Artur Davis: Why I Left the Democratic Party
In Part 1 of our interview, the newly minted Republican addresses speculation on his big switch.
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.
Those are very interesting debates to me, and I see those happening within the Republican Party. I associate myself with the center right of those debates, the side that believes in being thoughtful and constructive. There is no center right in the Democratic Party. There is in the Republican Party, and it fits, in many ways, how I see the world.
TR: Despite your assessment of the parties, you said that leaving the Democratic Party was a hard decision for you. Why?
AD: It was hard because, obviously, when you're part of a political party, you build up a record of positions on issues. I knew full well that if I were to switch parties, the first thing that would happen is that people in the Democratic Party would recycle every comment I've ever made that criticized Republicans or praised Democrats, or every time I've taken a position that's at odds with the Republican Party. I knew there would be a group of people who would aggressively argue that it was simply motivated by politics.
I knew that the largest elements of the mainstream media would be much less inclined to take seriously my actions than if the opposite had occurred -- say, a Republican leaving the Republican Party and endorsing Barack Obama. I knew there would be a significant amount of opposition. I tried to weigh the question: If I identified myself as a Republican, would it somehow diminish my voice? Would it somehow limit my capacity to have a voice because of the ferocity of the pushback?
I decided, first of all, that you don't let people who don't like you dictate what you do. And secondly, I thought there was a value in my bringing my point of view to the table. We have a two-league sport: Democrats and Republicans; there is no Independent Party. So I concluded that the best way for me to have a voice would be to associate myself with the Republican Party.
Check The Root tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview with Artur Davis, in which he discusses his disappointment with President Obama's failure to "change race" in the country, what he believes will draw younger African Americans to the Republican Party over the next decade and what's next on his political horizon.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's senior political correspondent.