Fifty years since March on Washington, partisan divide persists
August 26th, 2013
11:37 AM ET
11 months ago

Fifty years since March on Washington, partisan divide persists

(CNN) – The fiftieth anniversary of the historic March on Washington, celebrated in the nation's capital this week, is being marked with separate events by Republicans and Democrats as a sharp partisan divide persists on issues of race in America.

Half a century after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" address, which became a crucial moment in the struggle for civil rights in the U.S., a new national poll indicates a left-right divide over whether King's dream has been reached. And political issues that involve race, including voting rights and high minority unemployment, continue to split Americans along party lines.

According to Pew Research Center survey released last week, 49% of Americans say that "a lot more" needs to be done to achieve King's dream, with just over three in ten saying "some more" needs to be done and 16% saying little or nothing needs to be accomplished.

The poll indicates Democrats and Republicans don't see eye to eye on the question. Thirty-five percent of Republicans surveyed say "a lot more" needs to be done to reach racial equality. That number jumps to 63% among Democrats questioned in the survey, which was conducted in early August.

Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who in 2008 became the first Indian-American to serve as governor in the country's history, wrote in Politico Monday that for all the progress made on racial equality since King's "I Have a Dream" speech, there was still a sense of dividedness among Americans.

"We still place far too much emphasis on our 'separateness,' our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc," he wrote. "We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few. Here's an idea: How about just 'Americans?'"

"We are all created in the image of God – skinny, fat, tall, short, dark, light, whatever. Who cares? What does it matter? It's time to get over it," he continued. "It's time for the end of race in America. Now that would be progress."

Jindal's essay comes as Republican and Democratic politicians hold separate events to mark the anniversary of King's speech and the March on Washington, which in 1963 drew hundreds of thousands of Americans to the National Mall in Washington.

A Saturday rally, organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network along with Martin Luther King III and the NAACP, featured speeches from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, as well as Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights leader who now serves as a Democratic congressman representing parts of Atlanta.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the Garden State, also spoke.

On Wednesday, which will be 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, President Barack Obama will deliver remarks at a rally in the same spot. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will also attend and address the crowd.

Former President George W. Bush was invited to attend, but declined since he's recovering from a heart procedure earlier this summer. Bush had a stent placed in his heart on August 6 and left the hospital a day later.

No Republicans are slated to speak at the Wednesday event. Instead, the Republican National Committee is hosting a luncheon Monday to commemorate the anniversary that features the party's chairman Reince Priebus and prominent African-American Republicans, including T.W. Shannon, the speaker of Oklahoma's state House of Representatives, and former Rep. Allen West of Florida, who lost his bid for re-election last year.

"I think the RNC and chairman Priebus' timing on commemorating that event was well worth it," Shannon said on CNN later Monday. "If you look at the attendance that we had, we had people from all walks of life that came to the luncheon to participate to recognize that not only are we honoring the man, but we were honoring an idea."

Also attending the event – Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who's been a leading GOP voice on rewriting portions of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court gutted its key provisions in June.

Saying the court had "thrown a monkey wrench" into the law, he said it was lawmakers' responsibility to fix it.

Republican lawmakers also marked the march's anniversary in July, before leaving for August's recess, with an event in the U.S. Capitol led by House Speaker John Boehner.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • Washington D.C.
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    " Here's an idea: How about just 'Americans?'"
    ------------------------------------------------
    I don't agree with Gov. Piyush "Bobby" Jindal on pretty much anything, but he has a point here.

    August 26, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  2. 0g

    land of the free for some

    August 26, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    To a republican, "How about just 'Americans' "refers to any one who is white. They seem to think those who are non white should not be allowed their constitutional right to vote.

    August 26, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. Data Driven

    "It's time for the end of race in America"

    But that's not what King suggested. He suggested that we should learn to accept each other and learn to live and work together. That's not the dreamy, and yet quite ugly, notion of no more races; it's the more realizable, and yet more difficult, notion of ignoring deep-seated prejudices within ourselves in order to respect the humanity of individuals different from us. Why on earth should people give up their ethnic and cultural traditions?

