Artur Davis represented Alabama’s seventh district in Congress from 2003 to 2010. He routinely was elected with over 90 percent of the vote. A true independent voice, he was one of the few Democrats to vote against Obamacare. The congressman lost the 2010 Democratic primary for governor. A fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and a former federal prosecutor, Mr. Davis was named one of America’s 10 best congressmen by Esquire magazine in 2008. He switched parties and became a Republican earlier this year. To find out more about Mr. Davis‘ vision, go to: officialarturdavis.com.
Decker: You were a national co-chairman of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and gave one of the speeches nominating him for president at the Democrats’ last convention. This year, you gave a rip-roaring address supporting Mitt Romney for president at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Why did you lose faith in President Obama and what about the 2012 Republican ticket gives you hope?
Davis: President Obama ran on two central themes in the fall of 2008: that he would devote his presidency to transcending our political and ideological divisions, and that he would restore the economy to good health. What he has given us is the most relentlessly ideological presidency in my lifetime, a political operation that shamelessly cultivates division, and the most inept economic recovery since the 1930s — one so weak most Americans haven’t felt it. The Obama administration has also managed to shift the Democratic Party to a place where it is as intolerant of opposing viewpoints as the Washington establishment routinely imagines Republicans to be.
I believe Mitt Romney brings an important skill to bear: the most extensive record of executive leadership any nominee has had since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Mr. Romney has a record of unbroken success in managing stubborn, hard-to-bend systems like the notorious bureaucracy in Massachusetts, the byzantine governing structure of the Olympics, and yes, he managed to create a private-equity colossus when that segment of the capital markets was quite new and untested. It may seem novel in a political culture where being the face of a campaign is cited as a leadership skill, but Mr. Romney’s track record seems to demonstrate exactly the skills that the next president will need to rein in spending, revive the economy and launch an era of conservative reform.
Decker: You served four terms in Congress as a Democrat and ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of Alabama. What made you decide to cross the aisle and become a Republican this year?
Davis: As a long-standing member of the old center-right in the Democratic Party, I found the party moving inexorably to the left. Among other things, I felt that Democrats were wrong to embrace tax increases during a time of weak business confidence; wrong to coddle an empty-headed movement like Occupy Wall Street; wrong to resist meaningful entitlement reform; wrong in their overhaul of health care; wrong in their enthusiasm for overregulation and mandates; and way too hostile to any worldview that doesn’t suit the Democratic orthodoxy on same-sex marriage or abortion on demand.
Decker: You bravely bucked Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House leadership to vote against Obamacare. Why did you do that, and what do you think should become of that law in the future? Should it be totally repealed?
Davis: I have been pretty detailed in my reasons for opposing Obamacare: too expensive, too much intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship, too many burdens on small businesses, too much new bureaucracy. The law should be repealed. But having said that, Republicans ought to replace the current law with a workable, market-based framework for extending insurance to the impoverished and for bolstering middle-income families who are saddled with catastrophic costs from illnesses. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this goal without the outsized cost and red tape of the Affordable Care Act, and right-of-center publications like National Affairs have documented them in detail.
Decker: Barack Obama’s promise to guide America to a more unified post-racial future has not been fulfilled. In fact, this president has divided the nation to a frightening degree. What do you think needs to be done to heal the racial divide? Is it unfair for me to say the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted and pursues policies — such as opposition to school choice — that keep many African Americans down?
Davis: The racial divide will fester as long as the left pursues an identity politics of grievance. The left adds to the racial divide every time its politicians or acolytes equate ordinary conservatism with racial intolerance, and link opposition to the Obama administration to racial backlash. The Democratic Party has unwisely distanced itself from policies like parental choice, vouchers and the overhaul of tenure that would have a transformative effect in the lives of black children, and there is an opening for Republicans to appeal to minorities by claiming priorities like education reform in the course of the next decade.
It should be noted that Republicans far more than Democrats are providing a pathway for African-Americas, Latinos and Indian Americans who dare to move beyond being spokespersons for their own communities. Condi Rice, Susanna Martinez, Nikki Haley, Brian Sandoval, Tim Scott, Allen West, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio: They are a roll call of Americans of color who have won the privilege to speak for more than their own kind, and Mia Love and Ted Cruz will join them this November. In the Democratic Party, with precious few exceptions, minorities are consigned to represent and to speak for their own.
Decker: What are you afraid most endangers America’s future, and what needs to be done to address the problem?
Davis: I am more bullish about our future than some doomsayers on both the Right and Left. I have seen America rebound from pitfalls more disturbing than anything we face today - like the near unraveling of our society in the 1960s, the wallop of exploding inflation and interest rates in the late 1970s, the dangerous deterioration of our security in the Carter era, the deception of Vietnam and Watergate, and the horror of 9/11. We have abiding worries, from making our schools competitive enough to compete in a global economy, to maximizing upward mobility, to reversing the momentum toward excessive regulation, but I refuse to see the current state of our country as anything other than America on the verge of finding our way back, and remembering who we are.