I know to many progressives, Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) is seen as a bit of a hero. One cannot deny that the man is a fierce advocate for his positions and the progressive cause. However, it is worth asking if occasionally he is too fierce.
Case in Point: Last week, Grayson sent out a fundraising e-mail with an image of a burning cross as the ‘T’ in Tea Party. Obviously, the racial implications are incendiary, and while I would in no way challenge the assertion that the Tea Party is full of racists and people who may not be, but have no problem tolerating the bigots among them. Still, comparing the Tea Party as a whole to the Ku Klux Klan strikes me as a bridge too far. Sure, the voter suppression efforts, the vicious signs, rhetoric, and positions are certainly dangerous, but I don’t know that making a direct comparison advances his cause. Wouldn’t the hard left types who already support Grayson already be there for him anyway? Does this in any way expand his appeal? Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe he doesn’t care. But he should.
While I am in way favor of mealy mouthed false equivalency, and I can call a “spade a spade” with the best of them, but there is a point of diminishing returns. I suppose we can carry on believing that appealing to moderates and centrists is a fool’s errand, but that’s how elections are won, by spreading your message to a large number of voters. To a degree, Grayson has been successful in that effort. He has gotten a lot of press coverage from his burning cross, and if that’s a sentence that would make him proud to read–and I think it might–then more’s the shame. The problem with this sort of message is it allows people and politicians to think our side is as crazy as their side.
Which is completely untrue. Stack Grayson up against Cruz, Paul, Steve King, Bachmann, and the rest of the birthers, climate deniers, and all around nut jobs on that side and it’s not even close. Still, Grayson gives them ammo to make the charge.
It’s not the first time either.
In 2010 when defending his seat against challenger, Daniel Webster, Grayson asserted that Webster was a “religious fanatic” and released a manipulated video of Webster using the bible to claim that women should be submissive to their husbands. That was unpleasant enough. However, Grayson–as always–did not stop there. The ad was labeled “Taliban Dan.” That’s right, Grayson compared his opponent to the Taliban.
Look, it’s a fine line between hitting the mark and descending into overstatement. From time to time, we all do it. However, Grayson treats it like his mission in life. The bloviating and grand standing are far too close to what we criticize the other side for. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have firebrands, but compare Grayson to Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Sanders is as liberal as they come, but never for a second do you think that he is not fighting the good fight or going outside the bounds of basic decency just to make a point or win an election (by the way, Grayson lost to Webster).
Grayson has no such qualms. In doing so, he may or may not hurt himself, but I fear he does little for the greater progressive cause. There is a difference between shining a light and blinding your eyes. Grayson makes no such distinction. It’s damn unfortunate too. Grayson is no dummy. To my mind he is right on most of the issues. But until he can do better then this, he does not speak for me. Nor should he anyone else. To those that disagree with me, I say fine. You can have him.