Tag Archives: artur davis

Convention Bumps, Race-Baiting and those “Old, Lefty Professors” (Who, Moi?)

It’s been a busy day so far – and the night promises be even busier.  In addition to my post on Artur Davis, one of tonight’s convention speakers, I’ve got another piece just up at the Economist in which I argue that neither Obama nor Romney is likely to get a major polling bump coming out of their respective conventions, but that Romney’s is likely to be bigger than Obama’s by a couple of percentage points.  In a tight race, of course, a 2% net gain may be enough to push Mitt into the lead.  There are signs – so far ignored by most of the media as far as I can tell – that the race is beginning to tighten just a bit.   When I come up for air, I’ll try to post some of the latest poling data to show you what I mean.

Tonight, however, I’m going to be live blogging the Republican Convention.  In case you missed it, Republican delegates formally nominated Mitt as their candidate today. While the media tends to dismiss the convention as a scripted, made-for-television event, that misses its real significance.  As Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan argues in this piece conventions in fact serve as an important learning tool and informational source for voters who are just beginning to tune into the presidential race.  So we ought not to dismiss the event as mere pageantry.  Instead, view this as the opening volley in the general campaign.

There’s another reason to watch tonight, of course – it’s to see the speeches.  Several major figures, including House Speaker John Boehner, are on tap.  Of course, all eyes will be focused on my former student (Ok, my eyes will be!) Artur Davis, who continues to attract controversy for his decision to split from the Democratic Party.  In response to the broadside leveled at him by the Congressional Black caucus earlier today, Davis returned the favor, accusing them of “race baiting.” His comments come as both sides are trying to inject race into the campaign.  Conservatives have been circulating this NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing not a single African-American respondent supporting Mitt.  Obama supporters have fired back, pointing out that Romney’s recent comments at a Michigan campaign rally regarding his birth certificate is one of those “dog whistles” designed to stir up racial “resentment.”  Davis’ comments are sure to add fuel to the fire.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Olivier Knox’s Yahoo piece on my Davis post, you should take a look, focusing in particular on the readers’ comments.  As with most comments, they are decidedly partisan, and not for the faint of heart (or for those who value grammar, spelling or punctuation).  Thus:

“All of the southern dixie crats switched to the repug party after 1965 check it out. Now the repugs have all of the racest members from the south on their side.”

“Well at least Arthur we know what his academic record was at Harvard…..still waiting for Obama to release his school transcripts…you think the liberal news media could do a story about that!!”

And my favorite:  “That’s the Ticket . Attacking black conservatives in support of the candidate the liberal media sold us – Barack Obama . Great work yahoo once again. Digging up an old leftist college professor to call Davis a weasel. Very balanced .”

Imagine that!  I’m both “old” and a “leftist college professor”!  Who knew?

I’ll be live blogging beginning at 8 – unless Artur comes on earlier.   Hope you can join me – it’s been a while since we’ve done one, and the scotch bottle is full.

UPDATE:  According to the C-SPAN scroll, Davis is speaking at 9:46 – he’s the lead-in to Ann Romney’s speech.  Primetime!

I Knew Artur Davis Before He Was A Republican – Or A Democrat

For most every teacher, I suspect, there are handful of classroom experiences that remain memorable long after the class is over, usually because of the mix of students in that class.  For me one such experience came very early in my teaching career while I was still a graduate student.  Fortunately, in the Harvard Ph.D program grad students were encouraged to teach as part of their training, and I put together a seminar based on my research into the White House staff (the subject of my first book).  To my everlasting gratitude, the course attracted an outstanding group of undergraduates, many of whom I am still in touch with and all of whom went on to lead distinctive lives.

One of those students was Artur Davis.

If you don’t know Davis, you will after tonight.   He is scheduled to give a prime-time address at the Republican National Convention.  What makes this particularly noteworthy is that two years ago Davis, who was the first Democratic congressman outside Illinois to back Obama’s presidential bid, was considered a rising star in Democratic political circles.  In 2002, he had bucked the Democratic establishment to win a seat in the House, representing a district in his home state of Alabama, and he later became one of Obama’s early political supporters.  As a reward for that support in 2008 Davis was given the honor at the Democratic Convention of seconding Obama’s nomination to be president.

But in 2010, Davis lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Alabama.  His defeat was attributed in part by his decision, looking ahead to the general gubernatorial election, to position himself more to the ideological center by, for instance, voting against Obamacare – a strategy that some say cost him support among his core constituency during the primary.   Shortly after his defeat he moved to Virginia and began a political conversion that will culminate in tonight’s major address.

If Davis’ is going to reboot his political career, tonight is a big moment for him.  Polls indicate that few Virginians know who he is, and those few who do don’t particularly like him.  But, as we all know, a primetime convention speech can do wonders for an aspiring politician’s career prospects.

As you might expect, Davis’ Road to Damascus moment is not sitting well with his former Democratic colleagues.  The Congressional Black caucus released a scathing letter today, no doubt timed to blunt the impact of Davis’ speech, that basically accuses him of political treason. Liberal blogs have also taken Davis to task for his political apostasy  while their conservative counterparts are applauding his new-found reason.

I would like to say that I had something to do with Davis’ decision to embark on a political career, if not necessarily his choice of this particular political path.  But I would be lying.  Davis came to my seminar with his political instincts already well honed.  He was a smart student, but in a class of exceptionally bright undergraduates – (four went on to law school, one clerked for the Supreme Court, another served on Capitol Hill), he didn’t stand out for his academic prowess.  Instead, what I remember most about Artur is his insatiable interest in political gossip and current events.  When I discussed in class some of the findings from the White House interviews that I was conducting, Artur was most interested in knowing who was feeding me the information.  Similarly he paid less attention to my discussion of principal-agent models as a means of understanding presidential-staff relations, but was all ears when it came to analyzing the current White House staff.  It came as absolutely no surprise to me that he went into elective politics – it was clear that he was already a political animal.

Tonight is big night for Artur and, as I do with all my former students, I wish him well.  This is not to say I endorse (or do not endorse!) his political conversion.  But politics can be a harsh mistress, and Artur has already developed a noteworthy enemies list.  There’s no need to add to the list.  Instead, he should expect some moral support from a former teacher.

So, knock ‘em dead, Artur.  I’m rooting for you.

Addendum 1:15  – Olivier Knox picked up this story at Yahoo.com.

Here is an additional reason why the Congressional Black Caucus is irked with Davis – he has come out in favor of stronger voter ID laws.  In an editorial citing his support of strengthening voter identification law, Davis noted that he saw numerous instances of voter fraud  in Alabama.

Addendum II 2:45 p.m.  Another student from that illustrious class, Jeff Cooper, forwards me this youtube video created by the DNC showing the “good” Artur in anticipation of tonight’s speech.