‘Democrat’ Artur Davis Speaking at Republican Convention

A black 'Democrat' who seconded Obama's nomination in 2008 is endorsing Romney in 2012. It's not a big deal.

Following news that unnamed Republicans will speak at the Democratic convention, former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis announced that he’ll be speaking at the Republican convention.

WaPo (“Artur Davis, who backed Obama in 2008, to speak at GOP convention“):

Former congressman Artur Davis, who officially seconded President Obama’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic convention, said Wednesday that he will cap a remarkable political metamorphosis by addressing the Republican convention this month — calling for Obama’s defeat.

Davis, 44, who served in the House as a Democrat from Alabama from 2003 to 2011, said in a telephone interview that he has been given a speaking slot at the Aug. 27-30 Republican convention in Tampa.

[…]

Davis has since become a vocal advocate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Virginia, where he now lives. On Wednesday, he spoke on Romney’s behalf at an event in Ballston, attacking Vice President Biden for a recent comment that Republicans would put voters “back in chains.”

Davis accused Biden on Wednesday of spreading “racial viciousness” and said the vice president’s comment “ought to embarrass President Obama.” He said in a CNN interview: “It’s a divisive tactic that’s insulting to African Americans. It’s insulting to the American people.” He added, “It was wrong … and the president ought to say it was wrong.”

[…]

While serving in the House, Davis became one of Obama’s earliest and most vocal supporters on Capitol Hill. In 2008, he told the Democratic convention crowd that watching the nomination of Obama, a fellow African American, “tells us everything that is right about my country.”

Davis is an impressive figure, having graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law and gotten elected to Congress at 35. He represented Alabama’s “majority minority” district, the 7th, where I lived as a graduate student in the 1990s (I’d just moved to Virginia when he was elected).

Is this a big “get” for the Republicans? Not really. As with Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, the degree to which he’s really a Democrat is in dispute.

Sure, Davis endorsed Obama four years ago and he’s nominally a Democrat. And, yes, he’s black. Still, he’s contemplated running for Congress as a Republican, voted against ObamaCare, and  has written for National Review.

He ran for governor of Alabama in 2010 but lost in the Democratic primary. He received widespread criticism for running as a centrist and ostentatiously refusing to seek the support of the state’s black political machine. Consequentially, he actually lost the black vote, including his own district. Charles Dean’s write-up for the Birmingham News (“Artur Davis’ loss in Alabama’s black precincts ‘stunning“) puts it in perspective:

Artur Davis had hoped to make a different kind of history than he did Tuesday. He had hoped to become the first black man in Alabama’s 181-year history to win his party’s nomination for governor. Instead, the 42-year-old Birmingham congressman became the first African-American candidate in a statewide Alabama race to lose the black vote. And he lost it overwhelmingly to white opponent Ron Sparks, who crushed Davis in the Democratic primary.

Sparks beat Davis in 61 of the state’s 67 counties. In Davis’ 7th Congressional District, an expanse of 12 counties that runs from downtown Birmingham southwest to Tuscaloosa and then dips down to include nine of the state’s Black Belt counties, Davis managed to win just two counties, Choctaw and Sumter. Even there, his victory was slim; Sparks pulled 48 percent of the vote in those counties.

In predominantly black counties such as Wilcox and Perry, Sparks got 70-plus percent of the vote. In Greene, Marengo, Lowndes and Hale counties, Sparks picked up 60-plus percent of the vote. In Pickens, Dallas and Macon counties, Sparks got 50-plus percent of the vote.

Davis lost his home county, Jefferson, where Sparks racked up 58 percent of the vote. Davis won only a single majority black polling place in all of Jefferson County. He even lost his own polling place — Southtown Housing Community Center — by a handful of votes to Sparks.

In majority-white counties, the news was even worse for Davis, who had pinned his hopes for white votes on a record as a more conservative black lawmaker who was willing to build coalitions across race and party lines.

White voters didn’t seem to buy it Tuesday. In heavily white-populated counties such as DeKalb, Jackson, Randolph and Cherokee, Sparks got 80-plus percent of the vote. Twenty-one of the state’s 67 counties, most of them predominantly white, gave Sparks 70-plus percent of the vote. Another 24 counties gave Sparks 60-plus percent of the vote.

