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PoliticsNation, Monday, January 16, 2012

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Guests: James Clyburn, Joe Madison, Perry Bacon, Jr., Richard Wolffe, Nia-Malika Henderson, Rick Perlstein


promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know
tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land!



Tonight, we honor Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work that
defined his life.

As so many of you know, in the months leading up to his assassination, Dr.
King was focussed on what he called the second phase of the civil rights
struggle, the fight for economic justice.

In November of 1967, Dr. King organized the Poor People`s Campaign. He and
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference met in Frogmore, South
Carolina. The goal? To devise an economic Bill of Rights that would call
upon the federal government to help abolish poverty.


KING: As long as these intolerable conditions of poverty, terrible housing
conditions, and the syndrome of deprivation surrounding slummism, as long
as these things exist, we have the dangerous possibility of people becoming
so angry, so depressed. I think the way to reach them is to get them jobs,
is to give them a new sense of hope, a new sense of dignity, a new sense of


SHARPTON: Now, we`ve grown a lot as a country since Dr. King`s death.
We`ve sworn in our first black president, and there are so many reasons to
be optimistic about America. But the economic inequality that Dr. King
wanted to fix, that he knew had to be fixed, has only gotten worse.

Today, more than 46 million Americans are living in poverty, the highest
number since the `50s. And the divide between the rich and the poor keeps

In the past 30 years, the top one percent have seen their incomes skyrocket
up more than 200 percent, while the poor has seen theirs remain stagnant.
The dream that we can do better than our parents, that`s the American
dream, but Americans now have less economic mobility than Canada and most
of Europe.

And so the dream remains far -- far out of the reach of most American
citizens. This day of celebration of Dr. King`s life reminds us the
conversation about inequality is one we need to have.

And yet, the other side only seems concerned about the one percent and the
economics of the one percent -- tax cuts for the rich, cutting programs for
those who need them, and more sacrifices from the poor. Their front-runner
wants these conversations saved for quiet rooms.

No. The struggle that Dr. King fought for and died for isn`t over. It`s
really just beginning.

I don`t know what partisan stand Dr. King would have taken if he were
alive, but I do know what his tradition and his policy stands was. I was
13 years old when he was assassinated. I was a youth director of his New
York chapter. I grew up in the aftermath of his death as we continued to
fight this economic battle.

As we are now in an election year, as this country is polarized by class
and still dealing with institutional race, I say to those that are in
national leadership now that we need to, on this day, focus on the
inequality that Martin Luther King tried to get us to focus on over four
decades ago. One pundit said, "It`s the economy, stupid" in an election
year. I say it`s the inequality in the economy, dummy.

It`s not just the economy. It`s the inequality.

It is not that we are envious or jealous. It`s that we know when we are
treated unfair. And we know because of the Dr. Kings of history that we
cannot remain silent while unfairness is present.

Joining me now is Congressman Jim Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina and
assistant Democratic leader.

Congressman, thanks for coming on the show this night.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, thank you so much for having
me, Reverend Sharpton.

It`s a real pleasure to be on this program with you on what would have been
Dr. King`s 83rd birthday. Those of us who -- thank you.

SHARPTON: Yes, go ahead.

CLYBURN: Those of us who worked with him back in the `60s, we still
remember his admonishments. He said to us in no uncertain terms in his
letter from a Birmingham city jail, he told us that he was coming to the
conclusion that the people of the ill will in our society was making a much
better use of their time than the people of good will.

And so on this -- what should have been his 83rd birthday, all people of
good will need to come together and need to make sure that we do what is
necessary to carry out the fulfillment of his dreams, as well as his

SHARPTON: Now, Congressman, I have spent the day in different cities. The
fear I have is that we get so caught up in the memory and the nostalgia of
the King days, that we don`t do the work of today, because the inequality
of today is a challenge.

We do Dr. King a disservice if we act like that was back then and there are
no challenges now -- the gap between the rich and the poor, the one
percent, what is going on in your state today in terms of the preparation
for the Republican primary. I think the battle for inequality -- you were
on the super committee, you`re in the Congress. Where are we in making
this country understand that we must deal with inequality, which is what
Dr. King`s life was about over four decades ago?

