Last night, I watched in anticipation as my old friend, former Alabama congressman Artur Davis took to the stage of the Republican National Convention. I received a barrage of phone calls and emails from many who were familiar with our friendship and couldn’t believe what they were witnessing.
Artur’s speech didn’t surprise me one bit. He served his purpose–the Black guy who once was a staunch supporter of President Obama now bashes the President before a target audience, yet offers little substance about the guy who he’s supporting.
I can’t believe that my old friend is allowing himself to be used as a puppet for a party that has little interest in him, and that he has little interest in.
Let me be clear. I have nothing against the Republican party. We all reserve the right to choose the party that best represents our interests. Over the years, I’ve interviewed many republicans on numerous occasions–Newt Gingrich, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, Colin Powell, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Armstrong Williams and a host of others who have not only been guests on my radio and television programs, but who I regard as friends. They firmly believe in the Republican way, and I respect that. Artur however is a Democrat dressed in Republican clothing. Whatever happened to character Artur? Where does your loyalty lie–to the people of our great country, or to the faces printed on the greenbacks?
Artur is a captivating orator, and quite frankly, last night, he failed in delivering one of those soul-stirring, compelling speeches that I’ve witnessed in the past. Artur is at his best when he speaks from some place real–his heart. Last night, his heart didn’t co-sign the speech that he delivered. The Artur Davis that I saw addressing the Republican National Convention wasn’t the same man who I met years ago before he was ever elected to Congress. Last night, I witnessed a man fighting for his political survival by any means necessary.
While watching him deliver his speech, I reflected back to the Artur Davis that I met in 2003 while running against Earl Hilliard to represent the seventh Congressional district of Alabama.
He was in my hometown, the Nation’s Capital, serving as a panelist for a forum hosted by former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. during the annual Congressional Black Caucus conference.
He was 34 years old at the time, and a true southern gentleman. He was warm, witty, and very focused. We would cross paths nearly a year later after he had been elected to the House.
Unlike many in power positions, Artur was humble, and very private. Our friendship blossomed over the years, as his political star began to rise. He was becoming quite popular on the speaker circuit, being appointed to high-profile committees, and often recognized by such media outlets as Time magazine and other national publications as one of the most promising, influential leaders of the country. At the time, I was a young reporter, equally as ambitious and intrigued with politics, navigating my way through the halls of power, and making a name for myself in television and radio as the youngest Black woman to host a Sunday morning political talk show, going up against all of the Sunday morning heavy hitters.
Over the years, we would share countless lunches, dinners and sometimes, when Congress wrapped up votes late, we would fulfill our craving for cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, one of the few restaurants that stay open late. Yes, the congressman has a sweet tooth that won’t quit! We swapped stories about politics and current events. We discussed our childhoods and our families–both of us reflecting on the significance of our grandmothers and growing up without our fathers in the home. Of course, we discussed our career aspirations and futures in our respective fields. Artur was always very clear that he would not spend a lifetime as a congressman, and was willing to roll the dice on attaining higher office.
Let’s be honest. Artur Davis didn’t switch parties because of his disdain for President Obama, his personal beliefs nor his enthusiasm for the party of Lincoln. Artur is doing what he has to do to reach his own personal finish line. Period. The end. His record speaks for itself. While in congress, Artur Davis voted with the Democratic party 95%.
Don’t forget, Artur was the very first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to publicly endorse President Obama’s candidacy a few years ago. During several of my interviews with the congressman, he always held the President in the highest of esteem, and spoke candidly about how Obama’s candidacy reflected possibility–singing Obama’s praises for running the same campaign in all communities, and touting his enthusiasm for the senator. I can even recall Artur opening for then-Senator Obama before a spirited audience of 11,000, which was unprecedented in the red state of Alabama. That’s the Artur Davis that I used to know.
So what changed Artur? During the opening of your speech last night, you thanked the GOP for welcoming you to where you belong. Do you know where you belong, Artur? Or have you sold your soul? Character is everything, and quite frankly, your character has been challenged.
As eloquent as he is, I never once heard Artur Davis deliver a convincing argument for why Mitt Romney should be elected the leader of the free world. He bashed President Obama and the Democratic party, but offered little substance about the man that he claims would make a better leader. That’s a big difference from 2008. I played Artur’s speech numerous times last night listening for the same genuine enthusiasm and substance that I heard him deliver for Obama four years ago. I never heard it. As the commercial says “it’s not in there.”
There comes a time when you have to tell it like you see it, so here it goes. If the Republican party chose Artur to attract African-Americans to the GOP, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you failed majorly.
As a result of voting against the affordable care act–the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against the bill, he turned his back on the very people who put him in office. When the time came for him to seek higher office, Artur didn’t carry one district in his entire state–not even the predominantly Black constituents in the district that he represented who returned the favor and voted against him. So much for the Black vote. Don’t shoot the messenger. Facts are facts. It’s just that simple.
As for the GOP, I hope the party takes advantage of his mind and abilities, instead of using his image to support the party’s diversity efforts. The audience at the convention once again speaks for itself. You can count the Black supporters in the audience on one hand. The party simply has not identified a meaningful way to connect with Blacks. African-Americans can see right through the shenanigans. It takes more than a few familiar faces to garner our support. It requires policies and programs that benefit our community. The party will fare better once the party realizes that the Black vote, like everything else, is earned and not for sale.
I only hope that Artur understands the consequences of his decisions. He has lost the respect of the people. He can never return to the Democratic party, and though the GOP will use him–and possibly pay him handsomely, they also have little respect for him based on his actions. Loyalty and character are paramount. My friend Artur Davis used to convey these qualities.
Will the real Artur Davis please stand up!
LaToya Foster is a political commentator based in Washington, D.C. Her new talk show–Money, Power and Influence debuts this fall. To learn more about LaToya, visit www.latoyafostertalks.com.