    And if it's time for "the end of race" in America, then isn't it also time for the end of race on the whole planet? Explain to me why such a scenario is desirable. Whatever happened to vive le difference, for goodness' sake? What's next - the end of gender?

    August 26, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    I would love to be referred to as simply American, but a large segment of the population wouldn't feel like that since they deem themselves as superior to others. With thinking like that, the best we CAN hope to be considered is black or African American. It sure beats the alternative that many call us behind closed doors.

    August 26, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. ghostwriter

    Well Bobby.....as long as certain elements in the country feel it is perfectly fine to trash other folks' Constitutional rights, the hyphens will continue.

    August 26, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Data Driven

    "It's time for the end of race in America"

    But that's not what King suggested. He suggested that we should learn to accept each other and learn to live and work together. That's not the dreamy, and yet quite ugly, notion of no more races; it's the more realizable, and yet more difficult, notion of ignoring deep-seated prejudices within ourselves in order to respect the humanity of individuals different from us.
    ---------
    Not to mention that if there were and end to race in America, it would be the end of the gravy train for those that have become very wealthy stoking the flames of racial animosity.

    August 26, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. Wake up People!

    I was watching the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on MTP yesterday and the reporters were asking questions of Dr. King and another gentleman whose name escapes my mind right now. Basically both reporters were telling Dr. King and the other gentleman that maybe America wasn't ready for blacks to have rights yet and perhaps they were moving too fast. I do so love Dr. King, he told them that we had waited years and how much more time did white America need to give blacks their basic civil rights?? It's funny, I hear some of the same talk today that they were talking 50 years ago. What would have happened had the Civil Rights Era been slowed down? I believe we would still be in the same boat today.

    August 26, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. just asking

    ghostwriter
    Well Bobby.....as long as certain elements in the country feel it is perfectly fine to trash other folks' Constitutional rights, the hyphens will continue.
    ---

    got any names and examples of this??? of course not. just the usual lefitst democrat folklore.

    August 26, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Wake up People!

    I have to laugh at the people I see posting on the internet calling people race baiters, it's funny the same things were said about Dr. King back in the day.

    He was hated by southern whites who referred to him as that "trouble making you know what, that has come to the south to rile up our good negroes." Basic civil rights is all he wanted for us all and that basic principle cost him and countless others both black and white, their lives.

    I wish I could have thanked each and every one of them personally.

    August 26, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. Wake up People!

    All one needs to do is look at the lack of respect shown to President Obama since 2008 to know we have a long way to go.

    Even though democrats were unhappy with the SCOTUS choosing our POTUS for us, we were told especially after 9/11 that if you didn't support President Bush you were basically a traitor, but now it seems the more you disrespect the office of President now, the faster you move up the GOP ranks.

    August 26, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Wendy Brown

    Every single word you type into Facebook, Twitter or anything owned by Google is used to spy on you and manipulate you into buying things you don't need. Why would you do that? What do you tell yourself to rationalize letting those corporations do that to you? All of those companies are owned and controlled by Obama's investors, ie: John Doerr...They got him elected. Now they need to do the right thing.

    August 26, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "Not to mention that if there were and end to race in America, it would be the end of the gravy train for those that have become very wealthy stoking the flames of racial animosity."

    The Republicans are screwed coming and going anyway. They made their bed with the "southern strategy" and 60+ years of bigoted politics playing to the white southern rural demographics and it's now starting to come home to roost...playing up their race resentments, their acculturation to be bitter about the Civil War and desegregation, their belief, while living in a trailer park in a red state that receives $2 in federal aid for ever $1 its citizens pay in federal taxes, that it's always the "urban" areas and minorities who are "takers" from the system, living in luxury and riving Cadillacs while having 15 babies to increase their welfare checks, etc. etc. Gravy train is indeed ending...and the election of a black man as POTUS , TWICE, was a giant indicator of that fact...which is why we've watched them freak out like tantrum throwing children for 5 years now.

