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On Monday, Arizona Republicans showed casual contempt and a dismissive attitude towards racial equality, and the public in Mesa, AZ saw it. The East Valley Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Festival is a public-private partnership, with the City of Mesa officially involved in organizing and sponsoring the event. I will post photographs later, illustrating the parade as I did for Veterans’ Day, but what I saw, and did not see, prompts me to write before the day is gone.
What follows is a first-hand report of the parade: organization, the crowd, parade entrants, and the festival following the parade.
Unlike the Veterans’ Day parade, where a non-profit group has had primary responsibility for organization and funding over the years, today’s parade was a public-private partnership event. The City of Mesa takes lead responsibility:
The East Valley Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade is a collaboration by the City of Mesa and Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee.
Once again, the Mesa Police Department ran a first-class operation, discreetly providing excellent security without a heavy hand.
The crowd looked like Mesa. There were young families and senior citizens. Most of the people who lined the parade route, standing or sitting in folding camp chairs, were white or Hispanic, with apparently more blacks marching in the parade than lining the route. This reflects Arizona’s demographics, as reported by the US Census Bureau:
Race and Hispanic Origin
White alone, 83.1%
Black or African American alone, 5.0%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone,5.3%
Asian alone, 3.5%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, 0.3%
Two or More Races, 2.8%
Hispanic or Latino, 31.4%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino, 54.9%
The Parade Entrants:
There was some overlap in participants between the Veterans’ Day Parade and the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. Groups dedicated to commemorating African Americans’ participation in our military, especially the Buffalo Soldiers role in the American West, were in both parades. The Civil Air Patrol and Commemorative Air Force were sure to get in front of the public, as were some school bands, cheer, and dance groups. The Mesa and Chandler Police Departments marched, the Mesa PD band leading and the Chandler restomodded police cruiser lighting up the bubble light, siren, and tires.
Historically black churches were well represented in the parade, still core institutions in community life. Music radio stations were represented, while conservative talk stations were not, differing from the Veterans’ Day radio station contingent. A highlight of this parade, which was not in the most recent East Valley Veterans’ Parade, was a group of Buffalo Soldier reenactors, on foot and mounted.
There was little overt ideological messaging, except for a few hand-crafted signs and a few standard leftist chants. Police officers walked the route shaking hands and giving children “junior police” stickers. The overall atmosphere was positive and celebratory, complemented by a wonderful Arizona January day, shirt sleeves, a few fluffy clouds, and sunshine.
A Tale of Two Parties:
Witnessing today’s parade, seeing who showed up to march, or set up a booth, and who did not, brought to mind Justice Clarence Thomas’s indictment of the national GOP in My Grandfather’s Son (emphasis added):
…I’d come to realize, as I told a reporter, that “conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.” Was it because they were prejudiced? Perhaps some of them were, but the real reason, I suspected, was that blacks didn’t vote for Republicans, nor did Democrats work with President Reagan on civil-rights issues. As a result there was little interest within the administration in helping a constituency that wouldn’t do anything in return to help the president. My suspicions were confirmed when I offered my assistance to President Reagan’s reelection campaign, only to be met with near-total indifference. One political consultant was honest enough to tell me straight out that since the president’s reelection strategy didn’t include the black vote, there was no role for me.
The Democrats showed up today. Two state legislative districts were proudly represented–as was Arizona State University, which has an East Valley campus–by their Democratic Party chapters. There was not a single self-identified Republican in the parade, which lasted over an hour, nor was there a single conservative group booth to be seen at the festival following the parade. This obvious snub is sitting at some level in the minds of all the parade viewers, ready to be activated by Democrats as they turn Arizona from reliably Republican to dependably Democrat.
A tweet is not sufficient engagement. Indeed, if you roll out this tweet, acknowledging you are aware of the holiday, your failure to show up becomes even more offensive:
“There is nothing more majestic and sublime than the quiet testimony of a people willing to sacrifice and suffer for the cause of freedom.”
— AZ Republican Party (@AZGOP) January 21, 2019
Mitt Romney was rightly lambasted for writing off 47 percent of the American electorate. Donald Trump expressly reached out to all Americans who have been left behind, and continues to do so to this day. Romney, the “conservative” commentariat, and the Arizona GOP have shown they are not truly interested in being the Party of Lincoln, whereas President Trump, who they disdain or at best grudgingly acknowledge, has truly striven to gain back long-abandoned voters.
Laziness leads to losing. You can’t win if you don’t play. The fastest way to lose a race is by not showing up at the starting line.