The Conversation

Lack of Will on Organizers' Part At Fault For No GOP Representation at MLK March

In response to USA Today's DeWayne Wickham Should Brush Up on His History :

According the ABC News, it was a combination of  "miscommunication and lack of coordination" that played a role in some of the invites to the MLK March on Washington event not going out to Republican office-holders. But some might say it was a lack of will on the organizers' part.

Senator Scott did receive what was apparently a form email invitation that was sent to all members of Congress on August 9. An aide responded,  “Thank you for extending to Senator Tim Scott the invitation to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28th. Unfortunately, the Senator will be in South Carolina during this time, so he will be unable to attend the event. Please do, however, keep him in mind for future events you may be hosting.”

But the Senator might have rearranged his schedule had he been invited as part of the speaking program, according to Scott’s office. 

ABC News goes on to report that "more than half a dozen different prominent Republicans were invited to speak, but several of the invitations went out quite late in the planning. All sent their regrets."

Regardless of the motivations, the result was that an ostensibly non-partisan program on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial took on a political edge. Heated comments on affirmative action, gun rights, and racial discrimination in law enforcement echoed from the podium, with none of the 30-plus speakers – a list that included all three living Democratic presidents —  (and none) representing a Republican point of view.

That was by design. Republicans who were invited to speak, were invited at the last minute after it became clear that the Bushes were not going to be able to attend due to health issues.  RNC officials offered to help organizers find some Republican speakers, according to Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director. But his suggestions were ignored.

“We were very proud of our efforts to commemorate this historic event, which we did in several ways over the last few days,” Spicer said. “Furthermore, we offered up assistance to the organizers of the event — our assistance in facilitating any Republican speakers that they would be interested in having.”

Starting August 14 – two weeks before the commemoration — GOP officials offered help in reaching out to a range of other Republicans. That list, according to an RNC official, included Scott, who is the only African-American currently in the Senate; former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., who is black; and T.W. Shannon, the 35-year-old African-American speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Organizers did invite several prominent Republicans – including both Presidents Bush, former Gov. Jeb Bush, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Sen. John McCain – to speak. They also reached out late in the planning process to the office of Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a veteran congressman from Wisconsin who has been prominent on voting-rights and sentencing-reform issues.

All of those invited declined, however, with the two former presidents citing health concerns, and the others pointing to scheduling conflicts. Cantor was invited just 12 days before the event, and Huckabee told ABC News he was invited just last week – too late for him to juggle other commitments.

“I was invited and so wished I had been able to do it,” Huckabee said in an e-mail to ABC. “I didn’t receive the invitation until last week, however, and it was too late for me to re-arrange things.”

One Republican aide likened the late flurry of invites to “unvitations,” the “Seinfeld”-inspired practice of inviting someone to an event with the knowledge that they won’t attend.

That sounds about right.

Donna Brazile, who was tasked with helping to line up Republicans for the program said the lack of Republicans at the march was a "disappointment." 

Uh huh.

She said it was "just wrong to suggest that organizers didn’t want Republican voices represented."

“It’s not the fault of the King Center. The attempt was made, from the [former] presidents to the speaker of the House, to various other leaders.” 

She doesn't explain why the invitations went out so late.

Without addressing specific names, Brazile said organizers weren’t going to put a Republican into the program who didn’t have the stature to speak alongside presidents and heroes of the civil-rights movement. She said she worked directly with GOP leadership offices on Capitol Hill to find an appropriate speaker, to no avail.

“They weren’t looking for any Republican out of the wilderness,” Brazile said. “For Republicans to try to make an issue out of this – that’s a sign of desperation. The overtures were made.”

RNC’s Spicer said "it should have occurred to organizers to make a special effort to invite Scott, given the fact that he’s the only African-American U.S. senator."

“Overlooking Tim Scott would be like overlooking the president for the State of the Union speech,” he said.

And looking at a speakers’ lineup that included lower-profile Democrats such as Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., there were plenty of other “nationally known” black Republicans who could have been included, he said.

Apparently, those black Republicans were too "out in the wilderness" to be considered.

UPDATE:

Over at Big Government, Kerry Picket names another black Republican who was apparently considered "too out in the wilderness" to attend the event. None other than one of the organizers  of the original MLK March on Washington in 1963, Roy Innis!

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was one of the six big organizing groups who coordinated the 1963 March on Washington 50 years ago. However, CORE says none of the event organizers at this year's remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech invited anyone from the black conservative organization, particularly CORE's chairman and '63 March on Washington alum Roy Innis (pictured), to speak. 


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