Davis’ biggest win came in Mobile County, the state’s second most-populous county. Davis picked up 60 percent of the vote there. Davis also beat Sparks in heavily Republican Shelby and Baldwin counties, where relatively few people cast Democratic ballots compared to Republican ones.

The magnitude of Sparks’ win and Davis’ loss shocked longtime political observers.

“It’s stunning. It’s absolutely amazing,” said Birmingham-Southern College political science professor Natalie Davis. “You can’t thumb your nose at your base and that is what Artur did when he voted no on health care. Still, when you look at how Davis lost a race that was so much his to win, it’s just staggering.”

Glen Browder, a former congressman and professor emeritus of political science at Jacksonville State University, said Davis gambled that, by voting no on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and then refusing to court longtime black political organizations for their support, he would appeal to white voters. ”And it is so clear now that Davis’ gamble failed miserably,” Browder said.

Indeed, Davis hinted on his personal blog a few months back that he might officially change parties.*

As with Lieberman, it’s not shocking that Davis is embittered with a party that rejected him so soundly. Miller, who had been a hero of the Democratic Party before his raucous and over-the-top speech castigating John Kerry in 2004, was a big get for the Republicans. Davis, not so much.

________________

*I added this sentence to the original post and put scare quotes around ‘Democrat’ in the title subsequent to original publication. 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. There is an interesting dynamic. While there are racists within the Republican party, there are also many who wish to demonstrate they are not. In fact, that group often seems so desperate that they’ll endorse somewhat low quality candidates, sometimes even place them in Congress, to show their open mindedness.

    Herman Cain at one point led the Republican polls for President of the United States.

    Artur Davis seems much more genuine and accomplished than that, but the cynic in me says he’s found a good gig. His speaker’s fees in 2013 won’t be bad.

  2. rudderpedals says:

    Artur Davis switched parties and is a Republican. A sour grapes GOPer.

  3. wr says:

    Like Harold Ford Jr. before him, Davis has figured out that selling out everything those who once supported him believe is where the money is.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    “…Miller, who had been a hero of the Democratic Party before his raucous and over-the-top speech castigating John Kerry in 2004, was a big get for the Republicans…”

    And then the “big get” promptly showed his lack of sanity by threatening a host on TV…which is the last time we’ve heard from the “big get”.

    Only in the Republican world are things so black and white that every African-American is expected to support Obama and any alleged defector is a “big get”. The obvious question…would Artur Davis ever be asked to speak at the Republican convention if he was white?

  5. rudderpedals says:
  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What’s sort of funny about this — in a dark comedy sense — is there are lily-white liberals out there in the chattering classes, and especially on college and university campuses and in the mass media, who’ll react to this news by concluding subjectively that Davis is a traitor to his race, without being able even to grasp the irony. Seriously.

  7. Nikki says:

    Following news that unnamed Republicans will speak at the Democratic convention, former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis announced that he’ll be speaking at the Republican convention.

    Con-men gotta con; grifters gotta grift.

  8. MBunge says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “by concluding subjectively that Davis is a traitor to his race, without being able even to grasp the irony.”

    Davis deliberately distanced himself from his fellow African-Americans in order to court the support (approval?) of white voters. Those white voters STILL rejected him, and Davis’ response is to get angry with the very people HE was trying to run away from. I doubt irony-grasping is something Davis is all that good at.

    Mike

  9. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge: In fairness to Davis, he was always a man without a home. The Congressional Black Caucus endorsed his predecessor, Earl Hilliard, in the 2003 primary despite Hilliard having some serious ethics issues. Additionally, Hilliard ran a race-baiting campaign against Davis, claiming all he’d ever done for his fellow blacks was put them in jail. Davis nonetheless won but was given the cold shoulder by the CBC.

    But, yeah, his strategy of running a general election campaign in the Democratic primary for governor was at best dubious.

