It was just under a year ago when I had the opportunity to interview former Congressman Artur Davis in what was described at the time as a “candid” one-on-one about his political past, present and future. It was December 2011, and the once rising star Alabama gubernatorial candidate was flowing a bit hot over grapevine whispers about a planned party switch.
“When people say that, they mean it to be some kind of a smear, or some kind of attack. I don’t believe in that kind of politics,” Davis snapped, a noticeable spark of irritation that someone would even ask or hint that he’d go Republican.
What a difference eight months can make. Somewhere along the line, Davis got the deal he wanted or felt comfortable enough to go public with his new age Black Republicanism. However, this is by no means a “sell out” move. Nor is Davis staging a one-man “Uncle Tom” show as many a stale Black commentator has suggested in recent days. This is, instead, a very shrewd (if clumsy attempt) at political revenge and relevance.
Davis, frantically scraping for limelight under the shadow of his very outdated high top fade haircut, must feed the lurking fire in his belly. If anything, his demise in Alabama politics and present rise among Republican rank-and-file is a cautionary tale of what happens to Black politicos who spurn the first Black president. They are relegated to the fringes – see Tavis Smiley and Cornel West for more reference. Or, they find themselves begging for crumbs of forgiveness – see Newark Mayor Corey Booker.
Davis didn’t want to go out like that, despite the lingering sting of his embarrassing 2010 Democratic primary loss to Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. That’s what this is really about. He was supposed to be Alabama’s first Black governor, actively styling his campaign after President Barack Obama’s historic 2008 win. In a state nearly 30% African American, Davis expected an easy path to the nomination. Instead, he ended up with an embarrassing 62% to 38% loss to Sparks as Alabama’s Black political machine put their chips on the White guy, refusing to forgive Davis for his vote against a popular Obama health care reform bill and fed up with the Congressman’s contrarian center-right positions. The former 2008 Obama campaign co-chair didn’t even get support from his hero president, and the Congressional Black Caucus, usually known for backing its members, barely made an effort for Davis. As quickly as Sparks rocked him, Davis fell hard and fast into an open coffin laying only yards behind him in the political graveyard.