Artur Davis And The Unraveling Of Identity Politics


Steve Kornacki eulogizes the gubernatorial bid of the man who some thought might become the country's first black president (before Obama came on the scene):

In the House, Davis was given a frosty reception by members of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been close to [the unseated] Hilliard and who resented the post-Civil Rights brand of politics favored by Davis (and celebrated by his many white supporters). It didn't help that Davis worked hard to create a moderate image, distancing himself from the liberal CBC in an effort to make himself appealing to the conservative white voters he'd someday need in a statewide race. He also maintained the alliance with the pro-Israel community that had been so helpful to him in '02, providing public support to their cause when they most needed it.

All of this helped Davis enhance his national profile last decade. But it came back to haunt him in this campaign.

Davis voted against healthcare reform in the House back in March, calculating that a "yes" vote would kill him with the Alabama general election audience of 2010. This may well have been accurate, but he forgot that he also faced a Democratic primary -- and Democratic voters were none too happy to see him siding with the GOP and against Barack Obama (even if the White House was privately understanding of Davis' vote). His years of tacking to the middle made it impossible for him to get the benefit of the doubt. Leading civil rights groups ended up backing Sparks, who is white, over Davis. When the returns came in on Tuesday night, it wasn't even close.

TNC reads reports of low turnout among African Americans:

The underlying premise seems to be that Davis was somehow entitled to black votes. This despite the fact, as Michael Tomasky points out, that Davis reps a majority black district where one in five people lack health-care, but voted against the health care bill. You don't get to just stand in front the people and say "Hey I'm black and smart" and then wait for the torrent of civic pride.

Abigail Thernstrom looks closer at the racial politics of the race and concludes:

Davis is a young man (41). He lost his first congressional bid and came back to win two years later. His political career is not necessarily over, and [John] Lewis may yet see Davis occupy the office once held by the man who declared “segregation forever.” Politics, not race, defeated Davis; different politics on a different day may hand him the victory he sought yesterday.

Ben Smith highlights the local issue that could have trumped everything else.

(Flickr photo by Pendarvis Harshaw.)