Remember former Congressman Alan Grayson? Here was his defining moment.
The video is two and a half minutes, but here is the short transcript: "The Republican healthcare plan is 'don't get sick. If you do get sick, die quickly.'" I actually remember seeing that clip played on Countdown the very day the Congressman delivered that speech.
Like most of you, I cheered.
If you're a Democrat, there is a lot to like about Alan Grayson. I have never heard anyone complain that Congressman Grayson was "centrist," or that he was an "appeaser" of Republicans, or that he practiced any of that "triangulation" stuff. Alan Grayson was an unapologetic liberal Democrat, who fought for his beliefs and principles. Alan Grayson can fairly be called a poster boy for the kind of progressive leadership many Kossacks hoped Obama would display.
Which brings me to the bad news about Alan Grayson.
Alan Grayson lost.
Did his unabashed liberal priniciples inspire respect among voters who may not have agreed with everything he said? No.
Did his clear embodiment of progressive leadership cause Democrats in his district to turn out and vote? No.
Mind you, Alan Grayson's 8th Congressional District is a swing district. Barack Obama won that district with 52% of the vote, exactly the same as his national percentage. No one in this middle-of-the-road, middle class suburban district could possibly have failed to know who Alan Grayson was. Nor could they have failed to know about the progressive policies he stood for. If any district in the country was a test case for what a strong progressive could do in a swing district, it was Alan Grayson's district.
Make no mistake. Democrats in Orlando had a true Democrat. They had a Democrat from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." They had a proud Democrat. Alan Grayson's opponent was a tea bagger from the insane wing of the Republican Party. [I know. The "insane wing" part has become redundant.]
Democrats in Orlando stayed home ... just like they did everywhere else.
Let me tell you somebody who knows this. Apparently, many here don't know this. Many here have failed to look around for that test case of what proud unambiguous progressive positions get you at the voting booth. Alan Grayson proved they don't win in a tough year. If you didn't know that, Barack Obama does. So does every member of his political team.
Barack Obama has done something very few of you have done. Alan Grayson did it in 2008. Barack Obama and Alan Grayson have both won elections. In fact, Barack Obama has won five of them.
Let me tell you something to write down and not forget. The people who make policy are the people who win elections, not the people who lose them. Alan Grayson was there to fight for healthcare reform, because he won in 2008. Alan Grayson was not there to do diddly squat in the debt ceiling fight, because he got beat. He did not get beat because nobody knew what a stand-up progressive Democrat he was. He got beat because the voters of his District didn't care what a stand-up progressive Democrat he was. His voters stayed home, and I can't imagine what else he might have done to make them show up.
Here's a little exercise for you. Go get a piece of paper, and make a list of every progressive policy you would like to see implemented. Got your list yet. Oh wait, LaFeminista did it for you.. That's a nice list. I agree with everything on it. That list is meaningless, unless you have the votes to implement it.
Oh sure, there are people who will tell a pollster if he calls them that he supports some, and even many of the items on this list . . . if you ask him. Will he get off the sofa and go vote for Alan Grayson in a tough election? We already know the answer to that.
This is the world Barack Obama operates in.
1. There aren't enough of progressives to win an election. You're not a majority. Not only that, there are twice as many self-identified conservatives, and "independents" skew more conservative.
2. There are plenty of you who are very good at complaining about all that nifty progressive stuff we all wish Obama would pull out of his ass. I have observed President Obama enough to be confident in this belief. If he could pull single payer out of his ass, he would. He can't
I'm amused by this argument. I can already hear the comments. "Well, if he'd exercise some leadership . . ." You might even be tempted to write his speech for him. I've seen a number of diarists here write some really good speeches for Obama and other Democrats too. "If he'd just say this . . . " Right. It's that easy. "Just use the bully pulpit." Because you know, last Congress, Joe Lieberman was going to support single payer if only Obama would lay some high falutin rhetoric on him.
