by Bill Kavanagh: Two of my colleagues here at Buck Naked Politics are based in Florida, the home of the dimpled chad. For a decade, we’ve all been cringing when we hear they have an election down there. Will they elect another member of the Bush family, or someone like Kathleen Harris, unable to discern the difference between serving the Bushes and performing her responsibility to voters? Perhaps they’d send us another a moral-majority type like Mark Foley, leading one (creepy) life for himself and espousing another very conservative set of rules for the rest of us? Who would Floridians send to Washington next?
Well, thanks to Damozel and Deb, I’ve noticed that they’ve now served up a refreshing Florida surprise down there in Congressman Alan Grayson, a freshman Democrat from the Orlando area. Perhaps the Sunshine State has spawned some real cultural changes over the last decade— and we may all be better off for it. While most of the country is still sending timid negotiators or know-nothing naysayers to the floor of the Congress, Florida has delivered us a legislator who wants to focus attention on some basic realities about the battle for progressive change.
When confronted with a Republican chorus of “start over,” “no government in my healthcare,” and “let’s not rush into change,” Grayson decided after eight months in Washington to fight fire with fire. He stood up in the well of the House and called Republicans on the content of their healthcare plans… or rather the total lack of any plan in their obstructionism. He described the Republican plan in three parts:
1- Don’t Get Sick
2- If You DO Get Sick…
3- …Die Quickly
Many media pundits quickly criticized Grayson for incivility and several Republicans took him literally, demanding hilariously to know when he had heard any of them actually asking particular people to die. But, in truth, Grayson exposed the incredible double-standard that’s been at play in the healthcare debate, in which the Right simply calls the President names— and then twists reform into descriptions of ‘death panels’ and a looming Big Brother, while Democrats (with a few notable exceptions) turn around and defensively parry these outrageous statements with gentle rejoinders, charts, and graphs. The effect of this dynamic is to make healthcare reform look unpopular and ultimately doomed, despite continued grassroots support for a public option and for real change.
One thing I’ve learned living in New York: when the people you’re fighting with stop fighting fair, you better take off the gloves too, or you’re gonna be lying in the gutter soon, wishing you had. Grayson has spent the last week responding to calls about his attention-grabbing parody by citing just how dangerous it is to do nothing about our broken healthcare system. It’s actually fatal to 4,400 people every year. That’s right, people die in this country all the time because they have no insurance. If we’re planning on waiting till every Republican is happy with a compromise plan, many more Americans will die for lack of health insurance—and that’s simply unacceptable, Grayson says.
Until now, the healthcare debate has featured passion on the Right and mostly compromise, vacillation, and gentle persuasion by reform proponents. Congressman Grayson has just pointed out that in order to make change, it might be necessary to some people go away mad, so the rest of us can move forward and make a better America. It’s way past time for us be disengaged while the reactionaries and talk radio celebrities grab headlines with pitchforks, placards, and shouldered shotguns. If we want change, we better realize, as Grayson has, that it’s not gonna come easy, or gently, but only with resolve and a willingness to fight ignorance with truth— and backbone.
UPDATE— In the same vein as the post above, Paul Krugman writes today (Monday) in the NYTimes about the new position of the Republican Party: attack anything that might look like success for the other side, no matter what ideological inconsistency might be necessary. Scorched Earth. The new black.
(Bill cross-posts at Bill's Big Diamond.)