The first new national holiday in 38 years, per Politico. And finally an extra day off during that long stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when Independence Day is the only game in town.
Or was, now that Juneteenth is on the calendar too.
It takes effect immediately, so if you’re a federal worker enjoy your barbecue tomorrow:
Today @POTUS will sign the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19th as a federal holiday. As the 19th falls on a Saturday, most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, June 18th.
— U.S. Office of Personnel Management (@USOPM) June 17, 2021
There was movement towards making Juneteenth a national holiday last year amid the BLM protests but the effort fizzled, as it had so many times before. This year the stars aligned. The newsiest aspect of the bill’s passage this week is how overwhelmingly bipartisan it was, with support from some unlikely places. The vote went 415-14 in the House last night, with MAGA favorites like Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Louie Gohmert, and Madison Cawthorn in favor.
I’m guessing Donald Trump was in favor as well from his office in Mar-a-Lago since he promised on September 25 in Atlanta last year to make Juneteenth a national holiday if elected to a second term.
Even so, there were Trumpists among the 14 no votes offering excuses ranging from “we already have enough paid holidays for federal workers” to hair-splitting about referring to Juneteenth as an “independence” day when America already has one of those. The most noteworthy statement came from Matt Rosendale of Montana:
“Let’s call an ace an ace. This is an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country. Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no.”
Critics tended to focus on the first line of that, winking at the phrase “let’s call a spade a spade” in a statement about a holiday that originated with African-Americans, but the rest of it is stupider. The point of making Juneteenth a national holiday is to signal that it shouldn’t be celebrated by a single racial “identity.” It’s a day for national celebration, unity in the belief that ending slavery was a great American achievement. It’s a hell of a thing to vote no on recognizing the day that your black countrymen were liberated from bondage because you believe in “treating everyone equally, regardless of race.”
The babbling about Critical Race Theory is icing on the cake, less a meaningful criticism than Rosendale signaling that he’s going to run for statewide office in Montana eventually by riding the hobbyhorse of the moment. John Cornyn, who championed making Juneteeth a holiday (the celebration originated in his home state of Texas), responded to Rosendale’s statement on Twitter with a single word: “Kooky.”
There’s been a bit, although only a bit, of grumbling in certain other populist quarters this week about the new holiday. For instance:
America only has one Independence Day and it's on July 4th, 1776.
If you're a conservative who is okay with the "Juneteenth National Independence Day Act," you're not paying attention to what the left is truly trying to accomplish.
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) June 17, 2021
If you want to know how seriously Kirk takes his own critique, go look at what he’s said about Juneteenth in the past. There’s not a shred of doubt he’d be saluting Trump if he were the one signing the bill that made it a holiday today. His grift is pure: Whatever the GOP base wants to hear at a given moment, that’s what he’ll tell them, irrespective of what he might have said five minutes ago. Tucker Carlson also whined last night about Cornyn being a “supposedly conservative senator” because he supported the holiday, which was convenient since Cornyn has no following among the populist right that’s made Tucker a mega-star. Why didn’t he pick on “supposedly conservative” Gaetz or Greene or Gohmert for voting for the bill instead?
Why didn’t he pick on Trump for endorsing the holiday last fall and issuing a presidential proclamation last summer celebrating it?
Whatever. Here’s Biden making it official this afternoon.
— POLITICO (@politico) June 17, 2021