Talking Political Messaging with Alan Grayson

I had the opportunity to speak to former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida recently, and asked him about political messaging, something for which Grayson is very well known. Grayson’s most famous speech, the one that put him on the political map, is the one shown in the video above, from the floor of the House of Representatives during the height of the debate over President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in September 2009. In his speech, Grayson said:

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 a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republicans’ health care plan for America: “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.… If you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: “die quickly.”

Alan Grayson is one of the few leading Democrats who practices Messaging Maxim #1: Go on Offense. So, standing face to face with Grayson, I put the question to him: “Too many Democrats play defense with their messaging, simply reacting to right wing talking points instead of using their own talking points, which is much more effective. How can we get more Democrats to go on offense with their messaging, like you do?”

Grayson gave me an interesting answer. He said, “we’ve got to elect better Democrats.” At first, I thought that Grayson was using his own messaging tactic of sticking to a desired talking point no matter what the question was. But as we continued our conversation, I understood what Grayson meant: that he wants Democratic voters to elect more what I would call “aggressive progressive” Democrats — like Alan Grayson — to office, instead of Democrats who may be as captive to corporate overlords as their Republican counterparts, and who don’t even have the political communication skills to fight the Republicans.

I then mentioned Florida Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz as an example of another “aggressive progressive” Democrat who’s getting it right. Alan agreed and said he “love[s] Debbie.” Wasserman Schultz demonstrated her aggressive communication skills on the House floor last July, where she attacked the Republicans’ so-called “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill to increase the U.S. debt ceiling as “duck, dodge, and dismantle”, and also went after neighboring Republican Florida Congressman Allen West for supporting the bill, which, according to Wasserman Schultz, would have slashed Medicaid for seniors and “increase[d] costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Wasserman Schultz characterized West’s support of the bill as “unbelievable for a member from South Florida”, given that West, according to Wasserman Schultz, “represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries”.

Alan Grayson is running again for Congress, from the Orlando, Florida area. If all goes well for Grayson, he’ll be serving alongside his fellow aggressive progressive Debbie Wasserman Schultz, helping her show Democrats how to communicate more effectively.

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