Supporters of health care reform have been waiting for Democrats to re-energize the debate. Who knew slinging mud was the answer?

Last week, Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida claimed that the Republican plan for health care is “don’t get sick,” and those who do should “die quickly.”

His comments drew the ire of the GOP, which demanded an apology and recommended that congressman be censured. Grayson, however, is refusing to retract his comments and instead apologized to those who have died because they were uninsured.

For better or worse, his verbal attack is firing up the left. And the fact that he won’t express regret is earning him respect.

Republicans are calling the remarks “mean-spirited” partisanship. I think Adam Serwer of The American Prospect put it best by noting that Grayson is simply giving the GOP a taste of its own medicine.

For months, the GOP has accused Democrats of wanting to kill old people, ration health care based on race or party affiliation, or usher in an era of totalitarian repression,” writes Serwer, “and they haven’t been shy about the holocaust comparisons either. For the first time since the health care debate started, a Democrat has accused Republicans of being the kind of inhuman monsters Republicans regularly accuse Democrats of being.”

Since the health care debate started, the GOP has successfully stalled the discussion for political gain by exploiting the misguided fears of its constituents. Its party members sat by quietly as misinformation spread about the bill currently before Congress and, in some cases, they helped encourage it.

For Americans who support a public option — some 77 percent — Grayson is emerging as the one Democrat brave enough to get nasty. Actually, by Republican standards, his comments don’t seem that nefarious. Are they inflammatory? Probably. Totally off base? Not really. The GOP hasn’t offered much in the way of alternatives. And when it comes to people’s health, inaction is also an action.

Democrats could learn something from the Grayson spectacle: People admire politicians who fight back. They find it honorable, even when they don't agree with the approach. Until Grayson took center stage, the Dems were looking like the guy in the ring who refuses to throw blows as he's getting pummeled to a pulp. And that is not the way to win over Americans.

Censuring the freshman congressman would send the wrong message to voters and opponents alike. If anything, Democratic lawmakers should take advantage of the media hype surrounding Grayson. They’re going to need it if they plan to pass real reform.

Chana Garcia is a journalist, blogger, and cancer survivor who lives in New York City.