Republican House Speaker John Boehner missed the Selma 50th Anniversary commemoration because he was attending two fundraising events in California resort towns. CNN reports that Speaker Boehner was raising money over the weekend, at a pair of events in Rancho Mirage and La Quinta, two posh communities east of Palm Springs, known for their golf courses and spas.
According to The Hill, Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel, defended the Republican Congressional leader, stating simply: “The Speaker was at long-planned political events in California over the weekend.” The Speaker’s decision to skip the Selma Anniversary was widely criticized last week. The revelation that he missed the event to attend political fundraisers will likely reinvigorate those criticisms.
Members of Congress spend a lot of their time raising money for the next election cycle. Boehner, of course, is no exception. However, the optics couldn’t be worse for the Speaker. By choosing to prioritize a pair of weekend fundraisers over the commemoration of the historic Selma march, the Speaker has demonstrated his indifference towards voting rights.
To be sure, given that the Speaker has presided over a Congress that has shown no desire to protect voting rights, his absence from the Selma anniversary is not surprising. Even if he had attended, his presence would have been mostly a symbolic gesture, but an important gesture nevertheless.
However, some Republicans still made it to the Selma event, including former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush. Their symbolic presence highlighted the idea that ensuring that everyone has the right to vote is not a partisan issue, but something all Americans should honor. Bush’s presence wasn’t entirely symbolic. While many of his policies were unpopular with African-Americans, he did, at least, sign an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.
Boehner, by contrast, doesn’t seem even the least bit interested in securing voting rights, or even in acknowledging the struggles that lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Today’s Republican Party is trying to make it more difficult for African-Americans, and other demographic groups who lean Democratic, to cast a ballot. By passing legislation making it harder to vote, the Republicans are doing their best to try to restrict voting to people who vote the “right way”. The people who vote the “right way” are the kind of people who attend fundraising events in opulent resort communities. John Boehner knows them well. He was with them over the weekend, instead of marching in Selma.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.