Pastor, First Iconium Baptist Church; Chair, People for the American Way's African American Ministers in Action
Well, Artur Davis is sure making the most of his recent transformation from Democrat to Republican. He's secured a high-profile gig speaking at the Republican National Convention today. And he dutifully made the rounds of right-wing talk television recently, claiming that Vice President Joe Biden was engaging in "racial viciousness" when he contrasted Romney's promise to unchain Wall Street with policies that would put real people back in chains. Mr. Davis was deeply, deeply offended on behalf of the African American people.
Whatever you thought of Biden's rhetorical riff, it doesn't even come close to the viciousness that is being engaged in regularly by the Romney campaign, with its deceptive ads warning white working-class voters that Obama is turning over their money to people who just don't want to work. That's just one of the racial dog whistles being blown in this campaign year. Remember when Romney was gloating over the boos he received at the NAACP when he denounced "Obamacare," and characterized supporters of the law as the kind of people who want "more free stuff?" Or John Sununu being trotted out to denounce the president's "foreign" ideas and wish the president would "learn how to be an American."
Of course that strategy makes Davis all the more useful to Romney: putting his face in front of the television cameras insulates Romney from being called out on the coded racial insinuations his campaign is engaging in even while accusing Obama of running a campaign based on division and hate.
Davis, who was an Obama co-chair four years ago, is playing his part to the hilt, hitting on all the Romney talking points, including the suggestion that President Obama and the Democratic Party are enemies of people of faith. He describes himself to Tea Party audiences as a "converted sinner." He says Obama is engaged in Nixonian tactics on race.
Mr. Davis, for those of you who don't have the pleasure of knowing his background, was a Democratic congressman from Alabama for four terms. After backing Obama's presidential race, he decided to run for the governorship. The only problem is that he was so eager to attract conservative voters, and ran far to the right (opposing the health care reform that had been a centerpiece of Obama's campaign), that many of his constituents abandoned him, and he was soundly beaten in the Democratic primary.
Since then he's apparently been nursing his bitterness at his state and party. He moved to northern Virginia, suggested he'd like to run for Congress as a Republican, and launched a successful new career as an African-American opponent of President Obama. He's got the column at National Review, the invitations to Fox News and Pat Robertson's 700 Club. In In June, he got asked to speak by the American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform, where he praised the Tea Party. He denounces affirmative action in higher education a "racial spoils system." He calls Paul Ryan's abandon-the-poor budget a "blueprint for a shared prosperity." And now we can look forward to him trashing President Obama from the stage in Tampa.
As a member of Congress, Davis was never a progressive like most of his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues. And he's clearly positioning himself as a man for these Tea Party times. Abandoning his former supporters, his former colleagues, and his president, makes him in some ways the personification of the Romney-Ryan-Ayn Rand glorification of self-interest. He's got his, America. Who cares what you got?