Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Here Some Politics Being Played
Currently a Democratic representative to the U.S. House, Artur Davis intends to run for Governor of Alabama in the next general election, which will be in November 2010. If elected, he would be the state's first black governor. Predictably, he is also moving to the center, even if moving to the center means criticizing President Obama, who, I should add, he knows personally because they both attended Harvard Law School, and while law students and contemporaries they became friends. Davis was one of the first politicians of any heft to publicly endorse Obama, back when everyone was sure Hillary Clinton would secure the nomination in a cakewalk. Our current Republican governor, Bob Riley, easily won re-election back in 2006 by castigating his Democratic opponent as "too liberal for Alabama." Not wishing to be painted in the same light, Davis is beginning to make the first few steps to modify his platform in a transparent attempt to appeal to a largely conservative electorate.
As a representative, Davis had the luxury of not having to hide his liberal side or progressive qualifications. Running in a district gerrymandered specifically to give Alabama's sizable African-American minority a guaranteed representative in Congress, Representative Davis' number one concern while in office was in avoiding scandal, not in political posturing. He first won election to the office in 2002, displacing multi-term congressman Earl Hillard, who had been the epitome of the stereotypical race-baiting, corrupt, dubiously ethical African-American politician representing a minority-majority Congressional district. When faced with the real possibility that he would lose his seat, Hillard knew that he couldn't defeat Davis on his own merits, so instead he brought up the specter of race, accusing his opponent of being "not black enough". Sound familiar?
This recent tack towards the center frustrates me a little, though I am not wholly surprised, even though I saw Arthur Davis introduce Barack Obama here in Birmingham back in January 2008, when the now-President made a perfunctory campaign stop (and what turned out to be his only visit to Alabama) to shore up Democratic primary support prior to Super Duper Tuesday. Obama won the state handily, due in no small part to securing the black vote almost unanimously with just enough liberal white votes to take him over the top. As for the Obama-Davis link, both men have commonalities that go beyond their history as classmates at an Ivy League institution. Neither are the traditional Jesse Jackson Sr.-style black politician and neither apologize for their high level of education or erudite oratory skills. Both relied on a combination of white liberals and blacks to maintain their base of power and get themselves elected to high office.
Davis has my vote in 2010, provided I am still here then, but I am adopting a wait-and-see approach before I wager as to whether he has a chance of winning both the Democratic primary and the General Election. This is still Alabama, after all. Davis will be beaten over the head by whomever the good-old-boy GOP candidate is for his ties to liberal Washington and liberal Obama, and the jury's still out as to whether any of that invective will firmly stick.