CLYBURN: Well, we are a big stagnant. You may recall that at the time of
the meetings of the super committee, every chance I got I talked about the
recent study done by the General Accountant Office, an independent office
that concluded that over the last 28 to 30 years, we saw the wealth gap
widen in our society.

You talked about the upper one percent earlier that has seen their
household income go up 275 percent, while the lower quintile, lower 20
percent, saw their household incomes go up only 16 percent. The upper
quintile, over 65 percent.

So, over the last 30 years, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have
gotten poorer. And if you think about where we started out 30 years ago,
there was only about a two percent gap in there. So, over this time, we
have not done what is necessary to bring all people along in an equitable
way. And notice I didn`t say "equal," I said "equitable."

SHARPTON: Very, I think, appropriate term in terms of your choice of

I think also when you look at the policy, let me show you -- one of the
most contemptible statements to people that are struggling around these
working class issues was made by Willard Mitt Romney. Let me show you what
he said the night he won the Iowa caucuses. He kind of dismissed the drive
to close the income gap and to deal with economic inequality like people
were just jealous or envious of the rich.

Watch this, Congressman.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama wants to put free
enterprise on trial. And in the last few days, we`ve seen some desperate
Republicans join forces with him.

This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation. The country
already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.


SHARPTON: "Bitter politics of envy," like there`s no legitimate concern
for what you and I have just talked about, the overwhelming increase of the
rich`s income, while the stagnation of working class and poor people, but
the problem is we`re just envious. And then, on top of that, he endorses
the Ryan plan, something you are combating in the Congress, which is why I
wanted you on this special holiday, where the Ryan plan, two-thirds of the
cuts come from low-income programs: Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps,
low-income housing.

How do people talk about they believe in the American dream, let alone
King`s dream, when they have a public policy of taking away from those that
already have the least and act as though if they say something about it,
they are engaged in the politics of envy?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, that`s a little bit like saying to Rosa Parks
that you`re just jealous, envious of that man who has got a seat on this
bus because you want a seat on the bus. That`s the kind of foolishness
that we`ve gotten out of this campaign. We ought to say to Mr. Romney and
anybody else who maybe thinking that way that you need to get real about
what is going on in this country.

I just talked about how the gap is getting wider, but he needs to
understand that we are talking about fundamental fairness here. But if you
look at the plan as he put forth, he has endorsed the Ryan plan which said
to people who are on Medicare that if you continue in the program with this
plan, it will cost you $6,400 more each year for your basic health care,
while his plan calls for the people in the upper 10 percent will get a big
$300,000 tax cut, while people making less than $40,000 a year will see an
increase in their taxes.

That`s the kind of stuff that we`ve been doing for the last 30 years. And
people who work hard every day are feeling the pain, and they know that
there`s something out of whack in this system. There`s something that`s
rigged against them. And I think that they are going to demonstrate that
at the polls this year like they never have before.

SHARPTON: Well, Congressman, I hope you`re right. And we`re going to do
our part, you and I, to make sure people come out.

Thank you for spending some of this evening on Dr. King holiday with us.
You, yourself, was a civil rights activist. Thank you for your time.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Republicans embrace King`s legacy today. But how often
do they practice what they preach? Well, let`s look at their records.

And campaign Obama. They are closely watching the Republican contest in
South Carolina. What is that contest telling them?

You`re watching a special edition of POLITICS NATION, "Remembering Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.," on MSNBC.


KING: I refuse to allow myself to fall into the dark chambers of
pessimism, because I think in any social revolution, the one thing that
keeps it going is hope.



SHARPTON: Welcome back to the show.

Many Republicans are embracing Dr. King`s legacy today, calling him
courageous and praising his leadership. But let`s face it. For many
Republicans, their relationship with Dr. King is, at best, awkward.

This one pretty much sums up what I`m talking about. Here`s Willard Romney
in 2007.


