Race and Symbolic Politics in the US Congress

Race and Symbolic Politics in the US Congress

By Bryce J. Dietrich, University of Iowa, and Matthew Hayes, Rice University

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often is invoked to justify political positions only tangentially (and dubiously) linked to issues of justice and civil rights. For example, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway referenced Dr. King in defending President Trump from impeachment by saying, “I don’t think it was within Dr. King’s vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the president is not going to be removed from office… And I think that anybody who cares about ‘and justice for all’ on today or any day of the year will appreciate the fact that the President now will have a full-throttle defense on the facts, and everybody should have that.” Similarly, on July 13, 2021, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) denounced the teaching of critical race theory in schools by saying, “Critical race theory goes against everything Martin Luther King has ever told us, don’t judge us by the color of our skin, and now they’re embracing it.”

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