Artur Davis: Why I Left the Democratic Party

In Part 1 of our interview, the newly minted Republican addresses speculation on his big switch.

(Continued from Page 1)

AD: Imagine if a Democratic candidate, senator or congressman were to say this week, "The Supreme Court is going to issue a ruling soon on the Affordable Care Act, and I sure hope the court overturns it." Can you imagine what the reaction would be? And this is, mind you, two years after 36 Democrats voted against the Affordable Care Act in the House. I can't imagine a Democrat saying that.

Take same-sex marriage. Can you imagine if a prominent Democratic elected official were to say this week, "I think the 1st Circuit got it wrong on the Defense of Marriage Act, and I think the president's got it wrong on same-sex marriage"? I don't mean Sanford Bishop in Georgia, or an African-American politician perhaps in the South. I mean if a major Democratic figure were to say that, that person would be denounced instantly.

Look at what happened to Cory Booker on Bain Capital. Mind you, that wasn't a philosophical disagreement; that was a tactical statement that the Obama campaign was unwise to attack Mitt Romney's history running Bain Capital. Cory Booker was savaged, particularly in the blogosphere, for just tactically questioning an element of the campaign.

Last fall when Occupy Wall Street was in vogue, there were a few major Democrats who said, "Well, they need to get their act together and develop a sense of priority." But I don't remember a single major Democratic elected official who said that their focus on inequality is an overstatement, is an exaggeration, is wrong, and that the dominant focus of the administration ought to be finding ways to strengthen the entrepreneurial class.

I could go on. But on the issues that I gave you, if a Democrat were to be on the "wrong" side of those issues, that person would be run out of the party, and certainly his opinion would not be given equal weight in the debate. That's the lack of diversity that exists.

TR: Today's Republican elected officials also seem to walk in rigid lockstep, primarily concerned with saying no to everything short of their ideological perspective. Isn't there a similar lack of diversity on the other side of the aisle?

AD: There's no question the Republican Party has moved to the right. There's no question there's an element of the Republican Party that is purely concerned with saying no, and an element that isn't interested in new ideas.

I don't think that's the whole of the Republican Party, though. What I have seen is a group of Republicans who are thinking about how to use government responsibly and effectively. They recognize that you can't just gut government and throw it in the water somewhere, but it has to be used in an effective way.

I've seen a significant debate within the Republican Party about what the future of entitlements ought to look like. I see Republican governors like Gov. [Bobby] Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. [Chris] Christie in New Jersey wading into education policy, trying to figure out how to challenge the unions to make schools and teachers more accountable. I hear Sen. [Marco] Rubio talking about a compromise for the DREAM Act, something that I voted for several years ago, and talking in an intelligent, constructive way about immigration policy.

I see a debate between the libertarian wing of the party, if you will, and the more traditional wing about social issues. I see an emerging center that says that federalism is going to be the answer on these questions, that ultimately states and communities are going to chart their own destiny, and that perhaps we're too quick to look to Washington, D.C., and the federal Constitution for answers on a lot of the social issues that we face.