Davis, a four-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Birmingham and former Democratic candidate for governor, declared Virginia his residence and said that if he did get back into politics, he would do so as a Republican.
The man many thought would be Alabama’s Barack Obama — the first African-American to hold the state’s highest office — has left the state and the party that had been his home.
But with further examination, it begins to make sense.
Based on what he’s written on his blog (www.officialarturdavis.com), it’s apparent that he no longer is comfortable in the Alabama Democratic Party. Although Republican redistricting is turning Alabama Democrats more and more into a majority black party, the black Alabamians who will be calling the shots are not Davis’ friends. They got mad when he did not support the president’s health-care initiative and showed scant enthusiasm during his gubernatorial campaign.
There is not much chance they would welcome him if he again sought state office as a Democrat.
As for Davis’ thoughts, this passage from one of his recent blog posts is pertinent: “Cutting ties with an Alabama Democratic Party that has weakened and lost faith with more and more Alabamians every year is one thing; leaving a national party that has been the home for my political values for two decades is quite another. My personal library is still full of books on John and Robert Kennedy, and I have rarely talked about politics without trying to capture the noble things they stood for. I have also not forgotten that in my early 30s, the Democratic Party managed to engineer the last run of robust growth and expanded social mobility that we have enjoyed; and when the party was doing that work, it felt inclusive, vibrant, and open-minded.”
As for Alabama Republicans, they would certainly be happy for him to come over to their side — but as with the Democrats, his opportunities there are limited. The Alabama Republican congressional delegation is well entrenched, and it would be hard to successfully take any one of those GOP incumbents on.
While Davis has proven to be more conservative than what would be seen as his natural constituency in the state, his record of moderation would make him suspect to Republicans, as well. Besides, Davis has never practiced the sort of set the woods on fire politics that Alabama Republicans favor.
Virginia, on the other hand, is a more comfortable fit. Having already elected a black governor, race is far less a political factor in the Old Dominion. There, moderation is not considered a handicap. After a few years working as a lawyer and getting himself known as a Virginian instead of as an Alabamian, we may see Artur Davis returning to the campaign trail.
It is a shame that the people of Alabama, and the parties to which they belong, have lost a politician who might have moderated partisanship and united us. Apparently, unity and moderation are not popular down here.