King's Greatest Legacy: Seeing Polarization as Progress

Lee A. Daniels | 1/23/2013, 11:31 a.m.

Today's political chatter is saturated with gloomy descriptions of and predictions about the fierce polarization in the political arena.

Yes, it's evident that in the wake of Obama's re-election, conservatives have re-committed themselves to flooding the state legislatures with reactionary measures and fomenting chaos in the Congress. Yes, it's critically important to not lose sight of the magnitude of the challenge: the callous proposals to restrict women's right to determine what reproductive choices are best for them that conservatives are yet again trying to push through state legislatures; their resistance to pursuing reasonable solutions to the crisis of undocumented immigration; their continuing to try to find ways to undermine Blacks' right to vote, to mention just a few.

But we should also realize that the president's re-election not only cemented in history his individual importance. It also underscored the rise of multicultural America as a powerful, progressive voting force which enabled Obama to overcome the most dangerous reactionary threat to democracy the country has faced since the Civil War. In that regard, America's current polarization is a stark, and welcome, reminder that we're still fighting for the full measure of our rights as Americans - and that at this moment we're winning.

So, if you happened to be at a celebration marking Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, or an event marking the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, and some of the 1960s civil rights freedom songs were sung, you should realize that wasn't an indulgence in nostalgia but an acknowledgment of our present reality - and responsibility.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is, Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.