Media Will Have One Less 'Dissatisfied Dem' After Artur Davis Switches to the GOP

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The long rumored news that former Democratic congressman Artur Davis is considering a Congressional run as a Republican means journalists will have to find a new go-to guy to fill the role of "dissatisfied black Democratic critic of President Obama." Davis was a prominent supporter of Obama in 2008, but then voted against the health care reform in early 2010, and went on to run for governor in Alabama (he lost in the Democratic primary) later that year. Since then, he's been a reliable Obama critic when he. Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray reports that he's considering a congressional bid in Virginia as a Republican. The New Republic's Alec MacGillis greeted the news Tuesday on Twitter, sarcastically, writing, "What? The same guy quoted constantly as unnamed 'concerned Dem'? No!"

Indeed. Journalists tell stories and stories need characters, so journalists often cast sources into certain roles as a matter of convenience. "Black Democratic critic of Obama" is quite the political casting call, and Davis has been a useful go-to over the years, as MacGillis hinted. We can't speak to the instances where he spoke as an unnamed source, but there are plenty of examples in recent political coverage where he's served the role of an on-the-record dissatisfied Democrat. Here are a few:

  • Just yesterday, Buzzfeed's Gray wrote a story headlined, "Black Democratic Stars Prove Fickle Allies For Obama" and Davis featured prominently. "I’m not involved in supporting the Obama campaign,” he told her, complaining about the way they greeted his deviance from party lines of late. 
  • Last month, The Hill wrote a piece about Democrats with "buyers remorse" over health care. Davis was quoted saying, "I think the Affordable Care Act is the single least popular piece of major domestic legislation in the last 70 years. It was not popular when it passed; it’s less popular now." The quote got a fair amount of play through the news cycle as evidence of internal strife in the Democratic Party.
  • In February, Politico's Jonathan Allen declared that Obama's disagreement with the Catholic Church over contraception policy marked the return of the culture wars, and Allen quoted Davis, noting that he'd been "a big Obama supporter during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary." Davis wrote, "In one swoop, they have handed Republicans grounds to galvanize evangelicals and more conservative Catholics, and they have badly discomfited Catholic [Democratic] candidates like Tim Kaine and Bob Casey."
  • Also in February, Politico noted that race issues surrounding the president had made a comeback, and there was Davis, warning the campaign not to use the race card. "I think it's a huge mistake. I think it's a tactic that's likely to backfire, and I think it's something that accusing people of racism ultimately damages Obama's interest..." he said.
So Davis has gotten a fair amount of political press for a former Congressman who isn't currently running for office, but don't expect that to last. "Republican critic of Obama" gives what he says a lot less inherent news value. But is a lot nicer than what Davis said about his political standing following his humiliating loss in Alabama's Democratic gubernatorial primary: "A candidate that fails across-the-board like that obviously needs to find something else productive to do with his life."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.