Why were no Republicans at the March on Washington rally?

Yep: Zero.

Rep. Tim Scott
(Image credit: AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

President Obama spoke at Wednesday's rally commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. So, too, did former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga).

Notice a pattern? Yes, all of those politicians are Democrats. In fact, not a single one of the day's speakers was an elected Republican official.

Event organizers said they invited a number of prominent Republicans, but none accepted, citing prior scheduling conflicts or ill health. Former President George W. Bush, for instance, is still recovering from heart surgery and could not attend.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Aides to congressional GOPers told the Washington Post that the invitations came too late for them to attend. Still, the lack of a GOP presence struck many as very odd, since the success of the civil rights movement should have been celebrated by both major parties. Also, the no-show goes against the GOP's major rebranding effort, which is, in part, aimed at attracting minority voters.

"It's part of a continuing narrative that the party finds itself in with these big deals for minority communities around the country and how they perceive our response to them," former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said.

Though no elected Republicans attended Wednesday's rally, the GOP did hold its own event earlier in the week commemorating the March on Washington.

A spokesman for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is the only black senator in Congress, claimed Wednesday that Scott had not been invited to speak at the event. That sparked accusations in conservative corners that organizers had deliberately barred Republicans from attending.

As it turns out, organizers did invite Scott, but the senator declined, citing a prior engagement. A source from the event told Roll Call that the speaker list "was created based on those who were able to confirm availability to attend the event." Since Scott said he was unable to even attend, they assumed he would be unable to speak either.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also turned down invites.

As for the GOP leadership team, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) was in Wyoming, but had no public events scheduled for the day, according to the Washington Post. He has been headlining fundraisers all month with Congress on vacation.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was visiting energy sites in North Dakota with representatives from the North Dakota Petroleum Council. The group, as Alex Seitz-Wald at The Washington Post pointed out, is a registered lobbying outfit representing North Dakota's oil and gas industries.

A spokesman for Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told ABC the senator was not invited.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.