  10. @wr:

    I only know Harold Ford Jr from Morning Joe. I like him. I like Joe too, though there are times when I tell my TV “you’re lying.” At those times I’d like Harold or someone to speak up, but it could be that he has self-control, knows that listeners can manage a lot of that stuff, and he probably understands his limitations as “guest.” Joe’s a pretty good guy, but probably wouldn’t stick with a guest who got in his face when he’s rollin’

  11. (On a daily chat show, there’s always tomorrow.)

  12. george says:

    @wr:

    Like Harold Ford Jr. before him, Davis has figured out that selling out everything those who once supported him believe is where the money is.

    I don’t know, it sounds like his political views (like that of probably a majority of the population – most of which don’t even bother voting because of it) doesn’t fit well with either party. Switching parties is no more selling out than changing brands of cars – and probably less of a big deal than going between PC’s and Mac’s (though Unix is the best anyway).

    Selling out your ideals is bad, selling out your country is bad. Switching between two parties, neither of which match your particular blend of ideals, is house keeping. Disclaimer: I’ve voted for both parties numerous times, and also being a Canadian citizen, I have in the same calendar year voted for NDP and Conservative parties, a much bigger range than Democrat-Republican. Because loyalty should belong to the country and its citizens, not to a political party. Politics just looks like a team sport, it really shouldn’t be.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    Artur Davis? I’m sure that Davis’s defection will
    reduce Obama’s support among Black Voters from 92.0% to 92.0%.

  14. jan says:

    Artur Davis was a conservative democrat in his fiscal views, which was exemplified by his voting pattern, especially his ‘no’ vote on the ACA. Changing parties was simply an acknowledgment of the growing differences he had with the democrats. Much like Reagan, he felt the party left him, rather than the other way around, as some have insinuated here.

    Furthermore, no one owes anything to their party, either a political representative or a constituent, if that person finds a commonality of shared interests and POVs diminishing, especially when the direction goes more pointedly in another direction. Jon Huntsman is in a similar mode, speaking at the democratic convention, because his stances are melted more with that side of the aisle.

    In the meantime, Davis is speaking at the GOP convention, is a plus, not because he’s a ‘big catch’ from an opposing party, or because he’s Black. Rather, he is a delight to listen to. He speaks with dignity, candor absent rancor, and depth. I’ve been transfixed when I’ve had the opportunity to hear his interviews. So, I think he will be a solid addition to any party podium.

  15. rudderpedals says:

    A man of negotiable affections == No current party affiliation

    Run him in prime time.

  16. PGlenn says:

    @john personna: Yes, there is an interesting dynamic. While there are racists within the Democrat party, there are also many who wish to demonstrate they are not. In fact, that group often seems so desperate that they’ll accuse the other party of endorsing “somewhat low quality candidates,” (were you using racial code or a dog whistle, here? I’m not up on the tactics), to show their open mindedness.

  17. stonetools says:

    Ah well, I guess Arthur Davis can now follow the part that Clarence Thomas followed before him. An appointment to a federal government position or maybe even directly to a federal district court judgeship.Then , a couple years later….

  18. Scott says:

    Seems like a pretty big deal to me that the guy who seconded President Obama’s nomination to be president at the 2008 Democratic National Convention is going to give a speech 4 years later at the Republican National Convention urging Obama’s defeat.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Scott: It would be except for the path Davis has taken over that same period. He’s become alienated from the Democratic Party and intimated that he’s now a Republican—for reasons having next to do with President Obama or his policies. That makes it much less of a big deal.

  20. David M says:

    @Scott:

    Seems like a pretty small deal to me that the guy who voted against President Obama’s health care reform bill in 2009 is going to give a speech 3 years later at the Republican National Convention urging Obama’s defeat

    FIFY

  21. wr says:

    @MBunge: “I doubt irony-grasping is something Davis is all that good at.”

    It’s not exactly Tsar’s strong suit, either…

  22. Scott says:

    @James Joyner: @David M:

    Has it ever happened before that a person who has nominated a candidate for president (or seconded the nomination) from one party turned around and given a speech at the opposing party’s convention 4 years later urging his defeat? There was some party switching in the 1960s and 70s, so perhaps it has happened before. I don’t have the answer.

