics, and hello to politics devoted to sincerity and credibility.

Perhaps this is what led to, and/or is the result of, a two-term nonwhite President Barack H. Obama.

But it does appear, despite the craziness of our current political soap opera, that the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. is as real as it ever was, and will be our future in 21st Century America.

R.I.P., Reverend King. Clearly, your audience and message continue to grow and be heard by generations of Americans who long for the nation it should have always been.

 (CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was (termed out) also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and Vice-Chair of its Planning Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at Ken.Alpern@MarVista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw