A half century ago, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his call for justice from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And yesterday tens of thousands gathered around those very same steps to pay tribute to the man who envisioned a world where all Americans, of every race, could live the American dream.
It was a beautiful day of unity, a day of remembrance, and a day of reflection.
And it also served to remind us of the collective and quintessential journey we’ve taken as Americans over the last 50 years.
It was amazing to see a multi-racial coalition on the mall yesterday, yet among the activists, actors, lawmakers, and former Presidents who addressed the crowd, not ONE of them was a Republican. Not one!
And this wasn’t because they weren’t invited.
According to event organizers, top Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, were invited, but all declined due to scheduling or health issues.
So there you had it – in the shadow of one of the great Republicans, the man who championed the end of slavery, the man who signed and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, virtually no one from the party that President Lincoln helped to establish managed to attend.
It seems all too ironic that The Republican Party, founded on the basis of equality under the law, and the ending of slavery, wouldn’t take the opportunity to recognize the importance of this anniversary.
While I can understand some of the political realities facing Republicans in attending an event with strong progressive undertones, it still seems incredibly short-sided that we aren’t MORE willing to put those differences aside to express our deep passion for equality.
And while more than 100 Republicans did gather for a luncheon to pay tribute to Dr. King, wouldn’t a strong bipartisan showing at the 50th anniversary of one of our nation’s most seminal events have been a step towards healing a great divide?
As I watched Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Carter stand at the top of the steps arm-in-arm, it seemed to me that the Republicans missed a REAL opportunity to embrace a spirit of inclusion and bipartisanship.
From an electoral point of view, that’s bad politics. But more importantly, it’s just not the right thing to do.
It’s no surprise that in 2012 Mitt Romney was only able to garner 6 percent of the African-American vote. That’s right, 6 percent!
In a country where now more minorities are born each year than whites, that’s a totally unsustainable strategy for a party seeking to attract the support of minority groups.
Republicans need to be finding ways to broaden their appeal, not reaffirm misconceptions that they don’t fight for all Americans.
At the core of it, Republicans will always have a winning message. One based on personal responsibility, liberty, family values, economic freedom and opportunity. However, as the old saying goes, 90 percent of success in life is just showing up. Until then, we’ll never be heard.
Dwight Eisenhower, even Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as both Bush’s know, if you don’t ask for their vote, most people won’t vote for you!
So looking ahead to the next anniversary, one could only hope that the steps of the Lincoln Memorial are populated by people of different backgrounds, races, and yes, even political parties.
That would at least be proof that the great political divide which threatens the emerging generation maybe was a passing fad.
And I’m guessing there are two other people who would hope for the same if they were around today. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.