Why Artur Davis is wrong: Republicans squandered any black good will

Former Democratic representative Artur Davis (R-AL) gets an A for effort.  His attempt to put a positive spin on Republicans’ popularity among black voters requires a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance.  Davis, who lost in his Democratic primary in 2010, recently announced he’s switching parties and is voting for Mitt Romney in 2012.  The newly-minted member of the GOP is taking his show on the road, calming the waters for black voters to potentially take a serious look at the GOP in upcoming elections.

Davis told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that even though he supported President Obama in 2008 the reality of the first black president in the White House didn’t meet his expectations.  “The reason I got behind [President Obama] was twofold,” said Davis. “Number one, perhaps naively, I believed that if Barack Obama got elected that it would completely change race relations in this country. Number two, I believe that the Democratic party would change because I believed, again perhaps naively and it turns out mistakenly, that Barack Obama represented the kind of center-wing of the Democratic party that Bill Clinton represented.”

Davis claims Obama didn’t deliver, but fails to mention Republican obstruction, and goes on to conclude that after Obama leaves office, presumably if Romney wins, black voters will begin to join him in an exodus over to the Republican party.

“I do think that after President Obama leaves the scene, win or lose he will not be on the ballot again,” said Davis. “When he leaves the scene, I do think African-Americans are prepared to look seriously at the Republican party, as are Latinos, if the Republican party earns those votes.”

Davis’ assertion is way off the mark.  Perhaps he may have overlooked the plethora of reasons why black and Latino voters, even if they are unhappy with the president, are not going to take a serious look at the Republican party until drastic changes are made to the party’s platform.  The truth is the Republican party, hasn’t earned the votes of any person of color because the party hasn’t taken the issues that impact people of color seriously for nearly a generation.  Their overt pandering to the far right of their base alienates black voters.

In some ways it’s a very simple proposition.  The Republican party must seek to be more inclusive in their rhetoric and policy proposals before black voters will look to them in any substantial way as a reasonable alternative to Democrats.  Black voters migrated to the Democratic party because of policy and they stay because there aren’t viable policy alternatives being proposed by Republicans, particularly in the Obama era.

Republicans have also created a dynamic in the Obama years, perhaps as a result of the most high profile and loud pundits on their side, that they do not even think the first black president is a legitimate holder of the office.  The “birthers” may be a political sideshow with Donald Trump as ringmaster, but for black voters the failure of Republican leadership and the nominee to denounce those who question the president’s citizenship is a dealbreaker.  There are many African-Americans who simply view “birtherism” as racism under a different name.

Furthermore, the Republican obstruction over the past three and a half years has diminished their stature and level of seriousness.  The GOP hasn’t simply disagreed with Obama on policy, they have blatantly said they are unwilling to work together with him to pass any legislation that might be viewed as a positive politically for him, even if doing so hurts the country.  The economic recovery has stalled by and large because many of the proposals, including the tax-cut-laden stimulus, have been blocked, attacked, and manipulated by the GOP.

Much of the American Jobs Act remains a figment of the Obama administration’s imagination as Republicans feign outrage over Americans suffering through tough economic times.  African-American voters are paying attention not just to the economic situation but also to the opposition, who is blocking progress every chance they get.

Instead of championing legislation to help Americans and in particular the people of color who they claim to care about, Republicans have recently proposed anti-abortion measures out of the mainstream proposals related to contraception.

Republicans are elected to serve the people and in order for black and Latino voters to give them a serious look this year, or any year down the road, they must take the issues impacting these communities seriously and not simply obstruct for short term political gain.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell