Grayson, left, who achieved the biggest comeback in the history of the House of Representatives, has millions of supporters online due in large part to his outspoken political rhetoric.
“He illustrated to people in concrete ways that they could organize themselves in a way that was better for the lives of ordinary people. And I find that to be pretty close to what I’m trying to do in general,” Grayson said.
In Long’s era, though, there was no Internet. Grayson is a prolific fundraiser online and an innovator. One of his top aides in his first stint in Congress, Matt Stoller, was a hero of the liberal blogosphere.
Grayson said he and his staff had just been discussing whether any Republicans are using the same means for, he is careful to point out, far different ends.
“There are only five members who raise more money from small contributions than from large contributions. And we have the highest ratio of anybody on either side of the aisle. But the fact is that [Minnesota Rep. Michele] Bachmann raised a lot of money from small contributions. So clearly there’s some effort on her side to, you know, mobilize large numbers of people to be involved in that sense.
“I think Sarah Palin, actually, did a pretty good job with new media. Much less so lately. She seems to have lost her touch. But she had a very large following on YouTube, on Twitter and so on,” he added.
Grayson’s power in Congress stems from millions of supporters online. But for someone of his profile, he’s engaged in some fights that are pretty inside-the-Beltway territory.
At the Congressional Progressive Caucus retreat Jan. 24-25, Grayson delivered an unscheduled speech unveiling a new strategy of his to force Republicans to take politically treacherous votes in committee markups.
“We have to get the Republicans to make some hard votes. It’s hard to do that on the House floor. It’s easier to do that in committee,” he said.
And Grayson’s congressional homecoming was slightly marred by a dustup over his seniority on the House Science Committee.
The Democratic Steering Committee decided to put freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell of California ahead of Grayson because Swalwell had been appointed to the science panel two weeks before Grayson was.
“I’m not going to pretend I was happy about it. I wasn’t happy about it. But the rules are the rules,” Grayson said.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Florida and Georgia Democratic delegations elected Grayson their regional whip.
“They’re happy to have me back. That’s why I’m regional whip,” Grayson said about Democratic leadership.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.