Top 5 GOP Convention Appeals to Disaffected Democrats

From Artur Davis to Jeane Kirkpatrick—and beyond

Artur Davis / AP
August 29, 2012

In 2008, Artur Davis spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Four years of Obama and he  endorsed the Republican nominee and was given a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. Here are five more Democrats who changed their minds.

1. Davis in 2012: "Do you even recognize the America they’re talking about?"

Former Alabama Democratic congressman and current Virginia resident Artur Davis spoke Tuesday at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay.

Davis, a Harvard Law School graduate known for his strong record on veterans’ affairs, endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election but subsequently became the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against Obamacare.

"This time, in the name of 23 million of our children and parents and brothers and sisters who are officially unemployed, underemployed, or who have stopped looking for work, let's put the poetry aside, let's suspend the hype, let's come down to earth and start creating jobs again," Davis said.

Davis’ speech Tuesday was widely hailed by conservatives but derided by liberals prior to their even hearing it: Fourteen members of the Congressional Black Caucus attacked Davis before the convention by signing an open letter accusing him of lying about his political transformation.

"We have come to the disturbing conclusion that your recent public statements have no basis in real policy or political disagreements, but rather they stem from transparent opportunism and a personal determination to overcome failing to win the Alabama Democratic primary for Governor in 2010," according to the letter.

Liberal media outlets also attempted to pre-emptively minimize the impact of Davis’ speech.

A Washington Post item, cross-posted from the American Prospect, declared, "Obviously, this won’t convince black voters to oppose the president. But this isn’t meant for them. To highlight the defection of a prominent African American supporter of Obama is to send a subtle message to indecisive whites—it’s okay if you’re disappointed with Obama, you can vote against him with a clean and unprejudiced conscience."

2. Lieberman in 2008:

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s speech in support of John McCain at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, burnished McCain’s bipartisan credentials and underscored the Arizona senator's national security record.

A moderate Democrat whose support for the Iraq war caused him to lose his 2006 Connecticut primary and forced him to become an independent, Lieberman’s speech in Saint Paul was the culmination of years of disagreement with the Democratic Party on defense and national security issues.

Lieberman’s speech praised McCain for working "to create the independent 9/11 Commission after that … great unnatural disaster caused by the terrorists, and then to work to pass the national security reforms that have made every American safer since then."

"So, tonight, I want to ask you, whether you are an independent, a Reagan Democrat, a Clinton Democrat, or just a plain-old Democrat, this year, when you vote for president, vote for the person you believe is best for our country, not for the party you happen to belong to," Lieberman said.

"We’re already beginning to wonder, ‘next time will it be Mark Warner? Who’s going to join us next time?’ because we seem to get one Democratic senator every four years now," Newt Gingrich told a reporter on the floor of the convention.

3. Zell Miller in 2004:

Zell Miller, Democratic U.S. Senator from Georgia (2000-2005) and former Georgia Governor (1991-99), endorsed President George W. Bush over John Kerry and gave a fiery speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

"Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief," Miller said.

"Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators," Miller said.

"Tell that to the one-half of Europe that was freed because Franklin Roosevelt led an army of liberators, not occupiers," Miller added, a reference to the Democratic Party’s radical shift in foreign policy in the postwar era.

4. Kirkpatrick in 1984:

President Reagan’s United Nations ambassador and lifelong Democrat Jeane Kirkpatrick’s "Blame America First" keynote speech at the 1984 Republican Convention in Dallas lent bipartisan credence to Reagan’s foreign policy and helped cement the shift of anticommunist Democrats to the Republican Party.

"When the San Francisco Democrats treat foreign affairs as an afterthought, as they did, they behaved less like a dove or a hawk than like an ostrich—convinced it would shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand," Kirkpatrick said of the Democratic Party, which held its 1984 convention in San Francisco and nominated Jimmy Carter’s vice president Walter Mondale.

Kirkpatrick, a Georgetown government professor, harshly criticized President Carter’s foreign policy in a famous 1979 article for Commentary arguing that the United States should support authoritarian anti-communist governments around the world in order to win the Cold War power struggle.

Kirkpatrick became President Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1981. Despite calling herself a lifelong "AFL-CIO Democrat," she became a highly influential member of the Reagan foreign policy team.

"When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago. But then, they always blame America first. The American people know better," Kirkpatrick said.

5. Nixon in 1972: "Come Home"

President Richard Nixon may have introduced the Republican National Convention trend of welcoming disenfranchised Democrats to the GOP in his remarks at the Miami Beach Convention Center on August 23, 1972.

"Six weeks ago our opponents at their convention rejected many of the great principles of the Democratic Party," Nixon said. "To those millions who have been driven out of their home in the Democratic Party, we say, ‘come home.’"

The 1972 Democratic Convention, also held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, implemented new rules designed to minimize the exposure of labor unions and instead spotlight left-wing interest groups, including those advocating for radical feminist and black separatist causes. Mark Stricherz in the Weekly Standard identified 1972 as the year "social liberals made their political debut at the Democratic National Convention."

Nixon recalled sitting in front of his television screen unable to believe his eyes. He later wrote, "The scene had the air of a college skit that had gotten carried away with itself and didn’t know how to stop," according to a Nixon biography

Nixon was re-elected with more than 60 percent of the popular vote and victories in 49 states.