Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is in the news these days because he's threatening to run for the Senate and because he called the mother of his five children and wife of 15 years "a gold digger."
Grayson is a progressive Democrat type who is terrible on most economic policy but strays into libertarian territory frequently. For instance, he's against the drug war and the Export-Import Bank (the only congressional Dem on that score), he's for gay marriage and auditing the Fed, and he's against domestic surveillance and intervenionist foreign policy.
Alas, he is one of the biggest jackasses in American politics, the sort of figure who defines deviancy down when it comes to serious political discourse. And he's the subject of my latest Daily Beast column:
One of the fundamentally grotesque facts of the American political system is that we get the politicians we vote for.
Which brings me to Alan Grayson, the congressman who is vying to become the political equivalent of @_FloridaMan, a never-ending series of cringe-inducing incidents, headlines, and actions that define—and defame—an entire state.
But Grayson, who represents the Sunshine State's 9th District is not simply an ill-fated, hard-luck Twitter handle conjured from headlines such as "Florida Man Accidentally Smashes Wrong Car With Baseball Bat", "Florida Man Compiles Map Detailing the Most Popular Places in Miami to Poop in the Street", and "Florida Man Pocket-Dials 911 While Cooking Meth With Mom".
He's a goddamn congressman, which means he should be held to slightly higher standards than homeless men who are forever masturbating in Walmart toy sections, wrestling squirrels and alligators while fucked-up out of their minds, and punching police horses while protecting imaginary girlfriends. Indeed, Grayson should strive to comport himself with at least the modicum of decorum that Internet phenom and 9/11 truther Alex Jones has managed while having Grayson on his show….
He's called women lobbyists "whores," said on MSNBC that Dick Cheney has "blood that drips from his teeth," lost an election for falsely accusing his opponent of being a draft dodger and simpatico with the Taliban, and announced from the floor Congress that the GOP health care plan amounted to "die quickly."
Regular Reason readers know that I'm a free speech absolutist who has no issue with harsh rhetoric in general. But Grayson is an elected official for christ's sake, and a jabbering idiot who almost certainly undermines his effectiveness. Just as people were right to get bent out of shape over the rhetoric of fools such as Todd Akin, Michelle Bachman, and others, we're right to demand something more presentable from our public servants.
Members of Congress should be held to higher standards than regular voters. They should be expected to live their lives more cleanly than the rest of us and they should talk to one another respectfully, especially on topics where the disagreements are the deepest. I'm not talking about the patently phony decorum that gets trotted out every time a senator starts clearing his throat as he ascends the dais to lecture a nearly empty chamber about the excellence of his colleagues and the desperate need for a traffic light to be fixed in his hometown.
No, I'm talking about the sort of truly honest and open political debate we desperately need in Washington. It's just not going to happen if our elected officials are steeped in the extremist "wingnut rhetoric" that is properly left to citizens, journalists, and the rest of us with an opinion and an Internet connection.
It's not just Alan Grayson, of course, even if he is a little too Florida Man for comfort. With the possible exception of presidential elections (I'm thinking 2000 and maybe 1960), we get whom we vote for in the United States. And to the extent that our representatives actually represent us, we've got as much to be contrite about as does the honorable congressman from Florida.