Trump's brand of racism is nothing new for Republicans.
As Donald Trump constantly sets new bars for racism in American politics, it is worth remembering that there are people serving in Congress who voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, and they are all Republicans.
Two current GOP House members, Hal Rogers of Kentucky and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, also voted against the holiday.
President Ronald Reagan signed the law only after it passed both houses by veto-proof majorities. Even then, he said at a press conference that he would have preferred a “day of recognition” rather than a holiday, “but since they seem bent on making it a national holiday,” he would sign it.
Reagan was also forced to apologize to King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, for remarking at that same press conference that “we’ll know in about 35 years” whether King was a communist sympathizer.
Three other Republicans cast votes against state MLK holidays before entering Congress. Rep. John Culberson of Texas and Sen. Jonny Isakson of Georgia each voted against MLK holidays as state legislators. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana who once described himself as “David Duke without the baggage” and whose life was saved by a black woman during last year’s congressional mass shooting voted against it twice.
Of those Republicans who voted against the King holiday, several took to Twitter on Monday to shamelessly co-opt the day they once opposed, while others simply remained silent.
Shelby referenced King’s “dream of unifying the nation” a dream he didn’t support when he voted against honoring the legacy he now claims to honor.
This year marks 50 yrs since the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Today we take time to honor & reflect on his legacy & dedication to equality. We must continue to focus on his vision for the world, working to accomplish his dream of unifying our nation. #MLKDay
— Richard Shelby (@SenShelby) January 15, 2018
Isakson tweeted a photo of a King statue, while Hatch chose to highlight the words of the president who opposed the holiday right up until the day he signed it:
As President Reagan noted, the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King isn’t just that he called for change, it’s that he called for continuous change. #MLKDay is a reminder to all of us that there is always more to do in the inspired fight he led. pic.twitter.com/Ecxl8mlwNS #utpol
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) January 15, 2018
Trump may be breaking disgraceful new ground for racism in American politics, but the craven hypocrisy of many others in his party shows that Republicans have spent decades softening the ground for him.