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.

AD: It’s not a matter of blaming Barack Obama for that. It’s a matter of recognizing that I thought Barack Obama had a unique potential to move past it. You vote for someone for president hopefully because you think they can change the country in a certain way.

I believed that Barack Obama was not just another politician who was going to be limited by the circumstances and constraints of the moment. I thought that he had the potential to be a transformative figure, and that was the basis of my enthusiasm. My saying that things have gotten worse and moved backward is not saying that I blame Barack Obama for that. It’s saying that the potential that I saw five years ago was not realized.

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?