The Gray Zone: A Florida Fiasco, or a Progressive Possibility?

 

Something about it just rubbed me the wrong way.

Back in May, when Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) appeared on MSNBC’s AM Joy, I was disturbed to see the US Senate candidate lambaste and hector host Joy Reid for asking questions about his alleged financial improprieties. It was a sour segment: the image of a powerful white man yelling at and scornfully dismissing a black woman was historically harrowing, to say the least.

Of course, this was several months before serious allegations surfaced that Grayson had abused his ex-wife. The allegations, and Grayson’s volatile behavior towards Politico reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere when he attempted to ask Grayson about his ex-wife’s claims, are profoundly embarrassing for those who saw Grayson as a potential progressive champion in the Senate; one can imagine the horror of Grayson’s erstwhile supporters at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America upon learning of these allegations.

Grayson’s ex-supporters have declared, “Unfortunately, this deeply disappointing revelation means progressives have no great options in the Florida race for Senate.” That’s because Grayson’s main rival for the Democratic nomination, Rep. Patrick Murphy, is regarded by  progressive activists as someone whose philosophy falls far from FDR, as Ring of Fire Radio’s Sydney Robinson notes:

Murphy ticks just about every box when it comes to defying progressive ideas. During his brief tenure Murphy has voted against stricter regulations on for-profit universities, voted for the [Keystone XL] pipeline despite his touted pro-environmental values, took a leading role in select house committees on Benghazi, and is generally considered to be one of the most conservative house Democrats currently serving. In addition, while Alan Grayson vocally supported Bernie Sanders during the primary, Murphy sat quietly on the sidelines before declaring he was “with her” once Clinton was made the presumptive nominee.

Assuming Rep. Murphy wins the August 30 primary–a seemingly safe assumption at this point–one wonders if a) he would actually be able to defeat incumbent Senator Marco Rubio in the general election [presupposing, of course, that Rubio wins his primary] and b) if progressive activists in the Sunshine State would be able to pressure him to legislate in a more progressive fashion. These activists should see this prospect as both a challenge and an opportunity; if a Senator Murphy could be successfully induced to move in the left direction, such tactics could be replicated in other parts of the country to encourage Democratic senators, representatives and governors perceived to be dismissive of progressives to change their ways.

Sensible progressives will undoubtedly decide that Murphy on his worst day would be an improvement over “Little Marco.” The felon-friendly Floridian deserves a high place on the list of our most shameful Senators; it is a moral outrage that Rubio still refuses to acknowledge the threat human-caused climate change poses to his submerged state. Other Republican members of the Florida delegation, such as Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, have conceded that concerns about CO2 are credible, but not Rubio, who cares more about the Kochs than his kids.

Replacing a friend of fossil-fuel fiends with someone who could be compelled to prioritize progressivism? This would seem to be a no-brainer for those who used to support Grayson. The alleged abuser who jousted with Joy Reid has often claimed that if he were to defeat Rubio, he would be a “Senator with Guts.” Wouldn’t it be ironic if Murphy became someone who actually merited such a title?

UPDATE: More from the AP, Catherine Welch and the Miami Herald.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.