    However, if it is a “historic” first then I think that makes it a bigger deal than you want to acknowledge. Either way, I’m fairly sure the Republicans are going to hype the heck out of it and make it seem more important than it really is. So if it is a “historic” first, I’m sure we’ll hear about it at the convention.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Scott:

    Has it ever happened before that a person who has nominated a candidate for president (or seconded the nomination) from one party turned around and given a speech at the opposing party’s convention 4 years later urging his defeat?

    That’s a pretty limited universe. But, hell, we’ve had a vice presidential nominee of a party turn around and endorse the nominee of the other party eight years later.

  24. Tano says:

    And we have had a former president who actually ran against his hand-picked successor when the latter ran for reelection (TR in 1912).

  25. @PGlenn:

    Herman Cain, quoting the Pokemon song, affected me deeply.

  26. bill says:

    hey just got here, anyone label him an “oreo” yet!?

  27. mantis says:

    @jan:

    Artur Davis was a conservative democrat in his fiscal views, which was exemplified by his voting pattern, especially his ‘no’ vote on the ACA. Changing parties was simply an acknowledgment of the growing differences he had with the democrats. Much like Reagan, he felt the party left him, rather than the other way around, as some have insinuated here.

    The party left him by supporting health care reform, which they’ve been pushing for decades? Sorry, that’s bullshit.

    Jon Huntsman is in a similar mode, speaking at the democratic convention, because his stances are melted more with that side of the aisle.

    Huntsman is not speaking at the Democratic convention. That’s Brietbart bullshit. It’s not surprising to us that you read and believe anything a wingnut site will print, but it should probably give you pause if you have any intellectual integrity.

    In the meantime, Davis is speaking at the GOP convention, is a plus, not because he’s a ‘big catch’ from an opposing party, or because he’s Black.

    More bullshit. The only reason he is invited is his skin color.

  28. mantis says:

    By the way, Davis is a perfect example of why the wingnuts who claim black people will vote for Obama (or any black person) no matter what actions they take or positions they hold are completely full of shit. Black Alabama voters rejected Davis in favor of the white guy.

  29. @mantis:

    What! Jan still thinks Huntsman is speaking? That’s incredible.

    BTW, do you all remember when Huntsman was spotted as an early contender to beat Obama? Do you remember how Obama made him an offer designed at once to appeal to his patriotism and to cleave him from the far right?

    It worked, but it’s really sad that it did. Huntsman is pretty far right, but he’s now off-limits because he didn’t practice non-stop obstructionism.

  30. BluQueen says:

    If he feels that the Democratic party had rejectyed him, what makes he think that the the GOP is gonna REJECT him MORE? Bye, Rep. Davis, and don’t come back!! You had jumped from the skillet to the frying pan!!

  31. mattb says:

    @john personna:

    What! Jan still thinks Huntsman is speaking? That’s incredible.

    Honestly, is it all that incredible?

    Jan’s demonstrated across her posts a habit of parroting bad facts, even after we’ve corrected her (see her recent “Obama’s bio on a Book Jacket said he was born in Kenya” — we’ve corrected her a few times on previous posts and she keeps repeating it as fact).

  32. Yvette W. says:

    @john personna: And let guess…There are NO RACISTS in the Democrat party, correct? There’s no such thing a BLACK RACIST (e.g., Eric Holder, or NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous), right?

    Riiiiiiiight.

  33. Yvette W. says:

    @john personna: @john personna: RE-POST (Sorry for the typos in my previous post).

    OK, John – Just so that I’m clear…There are NO RACISTS in the Democrat party, correct? There’s no such thing as a BLACK RACIST (e.g., Eric Holder, or NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, or New Black Panther Party Memeber Malik Zulu Shabazz ), right?

    Riiiiiiiight.

    Secondly, PLEASE NAME A SINGLE BLACK REPUBLICAN that **IS NOT** well accomplished and highly intelligent…

    Tell me – Are YOU referring to Rep. Allen West, or Rep. Tim Scott? Are you referring Mia Love – The Black Republican mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and the Republican Party 2012 nominee in Utah’s 4th congressional district.

    What intellectual weaknesses do find with these BLACK TEA PARTY Candidates???

    Answer: NONE.

    YOU, John, ARE A RACISTS AND YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO KNOW IT…