Not one leading Republican or conservative took part in the commemorative “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony in Washington, D.C. No Bushes were in sight. Members of the GOP Congressional leadership declined invitations, including, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. No leading black conservatives appeared on the program. Notably absent was Representative Tim Scott, the only black Republican in Congress. None of the frontrunners for 2016 were in attendance. There were no sightings of Senators Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. Even Senator John McCain, the “go-to” media darling of the party was noticeably absent. Did none of them schedule the event on their calendars?
What does it say to America when Republicans are too busy to attend the commemoration of the signature event in the history of the civil rights movement? It says that the progressive Republican Party of the past is dead and buried. In its place is a narrow-minded party stuck in some kind of time bubble where the economic policies of the 1920’s and the late 19th century and the social conservatism of the 1950’s are somehow compatible with the multicultural, international complexity of the 21st century.
Gone are the Eisenhower Republicans who fought for the first Civil Rights Bill in 1957 and sent in federal troops to desegregate Arkansas schools. Gone are the Republicans that made anti-voting and anti-lynching laws part of their platform in the 19th Century. Gone are the Republicans that fought an economic civil war and helped to free the slaves. Gone are the Republicans that overwhelmingly supported the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 respectively. And gone are the Republicans that supported workers’ rights programs such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In its place is a Republican Party that criticizes the policies of the now progressive Democratic Party while it issues “autopsy” reports on so-called outreach programs and revels in the suppression of voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of America’s minority, young, elderly, and poor citizens.
Ever since President Obama was elected with overwhelming majorities of the minority vote, the Republican Party has gone out of its way to refute unfair accusations of being a party that harbors at best policies that are not supportive of the needs of the minority community to those that suggest that the bigots and racists that once were solid members of the Democratic Party are now part of the base of the Republican Party.
I don’t think that bigots and racist control the Republican Party, but when the leadership boycotts a non-political event, like the celebration of America’s civil rights movement, I’m sure they didn’t lose any votes in that demographic.