For Congressman Alan Grayson, the current representative from Florida’s 8th congressional district, Sam Rayburn’s cardinal rule of “to get along, go along” has little use to him. Instead Grayson has charted another path, freely speaking his mind on healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan as well as other items on his mind. He is a man in a hurry.
An Unfiltered Progressive. Last year during the heat of the debate on healthcare, Alan Grayson suggested that the Republican alternative was thus: Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”
The partisan response was swift and white hot. Some Republicans demanded that he apologize on the House floor. “I would like to apologize,” he said. “I would like to apologize to the dead.”
Stating that 44,789 Americans die each year due to their inability to get healthcare insurance, the Congressman continued, “That is more than ten times the number of Americans who died in the war in Iraq, it’s more than ten times the number of Americans who died on 9/11. It happens every year. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner,” he said.
The Luncheon Society is experimenting with film. The goal of the Luncheon Society is to record or to film these gathering so that they can be enjoyed by those who are not able to attend. We filmed our first gathering and were quite pleased with the results and will have them online quickly.
Healthcare. Congressman Grayson is far less bombastic in private conversation but is just as passionate about his beliefs. He wrote: In 1968, a ten-year-old boy had to go to the hospital four times a week for treatment. Without that treatment, he had trouble breathing, and he felt like he was suffocating. He was suffocating. His health care was covered by his parents’ health insurance. But then they lost their jobs. They were worried about how they would pay the rent. He was worried about whether he would live or die. How can we let a 10-year-old think about such things? Whether you are Democratic or Republican, left-wing or right-wing, liberal or libertarian, you know in your heart that that’s wrong. And it’s what you know in your heart, your empathy, which makes you human. I was that 10-year-old boy. And I haven’t forgotten.”
For somebody who is labeled by some as “the left’s Michelle Bachman,” Grayson is quiet and polite in private. He was a Harvard undergraduate who went on to both Harvard Law and the Masters Program at the Kennedy School of Government. After law school, he clerked for DC Court of Appeals and worked under Ruth Bader Ginzberg and Antonin Scalia. He spent several years with Fried Frank before moving to Florida where he founded his own law firm, which specialized in exposing government contractor fraud.
He has 5 children under the age of 18 and worries that his time up in Washington has made him a “part time father.” However, his net worth of more than $30 million places him in a position which allows him to self fund his race if possible. He worries that those in the halls of Congress are not planning for the future, merely stumbling along and reacting from crisis to crisis in hopes of surviving until the next political election.
Fed Transparency. Grayson has also pushed for more transparency of the Federal Reserve, which is often seen as far more mysterious when compared to any other federal agency. While this certainly was accentuated during the tenure of Alan Greenspan because of his cryptic style in congressional testimony, Grayson has often clashed with Fed Chair Ben Bernanke as well as his senior staff. He also co-authored the “Grayson-Himes Pay for Performance Act,” legislation to require that all bonuses paid by companies that had received funds under the bailouts of 2008 and 2009 be “based on performance.” This was passed and later passed by the full House.
Election in 2008. Grayson came to politics later in life. In 2006, he ran for in the democratic Primary as a progressive against a center-right candidate and lost. Two years later, he won the primary and later beat 4-term incumbent Ric Keller, who was coming off a nasty divorce and was heavily criticized for breaking his pledge to served on 3 terms in Congress. The district, which had been a safe Republican seat for better part of three decades, now found itself with an outspoken progressive, one who will certainly be targeted by the GOP for the upcoming midterm elections. Grayson was also helped by the Obama tsunami that carried Orange County by 18% in 2008.
As somebody who is not a career politician, Grayson openly understands that he might not survive the midterms and that is why he is in Los Angeles to attend a number of fundraisers and appear on Bill Maher. Grayson hopes that his honesty and outspoken nature will carry him through whatever challenges he will face in the upcoming months. Thus far, he has built a war chest based on small donation and will be able to compete in a district that favors the opposition.
The Progressive Dilemma. The question that Grayson faces as he looks to his political future is this: Does he moderate his views (or at least his tenor) and move toward the centers of power where he can enact what he supports? Does he remain on the outside and aim for headlines over accomplishment? Should Grayson take a “third approach” and attempt to straddle both the levers of power and notoriety in a district that might not be favorable to his political chances until after the 2010 redistricting? The third option provides the greatest amount of risk but may pay off with a greater reward of solid accomplishment.