Alan Grayson Looks Back: "Bipartisanship" is "Appeasement"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 8 2010 9:19 AM

Alan Grayson Looks Back: "Bipartisanship" is "Appeasement"

One of the most interesting members of the Democrats' class of 2008 -- I spent some time with him on the trail this year -- reflects on his time in Congress with the very sympathetic hosts of Democracy Now. His gripe is all about process.

You know the words "bipartisanship" and "cooperation" have become code words for "appeasement" and "capitulation." We gave the Republicans over a hundred amendments to the healthcare bill. They remained implacably opposed to it. Not one Republican member ever said to anyone in the Democratic Party, "If you give us X, Y, and Z, then we’ll vote for this bill." Instead, they took X, Y, and Z as concessions on our part and then voted against it anyway. And this is something that the American people just don’t seem to see or understand, because we don’t publicize it.

I saw effort after effort after effort for the past two years, in the silliest ways possible, to keep matters from coming up to a vote and to stall and to procrastinate and to prevaricate on the right-wing side, and they were never exposed for it. I remember one day, we had the largest number of votes in history in a single day. We voted from morning until late at night. And the reason for that is that every time we had a vote, the Republicans insisted on a recount. So we ended up, instead of having something like thirty-five votes, we ended up having something like seventy votes, simply because the Republicans literally wanted to waste our time, asking for a recount every single time on every single vote. I lived through that. I didn’t see it on Fox. I didn’t see it on CNN. But I had to live through that, knowing that the Republicans were consciously wasting our time, stalling, hoping to drag it out, and not being called to account for it.

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It's easy to make fun of Grayson, or to assume that his whole congressional career was a bid for a TV contract -- unlike Christine O'Donnell he had a lucrative job before politics, so I doubt this -- but Tea Partiers ignore his critique to their peril. There is no underrating the difficulty of actually doing things at the federal level after winning an election. They will notice that their new state governments, like Scott Walker's in Wisconsin, are able to cut and cut and cut, while nothing much happens at the federal level because of the Senate. Grayson is right that Democrats, led by the president, did a pretty poor job of putting Republicans on the defensive when they slowed down business. (George W. Bush never turned down a chance to demand an "up or down vote," but we didn't hear that phrase much from Barack Obama.)

Grayson on whether he'll run again: "If people want me, then they can have me."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.