More than a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus denounced former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis ahead of his speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, continuing a tradition of conflict between the Democratic-dominated CBC and black Republicans.
“We are writing to express our disdain over several recent comments you have made about the important issues facing voters in November, your total distortion of President Barack Obama’s record, and your complete flip-flop on certain core principles you once held dear,” the 14 CBC members, all Democrats, wrote.
The signatories blasted Davis’ switch to the GOP and support for Mitt Romney as “transparent opportunism” in the wake of his failure to win the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Alabama rather than “real policy or political disagreements” with Democrats. (RELATED: Leaders with Ginni Thomas: Former Rep. Artur Davis)
But real policy and political disagreements have also triggered tension within the CBC ranks. In 1993, the caucus sharply curtailed the role of its only Republican member after he disagreed with the policy of using the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to maximize the number of majority-minority congressional districts.
“I do not believe it is healthy for Americans to go around looking for blacks to put in a congressional district,” Connecticut Republican Rep. Gary Franks said in testimony that elicited sharp criticism from fellow CBC members. The group passed a motion to limit Franks’ participation.
“The motion, passed without dissent among a majority of the Black Caucus’ 40 members, would let Franks attend weekly luncheon meetings for only the first half-hour, when members typically eat and talk informally,” the Washington Post reported at the time. “The rest of the meetings would be deemed a caucus of black Democratic lawmakers.”
Nearly twenty years later, luncheons with Republican members remain a source of discomfort within the CBC. The group’s Democrats protested when Florida Rep. Allen West, their only Republican member, ordered Chick-fil-A when it was his turn to provide the caucus lunch.
“That was an ‘in your face,'” Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings complained to Huffington Post. “Every member of the Congressional Black Caucus that was there was offended.”
South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, the other black Republican currently serving in Congress, declined to join the CBC. Former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, who was the only other black Republican in the House during Franks’ tenure before leaving Capitol Hill in 2003, also took a pass.
In 1991, the CBC voted 19-1 in favor of a symbolic motion opposing the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, the second African-American justice of the Supreme Court. Franks was the only dissenter.
Caucus chairman Emmanuel Cleaver signed the letter criticizing Davis, as did Michigan Rep. John Conyers and Georgia Rep. John Lewis. Davis spoke in support of Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
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