A Good Moment To Think About Alan Grayson
Last night Digby decided to take a closer look at a member, or at least an enabler, of the American Taliban, the screwball the GOP is putting up against Alan Grayson. Hard to read without reaching, to paraphrase Moby and Mission of Burma, for this Blue America page.
We've never quoted the Jewish Daily Forward at DWT before but yesterday they ran a long feature on Rep. Grayson's race that I thought was worth sharing.
One of the highest-profile congressional contests this year is a stark faceoff: a left-wing Jew versus a right-wing Christian.
As many Democratic candidates from swing congressional districts move to the center-- or even further right-- this year, the campaign of Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida promises to challenge the Democratic Party’s predominant strategy of distancing itself from its liberal base. In many ways, Grayson’s clash with Republican Dan Webster looks to be a cultural and ideological referendum as well as a political one.
“No one gets a free pass if they attack me,” Grayson said in an interview with the Forward. “I don’t think it’s beneficial to turn the other cheek. There is no reason a Democrat has to be a weakling.”
For his part, Webster, too, sees the race as a test for his party. “This is a target seat,” he told the Forward at his August 24 primary-night victory party, held in the gymnasium of the First Baptist Church Of Central Florida, the mega-church he attends. “If the Republicans don’t take this seat, they can’t take the Congress.”
Central Florida’s 8th Congressional District is home to numerous suburban mega-churches and thousands of middle-class evangelicals, as well as to Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. The classic Sun Belt swing district is historically Republican, but now it has a slim Democratic majority, thanks to a recent influx of Puerto Rican voters. Obama carried it in 2008, and carried on his coattails an unlikely representative: the Bronx-born, Harvard-educated Alan Mark Grayson.
The newcomer quickly made a name for himself. On the floor of Congress last fall, Grayson denounced Republican rejection of the Obama health care reform plan, saying, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.” Alluding to a Harvard study estimating that 50,000 people die annually for lack of medical care, Grayson condemned the status quo as “this holocaust in America.” Jewish leaders were outraged, and Grayson had to apologize.
Grayson has gone on to forge an unabashed liberal profile, opposing the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He supported a strong public option for health care, local unions, gun control, bilingual education and same-sex marriage rights.
Grayson was also one of the few members of Congress to oppose a bill to defund ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, now a defunct community organization. The bill, which passed, prohibited government funding of the group after a right-wing sting operation caught its staff offering illegal tax advice to purported clients posing as a pimp and prostitute. A Government Accountability Office report subsequently found no evidence that ACORN had mishandled any federal funds it received.
To the delight of progressives, the tall, gawky, Grayson frequently attacks Fox News pundits and talk radio hosts: “Rush Limbaugh made more sense when he was addicted to drugs,” he said. On MSNBC, he denounced former vice president Dick Cheney as a vampire, who has “blood that drips from his teeth.” The Democrats’ liberal base has so far rewarded Grayson with nearly $4 million for his re-election campaign.
...Meanwhile, Grayson is running in 2010 in much the same way he won in 2008, with a counterintuitive Southern strategy. Rather than running as a tepid, timid Blue Dog Democrat, Grayson spends lots of money-- some of it his own-- and is not afraid to go negative: He derides Webster as “Taliban Dan.”
Most critically, Grayson mobilizes and energizes his diverse base: African Americans, Latinos, Jews, gay men and lesbians, union members, pro-choice activists and younger “Daily Show Democrats,” who, like him, do not hesitate to criticize their party’s leadership for insufficient fervor and a promiscuous eagerness to compromise. Their enthusiasm and their commitment, Grayson says, can make up for their smaller numbers in the otherwise moderately conservative district. If he manages to win despite the expected GOP wave-- regardless of his margin-- the lesson for Democrats will be clear.
“If Grayson wins,” said Aubrey Jewett, associate professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, “and especially if many other congressional Democrats lose, the lesson for the Democratic Party will be clear: A winning strategy for Democrats in swing districts involves energetically advocating progressive positions rather than muddling policy differences for the moderate voters.”
Want to check out that Blue America page I was mentioning up top? This is one guy we do not want to see go down. Did you watch the video? You won't see one like it for Steny Hoyer or Chris Van Hollen anytime soon.