"Messaging." That's how to beat the Republicans in the Senate ... and the tea baggers in the House too, come to think of it. Obama's not doing enough "messaging."
Here's the reality. The stimulus passed in February '09 wasn't enough. It was all Obama could get out of the likes of Joe Lieberman, Max Baucus, and Ben Nelson. Those were our guys. Same with healthcare reform ... which Obama got passed where every other Democratic President failed going all the way back to Harry Truman.
Some of you people don't understand how hard it is to get ANYTHING done in Washington. Ever.
Lyndon Johnson did get Medicare and the Voting Rights Act passed. He had a Congress with a 68-32 majority in the Senate, and a 295-140 majority in the House. He still had to fight to get those things.
FDR got Social Security passed in a Senate with 23 Republicans. The House had 103. If Obama had those kind of majorities, we could talk about single payer as an option. If Obama had those kind of majorities we might be justified in complaining about all the stuff he didn't do. The plain truth is that Obama didn't have the votes for single payer, or a public option, or a larger stimulus. He didn't have the votes in Congress, and ultimately, didn't have them last November in the midterm election.
A stalwart stand-up Democrat's Democrat like Alan Grayson didn't have the votes, either.
I know what you're going to say. "But the Republicans just got 98% of what they wanted just by being ruthless assholes." You're right, they did. The Republicans are an ideologically monolithic party, who have been taken over by fanatics, who don't care about the general welfare of the United States. That kind of fanatical cult can exercise disproportionate leverage.
We're not an ideologically monolithic, fanatical cult. If you want to argue that we should be, I'm listening. But really, save your argument for Joe Lieberman. I'm sure with the right messaging, you can bring him around. In the meantime, even if you wanted to create such a fanatical cult on the left, don't be surprised if it doesn't take you the same fifty years the conservatives have been building theirs.
Let me end on a high note. Since Obama took office, the Republicans have gotten more and more extreme. They have gotten more fanatical. They have gotten angrier. They have gotten more ruthless. The people of this country are starting to see that. The reality of how an ideologically monolithic, fanatical cult can hold the United States government hostage is dawning on people. They are seeing it ... in a way that they would never believe it if you told them.
Let me suggest to you that the tea party fanatics are painting themselves into a corner ... and Obama is helping them do it. This is how it works. They can't take anything he gives them. They couldn't agree to the 83-17 split between spending cuts and revenue. They asked for 85-15. They couldn't accept "98% of what they wanted" when Obama offered. They're fanatics, and they are desperately afraid of being "triangulated" like what Bill Clinton did to them. Conservatives hate Bill Clinton with a passion. Why? Triangulation. He flanked them on the right from time to time, and stole their thunder on things like welfare reform. They don't want Obama stealing their thunder.
In other words, Obama is pushing them into that corner not by fighting them, but by not fighting them. He is using their own weight and momentum against them. The martial art is called jiu jitsu. Do you really think Obama is stupid? Do you really think he doesn't understand who he's dealing with? Do really think the marginalization of the Republican Party since his election is all their own doing?
Let me suggest to you that Obama is very cannily, very amiably, very reasonably helping the Republican Party to self-destruct. You may not see it, but Obama might just be the leader you wanted him to be.
In the meantime, there is a simple way you can help him destroy those bastards ... because that's what he's doing. Start telling everybody you know, "the Republicans now own this economy." Because they do. That's what Obama just gave them in the debt ceiling negotiations. It's their economy now. Next year, when the economy is still in the doldrums, Obama can say "we tried it their way. They held the the country hostage, and forced spending cuts. Now they want to do more of what has already failed."
That's how he wins reelection, sweeps them all out of office, destroys the credibility of their entire ideology, and positions himself for a transformative second term.
I'm telling you, that Barack Obama is one smart son of a bitch. Don't ever forget that.
This diary was written while taking a break from post-production for "Megadittoes: The Tea Party Cult." It will be "in the can" by Labor Day. Stay tuned for clips and segments. Nobody anywhere will give you as close a look at the tea partiers as I have.