At the Heritage Foundation’s Bloggers Briefing on Tuesday, newly-minted Republican Artur Davis, who had been a Democrat from Alabama and one of President Barack Obama’s earliest supporters, mocked Obama for not delivering on his promises. Davis reiterated his belief that if government can force someone to buy health insurance then there are no limits to what the government could force someone to buy. He discussed how intolerant liberals can be of those who do not tow the liberal orthodoxy, which was one of the many reasons why he chose to left the Democrats and chose to become a Virginia Republican.
Davis switched parties and became a Republican because, he, like vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman and former Georgia Senator Zell Miller, saw there was no room in the party for moderates.
Since Democrats refused to let former Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey speak at the 1992 national convention because of he was pro-life, moderate Democrats, mostly from the South, have accelerated their desertion of the party, and Miller’s exit in 2004 was more of an exclamation point more than anything else.
And while Davis himself is a Southerner, what makes Davis’s conversion more significant is it could be a leading indicator for he, an African-American, jumped ship at a time when Blacks overwhelmingly support Obama and vote for Democrats.
As Davis has himself acknowledged, Blacks will still vote overwhelmingly for Obama, but Republicans have a chance to gain more of the African-American vote after Obama leaves the national stage in 2012 or 2016.
When he announced he was becoming a Republican, Davis acknowledged that he has been approached by Republicans in Virginia to run for office in the Old Dominion.
Referring to the Democrat Party, Davis wrote that “parties change” and “ this is not Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party (and he knows that even if he can’t say it.)
Davis also noted that he has “regularly criticized an agenda that would punish businesses and job creators with more taxes just as they are trying to thrive again,” “taken issue with an administration that has lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured,” and written that “faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too.”
“You’ve read that in my view, the law can’t continue to favor one race over another in offering hard-earned slots in colleges: America has changed, and we are now diverse enough that we don’t need to accommodate a racial spoils system,” Davis wrote. “So, if I were to leave the sidelines, it would be as a member of the Republican Party that is fighting the drift in this country in a way that comes closest to my way of thinking: wearing a Democratic label no longer matches what I know about my country and its possibilities.”
What makes Davis’s conversion even more significant was that he was not only pushed out by more liberal factions in the Democratic Party but by the party’s most prominent African-American leaders like Jesse Jackson, who essentially slurred him as an “Uncle Tom” for opposing Obamacare.
“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill from Alabama,” Jackson once said of Davis. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”
New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez, who is of Mexican descent, repeatedly recounts the story of when she and her husband went to a lunch with two local Republicans. Martinez had been a Democrat because, like many Hispanics and African-Americans, her parents were. After the lunch, she and her husband sat in their car, and Martinez turned to him and said, “Chuck, we’re Republicans. What do we do now?”
Similarly, Davis will have to argue that many African Americans, especially African-American professionals and entrepreneurs, are Republicans who just do not know it yet.
This week, Davis said that he just did not get what he voted for with Obama.
Many African-Americans live in communities that have not improved even though they consistently vote for Democrats. They have been sold a false bill of goods, and if Davis can convince more African-Americans to realize they are not getting what they are voting for by reflexively voting for liberals, he could be a powerful voice for Republicans.
African-Americans vote nearly 9 to 1 for Democrats. If Republicans can get 25 percent of African-Americans, they would be much more formidable than they are now, especially in more liberals states in which they struggle. And in Virginia, a state in which African-American voters make up nearly 20 percent of the vote, Davis can help Republicans build more bridges, which would make Virginia’s GOP even more successful statewide than it has been in recent years. If Davis succeeds in Virginia, there will be ripple effects across the nation, and that is why Davis - and his continuing political evolution -- is worth watching.