The good news about Alan Grayson is that he's not the litmus test for the viability of progressive powered politics in the USA.
This is what a recommended diary, Some Bad News About Alan Grayson, is attempting to claim.
That diary argues that Grayson's 2010 race, in which he lost, is a perfect "test case for what a strong progressive could do in a swing district". It attempt to prove this using a simple logical syllogism:
Premise 1: Alan Grayson was a true progressive and everyone knew it.
Premise 2: He lost.
Conclusion: Therefor, being a true progressive is politically inexpedient.
That's the distilled version. The argument actually had many premises.
1. Alan Grayson's 8th Congressional District is a swing district.
2. Barack Obama won that district with 52% of the vote.
3. Everyone knew who Alan Grayson was.
4. Everyone knew the progressive policies he stood for.
And yet, "Democrats stayed home".
This all sounds really simple. And that's exactly why it's wrong.
If you've ever worked in an election campaign as I have, you know that there are factors that influence the outcome, maybe even determine the outcome, that simply do not show up in polling analysis.
In the 2006 Tennessee Senate race between Harold Ford and Bob Corker, for example, there was a bizarre moment when Harold Ford, for some unknown reason, decided to ambush Bob Corker at one of Corker's big press events, unannounced, in the parking lot of a Memphis airport. To say the least, it backfired.
This story was barely mentioned in the written press, and received no consideration to speak of in the post election analysis. But to those of us who saw it first hand, largely on the local television news, it was a game changer.
It made Corker look like the adult in the room, and Ford look impulsive and inexperienced. It was a re-polarizing event that Ford never recovered from. And it didn't show up in any polling analysis.
The Alan Grayson campaign had just such a re-polarizing event. That was when his campaign ran ads comparing his Republican opponent to the Taliban. There were many factors that went to determining that race. But there was no factor that compared to the backlash against that Taliban ad.
I was paying an extra amount of attention to that race because I knew that Grayson had been targeted for removal, not just by the Republicans, but by the Business Lobby. His attacks on the Federal Reserve, bankers, the health insurance sector, and the military, as well as his flamboyant, lightning rod style, added up to make Grayson enemy #1 in Washington circles.
The New York Times captures the significance of this race quite well:
Representative Alan Grayson catapulted from freshman unknown to blue state superstar when he stood on the House floor and said the Republican health care plan amounted to “don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.” His comments immediately made him a proxy for a wider war. Conservative groups like the 60 Plus Association and Americans for Prosperity have already spent more than $1 million on ads attacking Mr. Grayson, while he has fought back with brutal attack ads of his own, financed largely by out-of-state Democrats. Some of the Grayson ads criticizing his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, a former state senator - including one comparing his positions to those of the Taliban – have been widely criticized as over the top. But with both national parties treating the race as a symbolic battle, civility will be hard to find in the final weeks of the campaign.
The only part of this summation that misses the mark is the last sentence. It is true that both parties saw this as a symbolic battle. But it is incorrect to assume that the Democratic party establishment was in Grayson's corner. There are many in our party who saw Grayson as a boat rocker and were glad to see him go.
On the other hand, many progressives, myself included, saw Grayson's vote for the O'Romney Health Care Act as a sell out. I stopped sending him money. I can't believe that vote didn't hurt him significantly among constituents of all political persuasions.
And then there's just Grayson's personality. For a perfect test case, you would need someone who's personality can be seen as normalized. I mean, if we're litmus testing progressive viability, we don't want personality or other mitigating factors to pollute the sample, right.
Alan Grayson is anything but normal. He's unusually flamboyant, occasionally obnoxious, and shoots his mouth off too much. I love that about him. But it has undoubtedly hurt him amongst more conventional voters.
In a profile on the race, the Times quotes a Grayson volunteer:
“I tell people you have to look beyond personality,” said Leigh Doney, 55, a volunteer at the Grayson campaign office last week. “We’re not electing a personality. We’re electing a person with specific views on specific issues.”
I hate to say it. I was a big Grayson supporter for a while. But the people just decided they didn't like the guy. It had nothing to do with his progressive positions on anything.
So putting it all together, you had a campaign that was under attack from the Koch machine (60 Plus Association and Americans for Prosperity) and other corporate interests who ended up spending millions redefining who Alan Grayson was. We will never know the depths of nastiness that played against Grayson's campaign, but it is naive to assume it was a clean fight.
And we had Grayson himself sabotaging his own campaign with an ad that many, even those who had voted for him, saw as an over the top low blow.
Mix all that in with the complexities of a 4-way race, a national backlesh against Democratic failure and a severely unpopular health care bill that Grayson voted for, and you have, at the very least, the absence of a "test case".
Of course, all of this is irrelevant to the larger point that the diarist of the other diary was trying to make: namely, that progressive policies are somehow unpopular, that centrism and compromise are what the people really want.
Rubbish. There are too many polls to cite that show that progressive/liberal policies are popular, that the public at large is largely liberal/progressive as long as they don't have to label themselves that, and that they want someone to stand up for them for a change.
It is impossible to truly get to just how much the American people want a real progressive to lead because most have never seen anything resembling a real progressive. Especially not from the Democratic party.
And most, because of a non-stop, billion dollar per year campaign of deception, are mislead about what progressive even means.
Make no mistake though. Populist politics works. Clinton, before he won the election, ran as a populist. This was after he had been trying to run as a New Democrat centrist and was getting his ass kicked. So, he turned into a lite version of Huey Long and won. Then he quickly turned back into a DLC Democrat to and threw labor under the bus with NAFTA.
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