On a bright August morning in the quiet waterfront town of Edenton, N.C., Artur Davis, a black former congressman from Alabama, looked out at a sea of beaming white faces and grinned. “I’m gonna let you all in on a secret,” he said. “I used to be a Democrat!” Lusty boos dissolved into chuckles. “He saw the light!” someone shouted. Davis nodded. “I once was lost, but now I am found!”
In one sense, the scene was familiar. Four years ago, Davis made a splash in the presidential race by becoming the first congressman outside Illinois to endorse Barack Obama. He delivered a nominating speech at the Democratic convention and gladly embraced the moniker “Obama of Alabama.” Bright, charismatic, and inclined toward an inclusive, post-racial brand of politics, he seemed a sure bet to thrive in the new era. Just weeks after Obama’s inauguration, Davis set out with great fanfare to become Alabama’s first black governor—only to suffer a searing, life-altering loss at the hands of his own party.