ROMNEY: You can see what I believed and what my family believed by looking
at our lives. My dad marched with Martin Luther King.


SHARPTON: His dad marched with Martin Luther King. Well, that`s
apparently not true.

Days later, a Romney spokesman said, "He was speaking figuratively, not
literally." Not speaking figuratively, I`m literally amazed.

And then there`s Ron Paul who, earlier this month, called Dr. King one of
his heroes, but voted against creating the holiday we`re celebrating today.
One of his newsletters published in his name even called this holiday " --
our annual Hate Whitey Day." And Paul is against the Civil Rights Act of
1964, calling it federal infringement on private property.

But it`s not just Dr. Paul. Too often on the trail when it comes to
minorities and the poor, we`ve heard candidates stoop to ugly rhetoric.


people`s lives better by giving them somebody else`s money. I want to give
them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for
themselves and their families.



NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Really poor children in really
poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them
who works. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods,
entrapping children in -- first of all, in child laws, which are truly
stupid. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors,
have one master janitor, and pay local students to take care of the school.


SHARPTON: So, while you bask in the joy of King-inspired unity today,
watch what they are saying the rest of the year.

Joining me now is Joe Madison, host of "Mornings With Madison" on Sirius XM
Radio, and Perry Bacon, Jr., politics editor for

Thanks, both of you, for being here.

Joe --

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Happy King Day to you -- yes?

SHARPTON: Joe, I want to start with you. We were together at a breakfast
this morning in Washington for Dr. King sponsored by National Action
Network. And you have been to tributes down through the years, fought to
help make it a holiday.

What do you make of these tributes you are hearing today from these GOP

MADISON: Well, let`s take one thing that you mentioned today at breakfast,
and that is they are going to be in South Carolina, where the confederate
flag still flies over the Capitol dome. And I know and you know that
during Dr. King`s life, that confederate flag also flew many times
attacking him.

How many times did he see that confederate flag flying in opposition every
time he marched, every time he demonstrated? Many, many times.

Number two, we were in Detroit just this past weekend with the AFL-CIO.
Arlene Baker there had a King labor town hall meeting, and you are talking
about janitors. And you know what the governor of Michigan has done? He
has taken the city of Pontiac, and one of the things they`ve done is
they`ve gotten rid of all the janitors in the schools. All the janitors in
the schools.

And we had a city councilman tell us who teaches school that he has to
vacuum his own classrooms. He has to bring toilet paper to his own
classroom. And he also said under emergency management, as we -- as you`ve
talked about on your show and others have at --

SHARPTON: I was in Detroit yesterday on emergency management.

MADISON: They fired -- the first person they fired was the city attorney.
They fired the city clerk. They might unincorporate the city. And they
are heading to try and do the same thing to Detroit, wipe out all union

And, in essence, all the council can do, all the mayor can do is adjourn --
convene and adjourn a meeting or listen to the people. They can`t even
pass a resolution if they wanted an Al Sharpton Day.

SHARPTON: Well, Perry, let me ask you this. As Joe outlines what we are
still facing all over the country, today we saw the Republican candidates,
despite their past, say a lot of nice-sounding things about Dr. King. Newt
Gingrich and Rick Perry praised King at a breakfast in Myrtle Beach, South

Let me play this for you, because you are covering the race. I want to get
your perspective. Let me start with Newton and Mr. Perry.


GINGRICH: The very first bill I cosponsored in 1979 as a new freshman
congressman from Georgia was the holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



conscience, and he spoke to the conscience of a nation.


SHARPTON: And Willard tweeted that he saluted Dr. King on today. And
Willard`s tweet read, "On MLK Day, we remember an outstanding American who
brought our country closer to its historic promise of liberty and justice
for all."

These are kind words, and I played earlier some of the contrary policies
and things they said, but let me ask you. They debate tonight on Martin
Luther King`s birthday in South Carolina, where the confederate flag, which
is the symbol of the confederate which wanted to maintain slavery and later
segregation -- do you think they will be questioned and will denounce the
flag so offensive to the values of Americans? Will they be questioned and
denounce that flag still flying while they are debating tonight on the
state capitol of the state they are running in?

