Artur Davis’ Almost Principled Defection

The former congressman's reasons for switching from Democrat to Republican sound a little fishy.

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Give him credit, at least, for voting consistently: Davis is one of a handful of congressmen to vote against both Obama’s health care reform and President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. But while he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Wednesday that he opposed Obama pushing “a major piece of domestic legislation that over 50 percent of the country opposed,” it was just four years ago in The Root that Davis declared “a country energized by Obama would write a new social contract on health insurance.”

Plus, he’s neglecting to note that according to a PPP Poll taken at the time (pdf), his vote against Obamacare — disagree or agree — ran counter to the preference of 80 percent of Alabama Democrats and very likely a majority of the people he represented in a district that’s more than 60 percent African American.

So much, then, for the consent of the governed.

What Else?

And in explaining his break with Democrats, Davis blogged, “I have regularly criticized an agenda that would punish businesses and job creators with more taxes just as they are trying to thrive again” — even though marginal tax rates haven’t risen since Obama took office. He also writes that “the law can’t continue to favor one race over another in offering hard-earned slots in colleges.” It’s a fair point, but one that contrasts sharply with his wish in 2008 that Obama would defend Affirmative Action as an “opponent of race-blind admissions that would destroy diversity on our elite campuses.”

Presumably Davis has issues with other Obama-era policies, too — but he hasn’t said recently if he’s still OK with tripling the number of women on the Supreme Court, preserving the banking industry or eliminating Osama bin Laden.

If he’s really a better fit with Republicans, then there’s nothing wrong with Davis switching sides of the aisle. He’s a reasonable, earnest politician who’d certainly be a more credible alternative to the current chorus of two-dimensional black Republicans ranging from the ideologically lazy Rep. Allen West to the absurd Herman Cain.

Minds change, after all, and in the post-Obama era (which may begin sooner than you think) black voters will almost certainly — if slowly — realign as both parties grapple with an array of 21st-century problems. But Davis shouldn’t pretend he’s having a Reagan-esque, “I didn’t leave the Democrats, the Democrats left me” moment.

Democrats, Obama and Alabamans didn’t toss Davis overboard. He’s jumping ship.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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