GUEST COLUMN: Alan Grayson is the visionary we need for the Senate

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 5.55.27 PMGUEST COLUMN BY KAREN COOPER WELZEL, former Polk County Democratic Executive Committee Chair, member Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida.

A dour German philosopher once said: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Alan Grayson is a perfect example of the visionary leader who is just far enough ahead of the pack to first garner ridicule for his ideas, then violent opposition, and finally receive the acceptance of the issues being self-evident.

One of my favorite examples of this was his prescience two months prior to the upheaval in Ferguson, when Grayson introduced an amendment to prevent local police departments from buying surplus military equipment. The amendment failed just days before the nation was shocked to see what a militarized police force looks like in the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing.

Then, because the matter had become self-evident, President Obama did exactly what Grayson proposed via executive order.

Of course, we all remember Rep. Grayson’s presentation on the Affordable Care Act when he charged that the Republican plan is “don’t get sick and if you do, die quickly.” Then, Charlene Dill actually did die quickly because Republicans in Florida refuse to expand ACA Medicaid funding. This young mother lost her life, just as the Congressman foretold, precisely for the reasons he put forth.

The bold progressive from Florida’s 9th District was also early to the debate on spying by the National Security Agency, brought to light by Edward Snowden’s leaks. While most of the country was calling Snowden a traitor, Grayson cautioned restraint, warning that if true, these revelations could cause significant harm to our tech industries that rely on providing secure products and services. Earlier this year we found out that foreign approval of American technology brands fell by a third, and our cloud computing industry is poised to see as much as $35 billion wiped off the ledger because of the spying revelations.

Yesterday, none other than former Attorney General Eric Holder came full circle, admitting that Snowden’s leaks ‘spurred an important debate.’

Alan Grayson took the lead in all of these difficult issues. He didn’t wait for the parade to leave and then jump in front of it to pretend he was there all along. Instead he got out in front early, shaping debate on what would become matters of enormous importance.

But wait, there’s more.

Here at home, Grayson was a staunch supporter of an earned sick time initiative in Orange County in 2012. The proposal called for hourly workers to earn time off for illness, or to care for a sick child. It set off a firestorm of controversy, revealing disturbing patterns of lobbyist influence reaching right down to the County Commission where commissioners and the Mayor texted corporate lobbyists during the decisive public hearing, receiving valuable information on how to quash it.

The Congressman With Guts appeared at numerous press conferences to show his support for earned sick time, and introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives. Now even President Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton are pushing for these reforms nationally.

Lastly, while many in the Democratic party were angling to form a bipartisan agreement to cut Social Security and Medicare, Grayson criticized the “grand bargain” that led to the sequester cuts. While some, like Senate candidate Patrick Murphy were forming alliances with Republican colleagues to make sure “everything is on the table,” Grayson refused to mince words. “Somebody has to say… we’re not going to strip money from people in need, we’re not going to throw grandma from the train.”

It’s not easy to stand up to members of your own party, but when they’re wrong, such as on cutting Social Security and Medicare, count me as one person who is quite glad to have a leader who has no problem with truth-telling and has the guts to put forth a bold vision that’s right for America, when everyone else is seeking political cover.


  1. The problem with Rep. Grayson is not his ideas. In fact, he has very good ideas. The problem is his ability to communicate them without causing problems for himself and our party. For many, there is a very real and legitimate concern that he will have his own “macaca moment” during this race and with so little room for error for Democrats in Florida, that’s a risk we can’t afford to take.


    1. What a refreshing thought. A leader who speaks his mind.


  2. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

    He could be a disaster for the party.


    1. The party is a disaster. He can help fix it.


  3. Grayson is a great communicator. He doesn’t put up with any bullsh*t and that’s what reporters and the Wall Street Dems don’t like. Our caucus board did a call with him tonight and he had an incredible depth of knowledge on a variety of topics and issues.


  4. Thanks for this post, Karen.


  5. So, let me get this straight. We are supposed to disregard the candidate that has the great ideas that benefit the middles class and all other Americans, who fights for them tooth and nail; and support the one that is a former Republican who donated to and supported Mitt Romney, backs Wall Street over Main Street and has consistently voted against middle class best interests because he has “better optics”? Umm, NO!


  6. While I agree with nearly all of Grayson’s progressive issue positions I have serious doubts about his statewide electability! The only potential saving grace is 2016 will be a Presidential year and lazy Democrat voters should come out to vote.


    1. And he could get them off of their couches.


  7. Ruth Ann Eaddy · ·

    As a member of the state party we need to remember our primary purpose is to get the Democratic vote out. It is up to the candidates to persuade the voter that they are worthy of support. Primaries have been the making of many great leaders…Senator Bob Graham is a good example. Having a good debate about democratic values will be good for the voters…it appears the Republicans have milk toast candidates so Alan Grayson getting in the primary will add a little spice to our lives. The debate needs to be about issues and the ability to represent our state in the US Senate. Look at each personality and vote on the one you think can get results. .


  8. Jim Callahan · ·

    Remember Florida Senator Claude Pepper.


  9. Jonathan · ·

    Anyone supporting Grayson or Pam Keith or for that matter a potential Levin candidacy is helping the Republicans.

    If Murphy could have avoided a primary he was virtually a shoe-in for this seat in a presidential year.


    1. So anybody who doesn’t support your candidate is supporting Republicans? That’s just silly.

      Patrick Murphy IS a former Republican who maxed out to Mitt Romney and sides with Wall Street. I think you’d better look in the mirror.


      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        Republicans are already supporting Grayson for the Democratic nominee…


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