In one way, supporters and detractors of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson agree: He’s a lightning rod.
The Republican Party of Florida loves this about him because it provides fresh material for attack ads; partisans because he revs them up.
The Democratic establishment hates it because it screws up the possibility of having a clean, organized, efficient, and mostly boring primary that anoints a supposedly electable candidate for the general election at little expense to a party nearly in the poorhouse.
But politics is supposed to be about passion. It is supposed to be fun.
Well, you may suggest that we’re not living in the 1800s when the Lyceum culture that incubated the Lincoln-Douglass debates was the thing. When politics was a genuine entertainment and nuanced debates attracted large crowds.
Today, we have Empire on FOX and NFL days to cover the entertainment front. (Well, a friendly qualification: outside of the cable networks, politics is supposed to be earnest rather than fun.)
But this writer submits that perhaps the Florida Democratic Party could use some fun; perhaps passion is not ignoble; perhaps, occasionally, the left-wing of the party should at least relish voting. Since 1998, the state Democratic Party has been in the doldrums.
It loses state Cabinet and state Senate and House elections to Republicans without real sweat from the GOP. An anomaly has been President Obama’s presidential victories in 2008 and 2012.
Embarrassingly, its best politician, Charlie Crist, lost an election to possibly one of the worst politicians in recent American history: Rick Scott.
Yes, it is more than embarrassing: It is a mark against a party that runs candidates in one of the most politically promiscuous states in the nation.
A state that supported Obama in 2012, and would have easily supported a Crist in 2014 if a convincing political case and a better-run political operation were in place. But I digress.
Largely, the Florida Democratic Party has a base problem. The people who lick the stamps, knock on doors, and make things happen have to concede to an unimaginative establishment bent on winning on the same formula of squishy moderate candidates: Jim Davis, Alex Sink, Crist.
Politics is about contrast: big, bold, colorful, distinctive contrast. Say what you will about Grayson: He is all about bold contrast. And he brings, if you will, an important element of politics that should be underscored: automatic acceptance. Partisans know he’s one of them.
Since Florida Democrats, like Japan in the 1990s, will be in its despondency for just a bit more, why not nominate a figure who will, at least temporarily, pull it out of its miasma?
Of course, the Florida Democratic establishment will fight hard, rough, extensively to oust Grayson from the primary.
Recently, John Morgan, who’s been playing kingmaker in off-year gubernatorial elections, has been quoted in the Miami Herald, clearly exclaiming that Grayson is unelectable.
Several Democratic organizations and politicos, from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to mayors, have supported his opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.
But still, what’s wrong with choosing your heart over your head? What’s wrong with choosing pleasure over obligation?
But the Florida Dems are invested in the milquetoast is better than the savage view. But all establishments are that way: They’d rather have the intractably boring than the excitable fun.
But politics, in general, is organized around passion. Don’t take my word for it: Read James Madison — in both The Federalist Papers and his party essays of the 1790s. And politics suffers without it — for example, the Florida Democratic Party.
The 2016 U.S. Senate campaign is not about winning — or not solely; it is about bringing a bit of joy, a bit of laughter, a little vitriol, and a large helping of fun back into Florida politics.
Alan Grayson seems the man for the job.
Chris Timmons is a writer living in Tampa.