Last week, US Representative Alan Grayson (D, Orlando, Florida) responded to the "bitch slap" theory of politics as effectively as I have yet seen it done in the health care debate in Congress--with a one-two punch not only to Republicans, but to Conservative Democrats as well. And A-fucking-men, man. It's about damn time someone did.
The bitch-slap theory of politics (technically the Republican Bitch Slap Theory of Politics) by the by is a theory first written about by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo in 2004, describing what's come to be known as the "Swift-Boating" of Sen. John Kerry's presidential election bid, and it goes something like this--you attack your political opponent, and if they do not defend themselves (and I mean come out swinging), then they look weak in the eyes of both supporters and non-supporters, and you gain political advantage. Historically, the Republican party has done this more effectively than Democrats, as a rule. The attack itself does not even have to be accurate, and often is not--it is the willingness or unwillingness to defend oneself that seems to stand out in the electorate's mind.
This past August and into this fall we have watched (yet again) as the Republican machine has bitch-slapped proponets of health care reform right and left, and many a progressive has watched in frustration as Democrats have taken licks and offered up compromise after compromise on this issue. Last week, instead of compromise, Grayson offered up some fight.
"Thank you, Madam Chairman.
You may recall that a few weeks ago, President Obama came to this chamber, and he addressed the chamber on health care before a joint session of the House and the Senate. During that session I was privileged to be here, and I saw my colleagues on the far side of the aisle, the Republicans, waving pieces of paper during his speech, and I was wondering what they were. I couldn’t imagine — it almost seemed like they wanted President Obama’s autograph. I just didn’t get it.
I heard from one of my colleagues that this is what they called the Republican health care plan. I went over, after the speech was over, I picked up a copy that was lying down on the Republican side, and it turns out that the Republicans’ health care plan was a blank piece of paper. I inquired further, trying to find out exactly what the Republicans’ health care plan is. And it’s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America.
It’s this. Very simply — it’s a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republicans’ health care plan for America: “Don’t get sick.” That’s right — don’t get sick. If you have insurance, don’t get sick; if you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick; if you’re sick, don’t get sick — just don’t get sick!
That’s what the Republicans have in mind for you, America. That’s the Republicans’ health care plan. But I think that the Republicans understand that that plan isn’t always going to work — it’s not a foolproof plan. So the Republicans have a backup plan, in case you do get sick. If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: “Die quickly.” That’s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.
Now, the Democrats have a different plan. The Democrats say that: “If you have health insurance, we’re going to make it better. If you don’t have health insurance, we going to provide it to you. If you can’t afford health insurance, then we’ll help you afford health insurance.” So America gets to decide. Do you want the Democratic plan, or do you want the Republican plan? Remember, the Republican plan: “Don’t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.”
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.
"The Republican health care plan for America: Don't get sick. That's right, don't get sick. If you have insurance, don't get sick. If you don't have insurance, don't get sick. If you're sick, don't get sick....but it's not quite a foolproof plan so the backup plan in case you do get sick, If you do get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly. "
This lead to predictable hand wringing and calls for him to apologize by some members of the Republican party, to which Grayson responded with even more fire, this time targeting not just Republicans but those in his own party who seem to be missing the point.
"Madam Speaker I have words for both Democrats and Republicans tonight. Let's start with the Democrats. We as a party have spent the last six months-- the greatest minds of our party dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote for health care reform. I want to remind us all... Olympia Snowe was not elected president last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America's population.
What America wants is health care reform. America doesn't care if it gets fifty one votes in the Senate or sixty votes in the Senate, or eighty three votes in the Senate-- in fact America doesn't even care about that. It doesn't care about that at all.
What America cares about is this. There are over one million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bill. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are forty four thousand seven hundred eighty Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care. That's a hundred and twenty two every day. America sure cares a lot about that.
America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition even if you have health insurance, it's not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don't need any. America cares about that a lot.
But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities-- America doesn't care about that at all. So we have to remember that as Democrats. We have to remember that's what's at stake here is life and death, enormous amounts of money and people are counting upon us to move ahead. America understands what's good for America.
America cares about health care. America cares about jobs. America cares about education, about energy independence. America does not care about process or politicians, or personalities or anything like that.
And I have a few words for my Republican friends as well. I guess I do have some Republican friends. Let me say this. Last week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there's forty four thousand seven hundred eighty nine Americans who die every year according to this Harvard report-- published in a peer reviewed journal-- because they have no health insurance.
That's an extra forty four thousand seven hundred eighty nine Americans who die, whose lives could be saved-- and their response was to ask me for an apology... to ask me for an apology. That's right... to ask me for an apology. Well, I'm telling you this-- I will not apologize. I will not apologize.
I will not apologize for a simple reason. America doesn't care about your feelings. I violated no rules by calling this report to America's attention. I think a lot of people didn't know about it before hand.
But America does care about health care in America and if you're against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead. You can follow-- or you can get out of the way. And I'm telling you now to get out of the way.
America understands that there's one party in this country that's in favor of health care reform and one party that's against it and they know why.
They understand if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world, the Republicans would blame him for over-population.
They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace, they'd blame him for destroying the defense industry.
In fact they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon.
But that's not what America wants. America wants solutions to its problems and that begins with health care. And that's what I'm speaking for tonight."
To wrap up, here's some context on the fellow speaking. From Wikipedia: Grayson was born in the Bronx, NY, and grew up in tenements. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science and worked his way through Harvard University, graduating in three years, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then began graduate studies and simultaneously, in the next four years, earned a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School, a masters in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and completed the course work and passed the general exams for a Ph.D in government...
Grayson was employed as a law clerk at the Colorado Supreme Court in 1983, and at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1984 to 1985, where he worked with such judges as Abner Mikva, Robert Bork, and two judges who later joined the U.S. Supreme Court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia....
In recent years, Grayson specialized in war profiteer and whistleblower cases aimed at Iraq war contractors that had overbilled the U.S. government by tens of millions of dollars...
He is only the 2nd Democrat to represent his district since it's creation; Orlando and this area of Southern Florida is historically conservative, and Grayson ran as an openly progressive candidate in the last election.
Ah, it's nice to see some real progressive politics in the House once more.