Yesterday President Obama spoke at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in observation of the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The White House has posted the text of Obama’s speech here and the video below. I encourage interested readers to check out the text or the video for themselves.
President Obama began by paying tribute to Rep. John Lewis, whom he identified as “one of [his] heroes.” Lewis is his hero for more than one reason. In 1965 Lewis was part of the march across the bridge; today he is a ranking Democratic hack protecting the lawlessness of the Obama administration. In Lewis we can trace the fate of the civil rights movement over the past 50 years.
The great victory of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of moral persuasion: King persuaded Americans that it was wrong and deeply unAmerican to treat people differently based on the color of their skin. That victory of moral persuasion was translated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex in employment, public accommodations, and federally funded programs (including colleges and universities).
Yet today the defense of racial preferences in the name of “affirmative action” and “diversity” has become part of contemporary civil rights orthodoxy and many purportedly sophisticated arguments have been advanced to justify them. Hillary Clinton has stated, for example, in express disagreement with Martin Luther King’s great 1963 speech on the Washington Mall, “If we don’t take race as part of our character, then we are kidding ourselves.”
The argument hardly needs to be made anymore and Obama didn’t bother yesterday. It has become liberal orthodoxy.
However, it is the principle of equal treatment under law without regard to race that for one hundred and twenty-five years constituted the unvarying goal of antislavery crusaders and civil rights advocates. The most distinctive legal claim of the American civil rights tradition has been the principle of nondiscrimination, above all a claim for equal treatment by the government without regard to race.
The civil rights movement long ago abandoned the claim. Thus we have President Obama promoting illegal immigration in the name of civil rights and likening voter identification with the racist pretexts for the denial of voting rights.
In the heart of his speech Obama asserted: “[W]e can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge –- and that is the right to vote. (Applause.) Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote.”
The laws are of course designed to make it slightly harder for noncitizens to vote and therefore to protect the votes of all legal voters. Obama seeks to protect illegal aliens as a core constituency of the Democratic Party.
In its own way Obama’s speech demonstrates how the civil rights movement has become a racket for the wrenching of America further to the left in the service of the Democratic Party.