PERRY BACON, JR ., THEGRIO.COM: I think it`s a good question. Whether
they will be asked it or not, I don`t know the answer to that yet. One of
the networks is monitoring this debate, so we`ll find out from the network
in some ways.

I know in the past, Mitt Romney has condemned the flag and Newt Gingrich
has said it`s a states` rights issue. So there`s differences in the past
on the issue. I don`t know what the differences are today and if they`ll
be pressing it today or not.

I think in terms of their comments today, it`s good they are saying those
things. I mean, I think whatever their comments in the past have been,
there`s been some good parts of this campaign in their perspective. All
these guys have sort of courted Tim Scott, the black congressman from South
Carolina. They courted his endorsement.

They all -- Herman Cain was doing very well earlier in this race. So
there`s been some moments of progress. I hope we see that tonight as well,
as opposed to rhetoric -- and I hope we hear more about how they would
address major problems like unemployment. And I hope we hear more details
of that tonight and less kind of just generic rhetoric.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this, Joe.


SHARPTON: Joe, the debate tonight is by Fox News. Let`s just be real


SHARPTON: And the question I have is, given that they chose to do it on
Dr. King`s holiday, and in South Carolina, clearly Dr. King was not just
for blacks, but he clearly was for issues of inequality across the board.
Wouldn`t you think it would be inappropriate in this time, particularly on
King`s birthday, a holiday, a federal holiday, if they were not questioned
and not, at least among the other issues they deal with, talk about
economic inequality, what they would do about it, talk about the continued
institutional racism, what they would do about it, talk about the flag, and
talk about the issues that we face today that King even had dealt with over
four decades ago?

MADISON: I`ll make this quick. Look, South Carolina left this union over
states` rights. Dr. King was in favor of federal funding for public
education. These candidates are opposed to it.

Dr. King was in favor of Medicaid and Medicare. These candidates to the
Ryan plan want to cut it.

Dr. King was in favor of minimum wage. You ask Newt Gingrich how often he
voted for or against minimum wage.

Dr. King -- and that`s what I want to hear. I don`t want to hear flowery
words about, "I voted for his holiday." I mean, "I supported this."

The reality is the public policy issues that Dr. King fought for they
oppose to this day. And that`s what should be asked -- are you in favor of
public funding for education? Are you in favor of continuing Medicaid and
Medicare at the levels that will help people? Are you in favor of minimum

Those are the real issues. That`s what should be asked. And they know
that they are opposed to it and, therefore, they do not stand where Dr.
King, you or I stand.

SHARPTON: Now, Perry, you`ve been covering this race. Let me ask you
quickly, have you seen in South Carolina, which has a huge African-American
population and some Latinos, have you seen a lot of diversity in these
crowds? And do you see any evidence of outreach by these candidates in the
Republican Party to -- other than what has traditionally now been a white
electorate in the Republican Party?

BACON: Well, we know Speaker Gingrich went to an African-American church
on Saturday. And he got a lot of tough questions about his food stamps
remarks, even. So we know that he did that.

I know, like I said, the candidates are trying to get Tim Scott`s
endorsement. That`s one thing they`re trying to do as well sort of on the
ground in that way.

How much outreach they are doing, the crowds I`ve seen have not been overly
diverse. That`s not surprising, because the Republican voting electorate
in South Carolina is not overly diverse either.

I mean, what you`d like to see in this campaign, and not only in South
Carolina, but also in Florida, is a little more of the Republicans trying
to go out beyond the sort of core base and trying to reach -- trying to
reach black voters, trying to reach Latino voters, trying to reach
Democrats. Just trying to broaden out their party. That`s what you hope
to see in this campaign not only this month, not only today, but throughout
the rest of the election.

SHARPTON: Well, maybe the strategy is that they want to run from that to
appeal to some voters that are anti-that, rather than try to really bring
the country together.

Joe Madison, Perry Bacon, thanks to both of you for being here tonight.

