Not a single Republican elected official stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday with activists, actors, lawmakers and former presidents invited to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a notable absence for a party seeking to attract the support of minority voters.
Event organizers said Wednesday that they invited top Republicans, all of whom declined to attend because of scheduling conflicts or ill health.
In fact, the organizers invited every single member of Congress. And the ghastly fact is that no Republicans showed up to take a place of honor in the ceremonies.
This observation prompted Gabriel Romero to quip in the comment thread:
Man! Was Lincoln the ONLY Republican that showed up? Pretty sad!
Now…it is understandable that some folks will be out of town during the congressional recess, and unable to attend. But zero? Zilch? Not a single congressional Republican?
Do you suppose there was a red flu going around?
As I mentioned yesterday, both Presidents Bush were unable to attend for health reasons. George W. Bush was one Republican capable of showing a big dose of dignity. In his statement for the occasion he gave a thoughtful tribute to Dr. King that included a respectful nod to President Obama:
Our country has come a long way since that bright afternoon 50 years ago; yet our journey to justice is not complete. Just to the East of the Lincoln Memorial, where President Obama will speak on Wednesday, stands the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. There on the National Mall our President, whose story reflects the promise of America, will help us honor the man who inspired millions to redeem that promise.
And this, I believe, is the crux of the issue for G.O.P. politicians. Dr. King stood for many things that go against the Republican mindset: ending school desegregation, providing economic opportunity for the underclass, supporting union workers, giving equal voting access to minorities and the poor, and so on. That notwithstanding, King is a genuine American hero who catalyzed great, and positive, social change for our nation—the March on Washington was a momentous occasion for our democracy. Republicans, as part of their post-autopsy re-branding, had everything to gain by standing before a nation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and honoring this man who is a hero to the very people the G.O.P. wants to lure into their fold.
Yet they couldn’t do it.
Why? It’s because, for a Republican politician to participate in this historic moment would have been to acknowledge what George W. Bush was at liberty to say: that the keynote speaker, President Barack Obama, is a powerful living embodiment of the accomplishments of Dr. King’s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I think many Republicans could have stomached standing before America as a tribute to Dr. King—if only for the political gain. But, it inherently required an act of respect and honor for President Obama.
And that crossed the line.