Alan Grayson, the liberal champion of the House, the member of Congress with the largest base of small donors, the Congressman who passed more legislation than anyone other Representative, is again in the news. And not because he's eleven points ahead in the polls to be the Democratic nominee for Marco Rubio's Senate Seat in Florida.
But because President Obama and Vice President Biden have just endorsed Grayson's primary opponent, a conservative 32 year old Congressman with no legislative accomplishments, a conservative voting record, and who was a registered Republican until he ran for office.
Now, if you're like me, you might be scratching your head. First of all -- how often does a sitting President, the leader of his party, take sides in a primary election? Doesn't that feel inappropriate? And, second of all -- hasn't the Democrat party gone down this road before? Promoting conservative candidates to run for office, when we know that - given the choice between a Republican and a Republican, the public will vote for the Republican every time.
Grayson has everything we need to win this all-important seat in this coming election: state-wide name recognition, an active base of support, earned enthusiasm from minority communities, and the proven ability to fire up the base and get out the vote. So, if the President is coming out for his primary opponent, something odd has to be going on behind the scenes, right?
Many people may assume that this means there is something the matter with Grayson. He wears brightly colored flag ties, cowboy boots; he's witty and biting and is a frequent guest on talk shows because he's always bound to say something provocative. Someone has filed an Ethics complaint against him, and he apparently went through a nasty divorce.
But personally, I don't buy it. Grayson cut his teeth suing war profiteers. He's among the most liberal members of the House and a huge gadfly to the Republicans. Given any scrutiny at all, the Ethics complaint against him appears entirely politically motivated and paper thin, and if we're really making marital stability a litmus test for holding office, we'd need some new standard-bearers.
Rather, it looks like moneyed interests are weighing in on this race. Obama and Biden's endorsement of Murphy came less than a week after Grayson himself endorsed fellow bomb-thrower Bernie Sanders for President. The next likely Senate Democratic leader represents New York -- and Wall Street -- and can't count on Alan Grayson's vote.
Just as the Republican establishment is frightened by their true believers -- even though that's where energy and passion and party expansion exist -- so, it seems, the Democratic establishment fears our own.
But to the point where the President endorses a candidate - Patrick Murphy - who was one of the only Democrats who voted to condemn the President himself, over the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange? Who was one of a handful of Democrats who voted in favor of Benghazi hearings? Who gave the maximum donation possible to Mitt Romney instead of Obama, just four years ago?
While we're on the topic, why did Obama also endorse Ted Strickland, who has an A+ rating from the NRA, just a month after the President publicly stated that he would support no candidate who didn't actively support major gun reform? On inspection, perhaps Obama's endorsement does demand we take another look at these races - but not necessarily at those being endorsed. At the endorsement process.
Yes -- Grayson is a big personality with big ideas. He's bound to rub some people the wrong way. But big personalities also inspire big passion, and Democrats need people like Grayson to keep expanding the size of the Democratic tent. I expect that the attacks will continue against Grayson. I expect that Grayson is ready for it. The last round of attacks only raised his standing among voters, and brought a flood of small donations from around Florida and the country. From people who are tired of the status quo, and want -- no, are demanding -- someone with fire in his belly.
This seems to be a good year to have the "establishment" against you. These misguided attacks on Grayson may very well guarantee his ascension to the Senate. Voters, more than ever before, seem prepared to do a little digging themselves, and avoid taking things at face value. Let's hope it pays off. After all, the quality of our elected officials will never be greater than the level of effort we put into choosing how to vote.