    August 26, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. Plain and simple

    TO: DATA Driven...

    enjoyed your post!

    Data Driven

    "It's time for the end of race in America"

    But that's not what King suggested. He suggested that we should learn to accept each other and learn to live and work together. That's not the dreamy, and yet quite ugly, notion of no more races; it's the more realizable, and yet more difficult, notion of ignoring deep-seated prejudices within ourselves in order to respect the humanity of individuals different from us. Why on earth should people give up their ethnic and cultural traditions?

    And if it's time for "the end of race" in America, then isn't it also time for the end of race on the whole planet? Explain to me why such a scenario is desirable. Whatever happened to vive le difference, for goodness' sake? What's next – the end of gender?

    August 26, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. Wake up People!

    And before you start attacking me about Bush, the entire democratic party wasn't looking under rocks hoping for a reason to impeach him. The man has done nothing to merit impeachment, yet we hear the word daily by the GOP.

    August 26, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Also attending the event – Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who's been a leading GOP voice on rewriting portions of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court gutted its key provisions in June.
    --------------------–
    Some folks are very eager to re-write the language in the VRA because it renders the intent of new legislation that affects voting and voters are irrelevant.

    People argue what is wrong with asking for photo ID, Nothing, at least not until you make it more difficult for people to obtain the photo ID by reducing hours of operation at DMV office...or by reducing the DMV budget set aside for producing the IDs. Or by reducing voting hours, or by reducing the time periods for early voting and absentee ballots,

    August 26, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    As long as we have politicians running around saying, "He's not one of us," to loud cheers then the Dream will never be realized.

    August 26, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Data Driven

    @Fair is Fair,

    I quite agree, in principle, though it must also be said that leaders of the (rapidly diminishing) white majority also do well by exploiting racial grievances. The whole immigration "debate" is a case in point, imo.

    August 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Data Driven

    @Plain and Simple,

    Thanks!

    August 26, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. J R Brown

    People always seem to leave off the content of character and not the color of skin part. We have a black president black people voted for him because of his skin color... not his character.

    August 26, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. JC

    The left is just as guilty of the divide. They need racism to exist for multiple reasons. One, if they keep painting the right as angry crackers and bigots, then the left keeps the black vote. It also gives the left the ability to pass legislation that they know the right will oppose, just to make them look bad and spin it as a racist ideology. I'm in the middle. I think that there is still some work that needs to be done to bridge the racial gap, but there also needs to be a serious conversation about the victim card that keeps getting played. Reverse racism is not accepted as a possible explanation by the left, and that allows for more injustice being done. An injustice is an injustice, no matter the skin color.

    August 26, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Mikey

    2/3 of America believes more needs to be done. I agree. There are plenty of people who want to keep the status quo as long as they think it's to their advantage (and the disadvantage of others). I often think it's because deep down inside, they don't really believe they can compete on a level playing field.

    August 26, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Abbey

    Party of politics and racial divided is alive and well when it continually ignores it's own problems and blames white America for everything. This is not what Dr. King wanted.

    August 26, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    African-American is the phrase or blank-American is used to describe and ethnicity of an American, however, just because my lineage is from Africa, doesn't mean I'm African. I was born in the United States of America and never been to Africa. It almost reminds me of the scene from Karate Kid when Jaden Smith says to the Asian dude on the plane "konichiwa" and the Asian dude tells him "dude, I'm from Detroit."

    August 26, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. truth hurts but reality bites

    I have a dream too. I have a dream that some day the black people in this country will wake and smell the coffee. It is 2013, not 1865, not 1965, 2013. The only thing keeping you down is YOU and your poor lfe decisions. There are millions of black people that have thrived and succeeded in the USA. Stop blaming others for your position in life and look in the mirror. If you embrace victimhood and government dependence by buying into the race hstlers and livin gon the Democrat plantation, then don't be surprised when you end up no where. The formula for success in the USA isn't complicated but it DOES start with the person in the mirror.

    August 26, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
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