Ex-Democratic Star on Blacks and the GOP

In Part 2 of our Q&A, Artur Davis talks about ditching Obama and defining a new message for Republicans.

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TR: As you know, there's a stigma that black Republicans often hold among other African Americans. How do you feel about inhabiting a political space where many people may be quick to write off you and your ideas?

AD: I've had people writing my ideas off for years, so that wouldn't be a new experience. I recognize that there is a huge loathing in the African-American community for the Republican Party. And I recognize that it's only intensified in the era of Barack Obama. I fully understand that many African Americans look at Republicans as racists who can't get over a black man being in the White House.

I also realize that people have short attention spans and that African Americans forget how ugly and aggressive the opposition was to Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson, back in the 1960s. I've been in many black churches on Sunday and heard preachers say, "They ain't never done no president like this before!" That's wrong historically. But at the end of the day, Barack Obama will not always be on the ballot. So I do think there's an opportunity for Republicans to get a second hearing with African Americans as the years go on.

TR: What do you think could eventually draw more African Americans to the Republican Party?

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AD: One thing is happening in the Republican Party that the Democratic Party can't say: African Americans who don't live in African-American communities are having a chance to serve their country at the political level. That includes Allen West in a white district in Florida; Tim Scott in a white district in South Carolina; and Mia Love, a 36-year-old black woman running for Congress in a Utah district that has virtually no black people.

These individuals are going to be examples of people of color holding office, having a chance to serve their country, without their race disqualifying them. As younger African Americans see that these people are having a chance to participate in the debate in this country, even though most people in their communities don't look like them or share their backgrounds, I think that's going to become a point of attraction for a lot of African Americans under 35.

Because what they want is to live in a country that doesn't start the conversation with, "You're black, so therefore you have to live in this kind of community to hold office. You have to have this kind of point of view to be relevant or be taken seriously. You have to do this to earn your stripes."

Many younger African Americans want to be Americans who have a chance to thrive based on their ability. That's going to be the biggest selling point for the Republican Party in the next 10 years, and that's going to get the interest of a lot of younger African Americans. [Editor's note: Fifteen black Democrats in the House represent districts that are predominantly nonblack, including several -- Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), André Carson (Ind.) and Keith Ellison (Minn.) -- who represent majority-white districts.]

Now, once [their] interest happens, then the burden will be on the Republican Party to have ideas on the table where those younger African Americans can say, "That sounds like something I think is right." I think in the next decade, as Republicans talk more about really shaking up our schools, making the way we pay for entitlements more fair and streamlining government to make it more efficient, then I think more younger African Americans are going to say, "I hear some sound arguments over there, and I see people like me over there succeeding and thriving regardless of their race." That's going to be what pulls African Americans into the party over the next decade.

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