Many interpreted the party switch as a shameless political move, a conclusion supported by his flight from Alabama to Virginia — or, more specifically, from the Alabama black political establishment that was rapidly losing faith in his willingness to support its agenda.
Over the eight years Davis spent in Congress representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, his voting record turned increasingly conservative until, in 2010, he opposed President Obama’s health-care plan. With that vote, he broke with the Congressional Black Caucus and set out on the path that led him to the Republican Party.
Now Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has named Davis to his Black Leadership Council, a not-unexpected move. With so few African-Americans in the GOP, the Black Leadership Council needed Davis as much as Davis needed a prominent position in his new party.
Now comes the hard part.
According to the announcement, the council “will help facilitate dialogue between Mitt Romney and respected leaders who provide unique expertise, experience and knowledge on a range of issues impacting black American communities.”
We ask: Can Davis provide that?
What Davis can provide is insight into what the black community wants from a president and a party. He knows this because the difference between what other blacks want and what he was willing to support was what led him to switch parties. Now Davis finds himself in the awkward, and somewhat ironic, position of being able to tell the Republican presidential nominee that the black community is not comfortable with the GOP agenda.
That said, will candidate Romney send Davis and other like-minded members of the Black Leadership Council into the African-American community to try to convince voters that the Republican platform will serve their needs and interests?
Or will the Black Leadership Council simply meet, parrot the party line and be pointed to by white Republicans as an example of how their party is reaching out to minorities?
In short, will Davis and his fellow council members figure in the race, or will they simply be figureheads?