Did Artur Davis Not Pay Attention to Obama's 2008 Platform?

The former Democratic congressman's apostasy is either a sign that he doesn't have a realistic understanding of politics -- or a cynical ploy.



Former Rep. Artur Davis enthusiastically supported Barack Obama back when he was a Democratic congressman from Alabama. "After graduating from Harvard Law School, he became an assistant U.S. attorney, before winning a 2002 primary against incumbent Democratic Rep. Earl Hilliard. After Barack Obama was elected president, Davis was mentioned as a possible attorney general," Alex Isenstadt writes. But Davis was ousted from Congress in 2010, lost a Democratic primary for governor in 2012, and moved to Northern Virginia.

"If I were to leave the sidelines, it would be as a member of the Republican Party that is fighting the drift in this country in a way that comes closest to my way of thinking," Davis now says. "Wearing a Democratic label no longer matches what I know about my country and its possibilities."

So why the switch?

Cynics say he is criticizing President Obama and Democrats because he plans to run for Congress as a Republican in 2014. But Davis disputed that charge in a Fox News interview with Neil Cavuto:

Cavuto: You were such a high-profile backer of the president and sort of represented, I guess at that time, the new South that was rallying around an African American who could be the first in the White House. That proved to be the case. When did it start going bad for you?

Davis: Well, it became very clear in 2009 and 2010, Neil, that the agenda of the Democratic Party was frankly not the agenda that I thought I would see. I may be a minority in this regard, but I'm one of the people who supported Barack Obama because I thought that he was in the center. I thought that he was someone who might be running to the left in the primaries to win the nomination. I got that. But I believed him when he said he wanted to turn the page. I thought that he was going to be a pro-growth president. I thought that his focus at all times was going to be national unity and bringing the country together, and I saw an enormous amount of potential.

What did we see?

We saw a very different path. 2009 and 2010, we saw the Democratic Party decide that for the first time in our country's history, it was going to push through a major piece of domestic legislation that over 50 percent of the country opposed. Better known as ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act.

Even if we take Davis at his word, this doesn't say much for his political judgement. President Obama has broken all sorts of promises in the realm of civil liberties, executive power, and the War on Terror. He also promised to start his term by changing the procedures by which policy is made in Washington. I no longer support the man partly because of his various broken promises. But the Affordable Care Act is basically the health-care reform he promised to pass. Nor was it merely one of many domestic policies he mentioned while running for office. Health care was one of the most exhaustively discussed subjects during the Democratic primary, and any Democratic representative who didn't understand that it would be the centerpiece of Obama's domestic agenda doesn't have a firm enough grasp on politics to be effectively representing constituents. 

My guess is that Davis is actually planning that 2014 run for Congress, and that if he returns to the body, "national unity and bringing the country together" will not turn out to be his foremost priorities. 

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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