A star-studded lineup of speakers paraded to the lectern at today’s historic 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Not a single one was an elected Republican.
Former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter spoke. So did President Obama. Neither of America’s former presidents named Bush were there.
They, at least, had good reasons for their absence. The younger Bush underwent a stent procedure for arterial blockage this month while his father, age 89, is increasingly frail. Both Bushes paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in individual statements.
However, both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor—two of the nation’s most powerful Republicans—were invited to speak but did not attend.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, acknowledged to MSNBC that the Ohio lawmaker “was invited, but spoke at the Congressional ceremony instead,” pointing out that Boehner was alongside Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
An aide to Cantor told Roll Call that the Virginian was invited but that he’s in North Dakota and Ohio looking at energy sites.
Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP, lamented the lack of Republicans at the ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, telling MSNBC that a long roster of Republicans was invited but said no.
“Just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there…The fact that they seem to want to get black votes—they’re not going to get them this way,” said Bond.
The changing demographics in this country do not favor the GOP. Mitt Romney got clobbered by Obama among black, Latino, and young voters. And on lots of issues affecting African-Americans–like voting rights and economic justice–Republicans typically find themselves on the wrong side of the question as far as black America is concerned.
Of course, plenty of Republicans don’t see it that way. Republican National Committee spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski said while the RNC wasn’t invited to attend the event, the group held its own event attended by several lawmakers earlier this week to commemorate the March on Washington.
Kukowski also pointed out that GOP Sen. Tim Scott—the only African-American serving in the Senate– was not invited to speak at the anniversary.