WASHINGTON, NH — Ted Cruz celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with five campaign stops across New Hampshire. But other than the larger than usual crowds for a Monday, it could have been any other day on the trail for the Republican presidential candidate.
Cruz gave his usual stump speech five times, not mentioning the civil rights hero or the holiday once. The only time he addressed MLK Jr. was in response to a question from a voter in Washington, NH who wanted to know if Cruz has any reflections on the holiday.
Cruz used the question as an opportunity to invoke faith and religious liberty.
“If you look at Dr. King, one thing people forget is that Dr. King was Reverend,” Cruz said. “The Letter From Birmingham Jail was addressed to pastors across this country saying stand up and fight for biblical values, stand up and speak the truth. Those are words that desperately need to be heard.”
Cruz then briefly spoke about King’s legacy, roughly quoting King’s most notable speeches. He said King inspires Americans to speak the truth in the face of racism and bigotry, and that we should restore the “arc of history so that it bends toward justice.” But he did not speak any further about King’s legacy on economic justice, voting rights, or non-violence.
That’s not to say the holiday was not on Cruz’s mind. Before the five campaign events began, the Texas senator published an article on conservative commentator Erick Erickson’s website titled “Today We Honor Rev. King, A Sojourner of Justice.”
“While we continue to conquer racial bigotry, we cannot neglect the current climb towards justice for all — especially for children,” Cruz wrote in the Resurgent, before equating King’s fight for racial equality to the anti-choice community’s fight to take away women’s reproductive rights.
“Just five years after Reverend King’s death, another grave injustice stained our nation,” the article continues. “The Supreme Court ruled that unborn children have no right to life. That decision defied the very essence of freedom — without life, there is no liberty. Without life, there is no pursuit of happiness. Yet, since Roe v. Wade, that right has been snatched away from 56 million unborn children.”
Though it’s unclear how King felt about abortion, he was a supporter of Planned Parenthood. And he repeatedly wrote about why family planning programs are important, and why they need to be funded by the government.
Meanwhile on Monday, the three Democratic candidates observed the holiday by marching to the South Carolina statehouse and rallying with civil rights leaders. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also spoke about racial and economic justice and Sanders toured a Baptist church where King often preached that was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.