March on Washington: What Critics Will Say

Here are seven predictions about how conservatives will react to issues sparked by the anniversary.


(The Root) — “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” That, of course, was Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who’d run on a platform opposing black voter registration, in a speech delivered in 1963 — the very same year as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

This month, events commemorating the landmark civil rights event of 50 years ago are planned across the country. There’s National Action Network’s National Action to Realize the Dream March (Aug. 24), a “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony where President Obama will deliver remarks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28 (the march’s official anniversary) and countless smaller celebrations, demonstrations and conferences.

No one expects to hear an explicit chant of “Institutionalized inequality forever” from critics of many of these events’ push for modern-day civil rights. Still, it’s easy to predict the tenor of conservative opposition to the issues that, in 2013, still motivate Americans to march.

1. Voting Rights

Voting Rights Act supporters outside the Supreme Court on June 25, 2013 (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Assaults on voting rights have as urgent a place in politics now as they did in 1963, when marchers called for comprehensive legislation to protect the right to vote and were rewarded with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Fifty years later, after the Supreme Court’s decision to dismantle the act’s protection for those people in states with a history of disenfranchising voters, many Americans are left susceptible to new laws that threaten to keep them from the polls. Conservatives’ likely response to this generation’s activism around this issue? A big shrug. Already, some have basically said that the removal of the act’s preclearance formula is no big deal. That’s probably true, if your ability to vote isn’t at risk.

2. Workers’ Rights