This weekend marks the 50th Anniversary of the famous and game-changing march in Selma, Alabama in 1965. The President will be attending. Former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush will be attending. Of the congressional rank and file, at least 96 members have stated their intent to attend. About 80% of those will be Democrats. Most of the Republicans attending are either from Alabama, like Jeff Sessions, are the token black men in the GOP, like Tim Scott and Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who to his credit, helped bring a bill forward to symbolically honor the marchers of 50 years ago … finally.
All of the Democratic leaders will be attending, sans Harry Reid who is recovering from eye surgery. Over on the GOP leadership side, their plans were to send no one. That is until at the 11th hour, Kevin McCarthy was recruited as the low man on the GOP congressional leaders totem pole to show up. But in his statement to the press, McCarthy made sure no one mistook his attendance for any actual support of the event. No, McCarthy was clear in saying that he would be there to support his friend, John Lewis. Kind of like when a bridesmaid friend or sister is forced to wear a dress she hates but when asked her opinion of the dress says things to cover the hate up like “I love my friend (or sister).” Kevin McCarthy will be playing the role of bridesmaid in Selma, according to him.
Of the GOP leadership no shows, John Boehner played the “I won’t lift a finger to go to your house but you can come to mine” game citing a symbolic award ceremony that will take place later this year for the marchers of 50 years ago. A bill he only brought to the floor after pressures. Mitch McConnell totally ignored the march by not attending and saying nothing about his no-show. And Steve Scalise, famous for his speech to a white supremacist group, vowing to reach out and make up for such things has decided that going to Selma is simply a bridge too far this year.
For a party that is constantly “re-committing” to reaching out to minorities and building a bigger tent, this sure is an awfully poor representation of that mission. A party that has a majority in both houses of Congress is sending only about 20-25% of the total representatives to Selma, and most of those it’s more for local politics than anything to do with civil rights. The one leader who has decided to go at the last minute is only going “to support his good friend” and not for any reasons actually having to do with the march. None of the 2016 Presidential hopefuls will be there. No Scott Walker, no Rand Paul, no Jeb Bush (I guess his brother and dad going is good enough, besides they don’t have to pander to the tea people in any elections, right?), no Chris Christie, no Marco Rubio, no Ted Cruz and of course no Sarah Palin. None of them considered the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma to be important enough to break away from their other activities.
But rest assured, out on the trail and in the cushy halls of Congress, many of those same no-shows and their contemporaries will be preaching about how much they care about minorities. Some will perpetuate old lies like “MLK was a republican” or try to take credit as a party for the 1965 Civil Rights Act and it’s passage. Then with the other hand they will push aside any actual concerns or legislation designed to help minorities in some pretentious and disingenuous way. All the time with big, friendly smiles on their faces.
But meanwhile, in practice, the GOP will be the same party. Looking out for the big companies and 1%ers that fill their coffers and own their votes. Nothing has changed, and by not showing up, by and large, this weekend’s events in Selma are just more pieces on a mountain of evidence against the Republican Party.
Featured Image: The Westside Story