Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And Reflecting On Donald J. Trump

On the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, it is worth reflecting on the similarities and differences between his and Donald J. Trump’s leadership styles. To some degree King and Trump both sought to mobilize their potential followers and defeat their adversaries as one waged a struggle for civil rights for African Americans and the other for winning a national presidential election. The context for each one’s efforts were of course quite different. King was leading a struggle against the established legal order in the South while Trump, in seeking the Republican presidential nomination and then to win an electoral victory, was operating within a legally established institutional system. Each adopted novel leadership styles and strategies that might seem unusual in their different contexts. Nevertheless, each could claim to have had considerable success. For King, a primary goal was to convince African Americans and allies that the established laws of Jim Crow could be abolished. He did not need to tell them how bad their conditions were. He offered a strategy and convinced many, step by step, that nonviolent resistance could be victorious and end the Jim Crow system. Of course, he did not invent the strategy and he was not alone in advocating it, but he articulated it brilliantly. He built on the culture and institutions of African Americans, on the songs and churches, and...

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