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Online Left Bundles Dollars for Grayson

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, November 2 2009

It's perhaps cliched, but no less true, that Democratic Representative Alan Grayson of Florida is a Rorschach test of contemporary American politics. If you ask people working in politics about the fiery, hard-charging, bulldog-ish Grayson, the responses tend to reflect a view of politics how it should be, in the eyes of the respondent, rather than a close read of the reality of things circa 2009. On the one hand, the wing of the blogosphere that grew out of Iraq War-resistance, a.k.a. the netroots, tend to love Grayson's spitfire approach that has him boiling down the Republican health care plan to a recommendation that the sick "die quickly."

But on the other, what you might call the political establishment, or "villagers" in netroots-speak, bristles at Grayson. And it's not just because Grayson wears purple suits and American flag ties (although, let's be honest -- that probably doesn't help). The sentiment seems to be that Grayson, ideology aside, crosses the invisible yet sacred line of acceptable behavior expected from an elected official. Election prognosticator Stuart Rothenberg, after mocking Grayson as a pompous, Deuteronomy-spouting show-off, says that Grayson is on track towards being out of a job come next year's election. The New York Times has called him "the liberals' problem child." Even New York Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner, no quiet mouse himself, called Grayson "one fry short of a Happy Meal" before backing off.

All of which adds up to make today's "Money Bomb" from Grayson a compelling demonstration of resistance to the conventional wisdom from Grayson's allies. Grayson is today blogging on Daily Kos and Crooks & Liars, and getting backup from the likes of Digby, once-congressional candidate Darcy Burner, and the folks on Open Left (whose co-founder, Matt Stoller, now works with Grayson in the House), as well as the progressive groups MoveOn and Democracy for America, all to the ends of a simultaneous fundraising blitz. It's a team effort, and is shaping up to be a considerable show of force. Grayson's team set as a goal $4o0,000, and the total reflected on Grayson's new CongressmanWithGuts.com hub is, at the moment, $402,000. Some $300,000 of that has come through ActBlue, via the collection of individual fundraising pages set up to fill Grayson's coffers (though it's not entirely clear that all that money was raised today, and wasn't in the bank pre-money bomb).

Of course, you don't have to even be that insightful to predict that Grayson's rally of support amongst the online left can and will be flipped around by his critics to be a liability, as a demonstration that he's more popular with the netroots than he is with the voters in his Orlando area district. There probably won't be any silencing Grayson's critics until and unless those voters re-up his job assignment come next election day.