The Republican party has a pretty consistent although anemic relationship with African American voters and politicians. Since the 1970’s the GOP’s percentage of the Black vote has been dwindling, and the last Republican to swing comfortably more than 10% of the black vote was Bob Dole in 1996 when he got 14% of the African American vote against Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. Despite these facts, there have been Black republicans in the trenches fighting for the GOP and taking GOP principles to higher office.
JC Watts, Michael Steele, Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Jennifer Carroll and Tim Scott are just a few African Americans who have been fighting the good fight for the GOP through thick and thin and have demonstrated loyalty to a party. So you have to wonder why more African American Republicans aren’t legitimately furious over the cynical rise to power and ham fisted embrace that the Republican Party has given to Artur Davis.
Davis has been the new “It Boy” for the GOP ever since he had an 11th hour political epiphany earlier this year. After serving three terms as a Democratic Congressman from Alabama, and seconding the nomination of Barack Obama in 2008 he’s come out of the closet as a true Republican after all. Now he’s got a choice speaking spot at the Republican convention, is all over Fox News and is the toast of Tea Party town. None more praised than the recently converted. But let’s be honest, just how sincere is this conversion?
Federal politicians do occasionally switch parties and with varying levels of success. Arlen Specter went from Republican to Democrat to save his Senate seat in Pennsylvania (he lost), and former Florida governor Charlie Crist lost when he switched from Republican to Independent to run for Senate. Joe Lieberman switched from Democrat to Independent to save his Senate job in Connecticut and he won. All of these men switched parties for the most believable reason of them all, to keep their jobs. None of them pretended that their entire political careers and ideologies changed while watching a very special episode of Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity.
More importantly, they stayed in their states and were willing to work with their newly adopted parties consequences be damned. But Artur Davis? His transformation basically amounts to a political temper tantrum turned into political opportunity. His eyes were too big for his stomach when he decided to run for governor of Alabama and when he got shellacked in the primary he blamed everybody from the state party to Obama for not having his back. Now suddenly he’s a Republican? Any card carrying member of the African American GOP establishment should be disgusted. Making him the party poster boy when so many have fought so hard for so long is a smack in the face.
Artur Davis’ speech at the Republican convention in Tampa makes for good political theatre but it will not move the needle in the election of 2012. He won’t lure any Black votes away from Obama. African American voters are going to stay away from the GOP as along as the party keeps insulting them with the “Get off the Democratic Plantation” meme. Since when is insulting constituents a smart way to win their vote? Democrats haven’t dominated the women’s vote for 30 years by saying “Take off your apron and get out of the GOP kitchen!” White independents don’t know who he is, and what is known of his whiplash – inducing political transformation makes him look like the kind of weasely politician that nobody likes anyway. Bill Clinton could give a more credible critique of Barack Obama than Davis. (And he’d probably do it too!)
If anything the rise of Artur Davis demonstrates yet again how the Republican Party strategy for minorities is still a Battleship levels when the Democrats have at least moved up to Axis and Allies. Rather than promoting a political turncoat who will switch loyalties, parties and even states when he doesn’t get his way they should be promoting Black Republicans who have proven their worth and ideological commitment. There are half a dozen young dynamic African American Republicans more worthy of his coveted prime time speaking spot. Have Florida Lt. Govenor Jennifer Carroll, highest ranking black Republican woman in America get in stage and explain the value of Voter ID laws, or Tim Scott (R-SC) talk about his commitment to fiscal responsibility, or even Michael Steele speak about how the party needs to stand FOR something instead of just stand against Obama.
Politics is a dirty game, but loyalty matters, and you don’t treat your new friends better than your old ones. Artur Davis has gone from failed politician to GOP political headliner despite the fact that he’s never won anything for the party, won’t swing the vote and isn’t even nationally known. This is yet another example of how the Republican Party still can’t figure out how to use “Their Blacks” (as Ann Coulter put it) as anything more than month old cat-nip for swing voters rather than true political contributors.