Trump and DeSantis stay quiet on Juneteenth as GOP long shots celebrate

Washington DC - Long shot Republican presidential candidates Sen. Tim Scott and Asa Hutchinson celebrated Juneteenth Monday as former President Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field kept quiet about the national holiday marking the end of slavery.

Long shot Republican presidential hopeful Senator Tim Scott (bottom r.) marked Juneteenth on Monday as former President Donald Trump (top r.) and Ron DeSantis (l.) stayed silent in commenting on the holiday.
Long shot Republican presidential hopeful Senator Tim Scott (bottom r.) marked Juneteenth on Monday as former President Donald Trump (top r.) and Ron DeSantis (l.) stayed silent in commenting on the holiday.  © Collage: REUTERS & SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Scott, the only major Black candidate in the crowded race, suggested that remembering the end of slavery should be a way to celebrate the progress that America has made towards ending racism.

"We honor Juneteenth not to dwell on our original sin as a nation, but to showcase just how far we’ve come," Scott said.

Hutchinson praised Abraham Lincoln for righting the wrong of slavery: "We celebrate Juneteenth and the freedom that was wrongly taken."

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Trump, who is leading polls of the GOP race by a commanding margin, did not mention Juneteenth, although he posted or repost more than two dozen items on his social media site.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his closest challenger, also stayed silent through the morning as he prepared for a fundraising event in Sacramento.

Vivek Ramaswamy, one of two candidates with roots in India, may have been referring to Juneteenth in a tweet over the weekend in which he condemned use of the term "people of color."

"Let’s stop viewing each other through the lens of skin color. Period," said Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur.

Why aren't some Republicans marking Juneteenth?

Presidential candidate Governor Ron DeSantis has pushed laws in Florida that rolled back Black history classes and banned books that discuss racism.
Presidential candidate Governor Ron DeSantis has pushed laws in Florida that rolled back Black history classes and banned books that discuss racism.  © REUTERS

The low-key approach to Juneteenth may reflect the fact that the holiday is somewhat controversial on the far right wing of the party, with some considering it evidence of "woke" progressive ideas taking hold.

Fourteen conservative Republican congressional lawmakers voted against establishing Juneteenth as a holiday when it was established in 2021, with some tying the event to so-called "critical race theory" or political correctness.

The GOP primary field has mostly focused on burnishing their credentials in fighting efforts to discuss racism in society or schools, not speaking out against the wrong of slavery or racism in modern-day America.

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DeSantis has boasted about laws he pushed in Florida that rolled back Black history classes and banned books that discuss racism, claiming that they led to white students feeling uncomfortable.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and DeSantis have both spoken out against renaming the Army’s Fort Bragg, which was named after Gen. Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general from North Carolina, who was known for owning slaves and losing key Civil War battles.

Pence vowed to bring back the Fort Bragg name in a speech to a GOP convention in North Carolina, calling the renaming exercise evidence of out-of-control "political correctness."

Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS & SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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