Ahead, the great divide. The GOP`s search for the anti-Romney is dividing
the party. What it means for Obama`s re-election.

And this country has come a long way, but the dreams Dr. King had
represented remains a dream. There`s much work to do.

You`re watching a special edition of POLITICS NATION, "Remembering Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.," on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: And let us do as we did physically here today, being able to
find the strength to walk through our mountains of despair to a stone of
hope, knowing if we put our hope and faith in you, that you can use us as
you did Martin. Happy birthday, Martin. We will continue to keep the
dream alive.


SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Five days to go to the South
Carolina primary. And the split inside the Republican Party shows no sign
of healing. The battle to be the conservative alternative to Willard
Romney is in full swing. The evangelical leaders met in Texas over the
weekend in a last-ditch effort to stop Willard. And they decided to
support Rick Santorum. Mr. Santorum sounds like a confident man.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to get this eventually
down to a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. And those two -- when
we finally get matched up and we believe it will be us, once this field
narrows and we get it down to a two-person race, we have an excellent
opportunity to win this race.


SHARPTON: But Newt says, he`s the man. Especially for conservatives.


Massachusetts moderate can get through South Carolina is if the vote is

If Romney wins here, he has an enormous advantage going forward is which
why I think it`s important for every conservative who wants to have a
conservative nominee to rally around. And I hope every conservative will
reach the conclusion that to vote for anybody but Gingrich is, in fact, to
help Romney win the nomination and to help him win the primary in South


SHARPTON: As the GOP splits, President Obama waits for his opponent.
Every candidate but Willard has a negative favorability rating. Wow. Look
at that. And Willard is barely seen as favorable. This is the
Republicans` best alternative to President Obama?

Joining me now, MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe, he`s the author of "Revival:
The Struggle for Survival" inside the Obama White House." And Nia-Malika
Henderson, national reporter for "The Washington Post." Thanks to both of
you for being here tonight.



SHARPTON: Nia-Malika, let me start with you. Is the Republican Party ever
going to be able to unite behind just one of these candidates?

HENDERSON: Well, at some point they`ll obviously have to when this thing
goes to the general. And that`s what you see Mitt Romney already trying to
look forward to. He`s running this race like he`s already in the general,
like his opponent is already Obama. But again, you have all these other
candidates. Perry, Paul, Gingrich and of course Santorum fighting amongst
themselves for a coalesced conservative base. And I think if the pass is
any prologue, this is a vote really that looks a lot like the Huckabee vote
in 2008. He got about 30 percent of the vote. Of course, lost in 2008 to
John McCain. He got about 33 percent of the vote. So, I think you`ll
going to be looking at a split vote going into this primary on Saturday.
But again, this ultimately benefits Mitt Romney.

And in some ways, ultimately I think also benefits Barack Obama. Because
the longer this thing goes on, the weaker Mitt Romney is because he`s going
to have to pivot to the right. He`s going to have to pivot to the
evangelicals, he`s going to have pivot to the Tea Party. And the longer it
goes on, he`s just going to get a little bit more battered and he`s also
going to be spending more and more money. So, he would very much like this
thing to wrap up. There are rumors that for instance, Gingrich seems to
suggest that if he doesn`t win this thing that he`d likely drop out and in
talking to some of Perry`s folks too, there has been some sense that he
would do the same thing. I think he`s polling about six percent right now.
But again, I think ultimately South Carolina is a state that doesn`t look
to elect pastors. They look to elect and support a president here. And I
think that`s why Mitt Romney is probably feeling pretty good going in here
despite this evangelical come to Jesus meeting that happened over the

SHARPTON: But Richard, this meeting did happen, and there are some
evangelicals not only in South Carolina but around the country. This
divide, what does it mean? What does it say about Willard Mitt Romney? And
then what does it say about President Obama`s chance for re-election if
this divide continues, even if Romney wins and the divide is not healed in
the sense that some of the republican base will not enthusiastically come
out and support him.

