Yes, he can. His fellow Democrats threw him under the bus for a few extra votes.

Republicans salivated at the thought that a no-name like Ruth McClung could unseat him in the year of the Angry American.

But this election is in the rearview mirror, and Southern Arizona's Big Dog still bites. Raúl Grijalva is coming up hard and fast on the left, and now he's armed with a bit of anger himself.

Forget about the McClung near-miss. The only political lesson in this election is one he already knew: Fight back.

"I think the worst thing you can do in times when your values are being challenged is to acquiesce," he said. "Some of my Democratic colleagues can get away with sitting on the fence. I can't. History, and I think my own DNA, doesn't allow me to do that."

Leaders lead. And sometimes that means leaders fail. They take chances only to fall flat on their faces. Sometimes they say stupid things - like calling for an economic boycott of their home state in response to SB 1070.

Grijalva paid the price on that one, but he makes decisions based on personal convictions instead of poll numbers. Love him or hate him, in today's political climate that should at least be respected. You'll never see Grijalva with a wardrobe consultant.

It was a tough year for the Big Dog.

Last week at his district office on East 22nd Street south of downtown, Grijalva came across like a fighter regaining focus between rounds: subdued and angry. He was hammered on his call for a boycott against SB 1070, which would allow police to check on the legal status of people they stop. And he compromised on health-care reform, voting for it even though it didn't have what he really wanted: a public option.

Democrats, he said, got what they deserved.

"We all suffered the consequences of caution," he said. "We all suffered the consequences of trying to satisfy the middle that doesn't exist, and trying to protect people who lost anyway. And the lesson learned is that Democrats should have some values. So even if you lose, you go down fighting."

The volume might be louder now, and the rhetoric might fly faster, but Grijalva has been here before. He went through it as a Pima County supervisor during the histrionic Ed Moore era. And before that, as a student activist pushing for racial equality.

As a University of Arizona student in the late 1960s and early '70s, he made his mark, along with other Hispanic activists, with sit-ins and marches at what was then El Rio Golf and Country Club. The golf course was city-owned, but its lush landscape was basically off-limits to the Hispanic residents of surrounding Barrio Hollywood and El Sobaco.

In the raging debate over the state's new, and controversial, immigration law, Grijalva said he feels like it's 1968 all over again. The state law, he said, brought race to the forefront of the immigration debate.

"You asked me the words," he said. "Sadness. There is sadness to what is happening to our society right now."

And there is anger.

Grijalva expected a backlash to his call for a boycott. He just didn't expect it from fellow Democrats Gabrielle Giffords and Terry Goddard, who blasted it in exchange for a bump in the polls.

Maybe it made the difference for Giffords, but at what cost? Redistricting is coming, and Grijalva said he'll fight to keep the voters in his district in a progressive's hands.

"I have a lot of Democrats in my district, and I think both Gabby and other Democrats covet those," Grijalva said. "I'm sure if (U.S. Sen.) John McCain had his way, he'd have me representing Yuma County. And if Gabby had her way, she'd like to have about 60 percent of my Democrats. Neither one of them are going to get their wish."

There's been talk lately this will be Grijalva's final term. Don't bet on it. He sounds like a man ready to bring the fight.

"I know everybody is going to come after me," he said of 2012. "It's not going to be the same race. You are not going to catch me flat-footed, and you are not going to catch me unprepared, and you're not going to have the boycott to bludgeon me with."

Considering who he thinks did the bludgeoning in 2010, you have to wonder if he was talking about Republicans or his Democratic colleagues.

Contact Josh Brodesky at 573-4242 or