Alan Grayson's Grandstanding Inspires Liberals to Rattle the Right

Writers on the left take lessons from the Democratic Congressman's provocative, attention-grabbing speech

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Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, has been on a cage-rattling streak. Earlier in the week he lambasted Republicans on the House floor, saying their health care plan reduces to a simple formula: "don't get sick" and, if you get sick, "die quickly." Later, he denied GOP demands for an apology, saying, "I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America." On CNN, Grayson called Republicans blocking reform, "knuckle-dragging neanderthals."

Grayson's remarks have since been played and replayed on cable news and linked heavily on blogs. Though provocative, his attacks were hardly unusual: GOP lawmakers have claimed that under Democratic health care reform "One in five people have to die," while earning comparatively scant attention. Yet Republicans have repeatedly slammed Grayson, calling for him to be publicly rebuked. Why has Grayson so quickly become such a lightning rod for conservative scorn? Liberal writers offer theories and draw a few lessons:

  • Double Standard for Dems and Reps  Matt Yglesias called the "hubbub" over Grayon "absurd." "I think the real issue—and the real import—of Grayson’s statement is that it involved breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don’t. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms," he wrote. "He characterized his opponents' views polemically, but wasn't offering any kind of wild factual distortions. But moralism from the left is very unfamiliar to American political debates."
  • Democrat Grayson Adopted Republic Strategy  Digby referenced a 2007 essay she'd written encouraging Democrats to coopt "phony Republican outrage fests," as she described them. "At the time I wrote it, I had little hope that we would ever be able to end this silly practice because the Democrats both capitulated to the GOP's smug sanctimonious caterwauling and refused to turn the practice back on them," she wrote. "But I think Grayson may have shown the way. It takes guts and it takes being willing to have Gloria 'Cokie' Borger tut-tut you like you are an errant child, but if you are willing to go right at them and then refuse to back down, the Republican propensity to call for the smelling salts whenever the Democrats do the same things the Republicans do might just die out"
  • Dems Should Be More Like Grayson  Adam Serwer encouraged Democrats to follow Grayson's example in getting their message out. "There's really a lesson here for Democrats in the 24-hour media blitz Grayson has received," he wrote. "Going a little overboard goes a long way in getting the press to pay attention to what you're saying. From the Democrats point of view, I fail to see the downside." Serwer added, "For the first time since the health-care debate started, a Democrat has accused Republicans of being the kind of inhuman monsters Republicans regularly accuse Democrats of being, and he has refused to apologize for it."
  • 'Tounge-in-Cheek' Remarks Taken Too Seriously  The New Republic's Marin Cogan wrote that Grayson seems himself as a Jon Stewart of sorts. "Grayson’s dark, sarcastic sense of humor is well-established with anyone who has followed his career. There’s his famous remark that Rush Limbaugh 'was more lucid when he was on painkillers.' Last month he told the crowd at Netroots Nation that his opponent in 2008 'did all his hiring at Hooters.' And at a political fundraiser with the vice president recently, he made cracks about how Dick Cheney 'liked to shoot old men in the face,' prompting Biden to call him a 'lousy comedian.' When Joe Biden thinks you’ve gone too far, you know there’s a problem."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.