WOLFFE: Well, evangelicals are a powerful force in terms of organizing,
not just in terms of policy in the heart and soul of Republicans. And if
you look at a state like Florida, yes, Romney`s numbers are good but
evangelical conservatives have a very strong turnout operation when it
comes to republican primaries in Florida. So, he`s got a challenge there.
He`s got another challenge beyond Florida which is that nothing happens in
February. And it`s a chance, frankly, for those conservatives to get their
act together because all of this happening now is too late for South
Carolina. Maybe too late for Florida, too. And then moving forward you
ask what it means for Obama. Well, if you have just a handful, just a
small fraction of evangelical voters who do not show up for Romney, cannot
reconcile themselves to then for the general election in a close election
that can make all the difference. Just ask John Kerry what it`s like to
have a slightly less enthusiastic turnout operation when it comes to
running against a sitting president.

SHARPTON: Now, let me look at that now. According to the polls, Nia-
Malika, you said South Carolina doesn`t just vote for a pastor, but votes
for who they think will be president. Well, let`s look at the fact that 80
percent of those that were polled want a candidate that can beat President
Obama. Only 47 percent agree on issues -- want a candidate that agrees
with them on issues or that they agree with, and 42 percent want a true
conservative. So overwhelmingly, they want a candidate that can beat
President Obama. Now, when we look at the head-to-heads, President Obama
versus Willard, head-to-head, 46 to 45 for Romney. When we look at
President Obama to Newt Gingrich, 51 percent to 37 percent. When we look
at President Obama to Rick Santorum, 50 to 38.

So, if what you are saying Nia-Malika holds true in five days, the
advantage that Romney may have even with the evangelicals and conservatives
far right questioning him, his argument that according to polls he has the
best chance of beating the President or at least giving him a tied vote,
according to the polls at this point. Much ahead of the other two,
Santorum or Gingrich, should be a solid argument.

HENDERSON: Yes, and that`s certainly the argument he`s been making all
across this state so far. He`s been in the low country. He`s been up
state a bit. He`s also been down in Charleston. So that`s the argument
he`s making. He`s been campaigning with Tea Party favorite Nikki Haley.
Her negatives are higher than they used to be but she is certainly a
presence to have on the stump and really articulates of this message about
electability that is Mitt Romney`s main message in this race. And I think
again if you look at 2008, if evangelicals were such a strong voice here
and certainly they are, but I think ultimately when voters in 2008 looked
at Mike Huckabee versus John McCain.

And, remember, John McCain was certainly no favorite of evangelicals. He
referred to some of these leaders. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as
basically a far right figures that shouldn`t be necessarily taken
seriously. But he was able to win a pretty good margin of victory here.
About three percent. And came out on top. I think that`s what they`re
going to be thinking about when they go to the polls here. The people I
talked to, still some un-decided here. I think we`ll going to get some
polls out from the next couple of days from your network. So, we`ll get a
chance to see what folks are thinking. But again, I think if this state
does what it always has done for the last 20 or 30 years in picking a
candidate that they have picked the nominee of this party for the last 30

SHARPTON: Richard, the thing that comes to me, though, is even if Romney
wins the nomination based on some of the factors Nia-Malika has raised, the
question then comes down to who can turn out their base. And clearly if
the evangelicals and some of the conservatives have lingering questions
about Mr. Romney, his turnout won`t happen. The President seems to be have
made moves that seems to have increased a level of enthusiasm in his base.
For example, African-American voters which is only part of his base, there
were some loud noise he`s was having problems in his base. But the polling
shows 95 percent of African-Americans are with him, and it appears that
whether it`s minorities, whether it`s labor, whether it`s working class,
middle class, his base will come out in particular because of fear of what
the opposition is. Won`t this really come down to how expansive each
candidate`s base is at the general election and their ability to turn it

WOLFFE: That`s a big part of a re-elect for sure. And one thing that`s
been sailing under the radar for many months now is the ground game that
the Obama campaign has been putting into action. We saw it in Iowa, to
some degree in New Hampshire as well. It`s been going on across the
country. Many people, in many states this has been happening and they
never really left. So, that`s important because while the Romney campaign
is battling against people in its own party and now, perversely looking at
a shorter contest. Remember one of the benefits of the longer contest that
the Republicans thought would be great for them, one of the benefits was
that not only would the candidate get better but they`d get more organized
across the country. That certainly gave President Obama in 2008 the
groundwork for his general election victory. That organization still in
place. Maybe Romney will never get a chance if he wraps it up right now.
Nia-Malika Henderson and Richard Wolffe, thanks for joining us.

