John Lewis
Rep. John Lewis is a civil rights leader more difficult for Republicans to claim. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

It got really awkward at the Republican National Committee’s luncheon marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, according to Dana Milbank’s account. Once technical issues were resolved, the various speakers made the case that, were he alive today, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., American saint, would probably agree with Republicans on a lot of things. Not the easiest of tasks, given that three Democratic presidents, and no Republicans, are scheduled to speak tomorrow on the anniversary of the march; and given that the one surviving speaker from the 1963 event has been a Democratic congressman for 25 years.

Milbank listed the various references that speakers made to King and noted the reactions: The ones suggesting compromise and cooperation didn’t go down nearly as well as the urge to call out black politicians’ corruption, when and if they are corrupt.

The Republican Party has publicized its desire to get more than 6 percent of the African American vote in the next presidential election, but it remains unclear how it is going to do that. Luncheons must help, but finding ways to argue that King would support Republicans is much more exciting and new.

bushidollar has a reason MLK would not support Republicans today:

I find it very comical that Republicans try to cast Dr. King as some type of conservative. Conservatives, [who are] anti-union. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis while lending support for to striking sanitation workers of Memphis.

For which think-out-loud has a counterargument — King would have changed his mind, maybe:

bushidollar, are you saying Dr. King would not recognize changing times and maybe have a different opinion of unions today?

DC74 has a reason MLK would not support Republicans today:

King was well aware of the arguments used against affirmative action policies. As far back as 1964, he was writing in Why We Can’t Wait: “Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree; but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic.”

King supported affirmative action-type programs because he never confused the dream with American reality. As he put it, “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro” to compete on a just and equal basis” (quoted in Let the Trumpet Sound, by Stephen Oates).

In a 1965 Playboy interview, King compared affirmative action-style policies to the GI Bill: “Within common law we have ample precedents for special compensatory programs. … And you will remember that America adopted a policy of special treatment for her millions of veterans after the war.”

goin_commando has a counterargument — in King’s day, there were openly racist Democrats:

Don’t you want to mention the Dem Senator who was a GRAND CYCLOPS OF THE KKK?

Sure, but King knew about that and didn’t become a Republican over it. PostScript does want to mention it, because it led her to this fabulous page of made-up Klan words such as “Kligapp” for secretary. They renamed the days of the week, too, for their Kalendar. It looks like they renamed Wednesday “Doleful.” For reasons.

ph238, however, is not a fan of working King into the modern Republican ideology:

Look, there’s going to be a party that favors low taxes and something like a free market and such a party is going to be unsympathetic to government intervention and redistribution of wealth, whether it’s in the name of compensating for racial injustice or something else. It may as well call itself ‘Republican.’ As for Lincoln, that is just rhetoric. As the late Jack Kemp remarked, it’s hard to compete with Santa Claus and there should be a party that doesn’t try.

Essentially, stop pretending King would have anything to do with you and keep doing what you’re doing. Even if what you’re doing is winning 6 percent of the African American presidential vote.