With his appearance Tuesday, ex-Democrat Artur Davis joins the small club of speakers who have addressed both conventions
TAMPA — It isn’t unheard of for a public figure who has addressed the national convention of one political party to subsequently be invited to speak from the dais of the other party’s pageant. The second invitation usually requires a switch of loyalties and the passage of years, as with Artur Davis, the former Democratic congressman from Alabama who addressed the Republican convention here Tuesday night. Four years ago, Davis had a speaking role at the Democratic convention in Denver, where he formally seconded the nomination of Barack Obama. But Davis left the Democratic Party earlier this year, and the GOP happily seized the chance to highlight a high-profile convert. Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, addressed the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., endorsing Senator John McCain, the party’s presidential nominee. Eight years earlier, at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, Lieberman had delivered a speech accepting his party’s nomination for vice president. And a memorable highlight of the 2004 Republican gathering at Madison Square Garden in New York City was the keynote address by Georgia Senator Zell Miller -- the fiery Democrat who in 1992 had delivered an equally stirring keynote speech when the Democratic convention was held in the same location.
But one speaker at this week’s GOP convention will have to wait only a few days before reprising his act for the other team. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who will deliver the closing benediction at the Republican convention on Thursday, announced Tuesday that he had accepted an invitation to fulfill the same role at the Democratic convention in North Carolina. This marked an about-face: Dolan had reportedly told Democrats weeks ago that he would be “grateful” for such an invitation, only to be rebuffed.
It’s not hard to understand why the White House might at first have chosen to ignore the cardinal’s hint. As president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, after all, Dolan has relentlessly denounced the Obama administration’s birth-control mandate. It’s also not hard to understand why the White House might have decided against snubbing the country’s top Catholic prelate. Catholics constitute one of the biggest swing groups in the American electorate. Dolan’s spokesman emphasizes that the cardinal will address both conventions “solely as a pastor, only to pray,” and will scrupulously avoid any partisan or political side-taking. Still, as The New York Times’s Sharon Otterman remarks, his appearance in Charlotte
may lead to one of the most intriguing tableaus of this convention season. Cardinal Dolan, an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage who is among the Catholic bishops suing the Obama administration over its contraception health care mandates, will bless a gathering of thousands of delegates who passionately disagree with him.
Dolan, incidentally, will not be the first cardinal to address both parties’ conventions in the same year. Philadelphia Cardinal Dennis Dougherty did so in 1948, when both parties held their quadrennial gathering in the City of Brotherly Love.