HENDERSON: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Today, we celebrate Dr. King`s legacy, we remember the hatred
that he and so many others faced in the struggle. It`s an amazing history.
That`s next.


DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, PASTOR: May be some tear gas ahead. I say to you
this afternoon that I would rather die on the highways of Alabama than make
a butchery of my conscience.



SHARPTON: Today as we celebrate Dr. Luther King legacy, we also remember
how difficult it was for him. A mid of nation filled with hate. In 1966,
two years before he died, Dr. King turned his attention to equal rights for
Chicago`s poor. It was what Dr. King called phase two. It unleashed a
torrent of hate. After facing a mob in Chicago, he told reporters, quote,
"I think the people of Mississippi should come to Chicago to learn how to
hate." Author and historian Rick Perlstein researched 1960s politics. He
dug deep into Chicago archives where he found stark evidence of the
backlash and later wrote, quote, "I felt like I was peering into the dark
soul of America to depths I never thought." Much has improved since those
time but we clearly still have more work to do.

Joining me now is historian Rick Perlstein. He`s also the author of "Nixon
Land: The Rise of a President and The Fracturing of America." Rick, you`ve
studied the rights of the conservative movements, response to civil rights.
Let`s go back to Dr. King`s time. How did it play out in 1964 after Barry
Goldwater`s defeat?

RICK PERLSTEIN, HISTORIAN: Well, after Barry Goldwater`s defeat, it was
really a triumphant moment for the civil rights movement. Because out of
the Selma Martyrs marching across Edmund Pettus Bridge, Lyndon Johnson went
before a Joint Session of Congress. He quoted Martin Luther King saying,
we shall overcome and he passed a voting rights bill and he signed it under
the capitol rotunda and said the slaves came here in chains and we finally
have broken the last shackles of those fierce and ancient bonds. But five
days later, the watts riot emulated the South Central Los Angeles and
that`s when we really began to see the backlash.

SHARPTON: Now, give us a sense because a lot of people don`t understand
that Dr. King was not universally loved while he was alive. And he was one
of the most controversial people in the country. The fact is today, 95
percent of people see him favorably. But in his lifetime, he was viewed
less than 50 percent favorable by whites and many blacks. Tell us what he
faced while he was alive according to your research.

PERLSTEIN: Yes, that`s what I call the Santa classification of Martin
Luther King, right? I mean, the reason we honor him is not because he was
loved, because he was hated and he kept his prophetic witness going
nonetheless. In my book, "Nixon Land," I wrote about what happened when he
went to Chicago and marched through neighborhoods merely for the right of
people to buy homes that they could afford according to existing Chicago
open housing laws. And while that was going on, the Senate race was
happening between a civil rights supporting liberal name Paul Douglas and
a republican who was on the fence named Charles Percy and the letters that
Paul Douglas got from his constituents in the neighborhoods that King
marched through were absolutely vituperative and astonishing in their
hatred. We white people have taken a lot from the Negro.

We have been patient and now we find ourselves pushed against the wall by
groups that feel they`re God given right to our property. As their
ultimate aim, the same as the Soviet Union when all property was
collectivized. I want to wake up in the morning and find my milk and
newspapers on my doorstep and not find they`ve been stolen. I want to make
sure when I decorate a platform -- that is kept clean and not torn apart in
the screens and live pictures. Haven`t been pulled out and sold for a
bottle of gin. And most strikingly in the context of, you know, Barack
Obama being called Hitler, letter after letter called Martin Luther King a
dark-skinned Hitler. It was astonishing to see the vituperation. I mean
stuff like.

SHARPTON: Go ahead.

PERLSTEIN: Oh, I was just going to say something like today the
insufferable arrogance of this character places him on a pedestal as a dark
skinned Hitler. Am I living in Germany under Hitler`s rule or in

SHARPTON: So, they used this analogy even against Dr. King. And one of
the things I think that your research reveals is so important is we don`t
talk enough about the bias and hostility in the north, some of us had to
face it in Howard Beach and others. We act like this was a southern
problem. And Dr. King had occurred to come north and confronted. But
connect for me, we talk about Goldwater. Connect quickly for me the
conservative elements of today and how it feeds back into those days. And
is there a connection?

PERLSTEIN: Yes, of course. In 1964 Goldwater lost overwhelmingly and he
lost also in these neighborhoods in Chicago overwhelmingly where there were
traditional democratic union voters. But in 1966 in the Senate election, I
talked about, a lot of the letter said as long as someone like Martin
Luther King is marching and taking our property, that was one of the
claims, too. That they were taking the property, not wanting to buy the
property. And as long as Paul Douglas supports him for Senate, then we`re
going to vote republican. And they did. The republican won that race and
those particular districts went 80 percent more for the Republicans than
they ever had in history.


PERLSTEIN: Because the Republicans that year chose as their official
platform in a meeting on August 2nd, 1966, to oppose open housing as
causing the divisions in America and not healing them.

SHARPTON: Rick Perlstein, thanks for your time tonight.

PERLSTEIN: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Next, my special commentary on hope for the future.



CORETTA SCOTT KING, ACTIVIST: A leader who has protested injustice with a
passionate, unrelenting commitment to nonviolent action. In the spirit and
tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. And I am talking about your leader,
our leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton.


SHARPTON: That was Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. King as she gave
me really a challenge. A challenge that we must continue in the tradition
of Dr. King. We all are not going to be perfect, but we all should be
committed to the highest standards of nonviolence and peaceful co-
existence. And equality. That`s what Dr. King was about. That is why
today President Obama said this about Dr. King.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: If you look at that speech talking
about Dr. King as a drum major, what he really said was that all of us can
be a drum major for service. All of us can be a drum major for justice.
You know, there`s nobody who can`t surf. Nobody who can`t help somebody


SHARPTON: National Action Network had a breakfast in Washington this
morning where we talked about moving forward and making sure Dr. King`s
dream becomes a reality. Special adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett
and the founder of Motown, a friend of Dr. King`s spoke. I wanted to share
with you some of what they said.


that reflects our most deeply held values is what it means to carry on the
legacy of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. who believed timelessly in
the timeless creed that I am my brother`s keeper. I am my sister`s keeper.

BERRY GORDY, FOUNDER, MOTOWN: He inspired us so many years ago with his
dream. He left it with us to turn those dreams into reality. And in many
ways we have, but there is more to do as we all know.


SHARPTON: Dr. Martin Luther King helped change this country for the
better. But it would, in my judgment, be the wrong thing for us to do to
just remember how great he was and not try to live up to whatever
individual greatness that all of us can have in some special way. It may
just be in your family. It may just be in your workplace. It may be in
your school. But all of us have a responsibility to make things fair and
to make things equal and to make things right. Those that fought with him
understood that. Harry Belafonte explained it on this show.


HARRY BELAFONTE, CLOSE FRIEND TO DR. KING: And everybody says, we`re the
next Dr. King, I hasten to answer that question by saying, where was the
first Dr. King before you met him? He was silent. He was somewhere off
into the rural parts of black America in the most humble of an environment.


SHARPTON: You may not be the next Dr. King, and certainly I won`t, but you
can be the first, you and I can be the first me and we can make that mean
something in small ways, large ways, whatever it is. But none of us should
accept inequality. None of us should accept unfairness. If this day means
anything, it should be a day to commit ourselves to making ourselves part
of the struggle to make America better and to make us all fair and equal.
That`s what Dr. King would want. That`s what you and I should want. That
is why many of us keep struggling.

Thank you for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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